People experiencing depression often have a continuous low mood, a lack of interest in day to day experiences, feelings of hopelessness and a reduced sense of their individual value. Not being able to control when it might come and not being able to see a way forward are also key components.
Depression is sometimes linked with anxiety. Fear of being overwhelmed by our feelings can result in a detachment from life as we try to avoid people and situations which might provoke this response in us.
Causes of Depression:
For a long time depression was thought to be linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain which anti-depressants were believed to rebalance. This theory has now been discredited as no conclusive scientific evidence has been found to indicate any chemical or biological cause for depression.
It is far more likely that depression is a natural response to overwhelming events in our lives. This may result from being in a difficult or oppressive situation for a period of time or be a response to a single event that we are unable to overcome. In either case we may find ourselves reassessing our view of the world and ourselves and drawing negative conclusions.
The low mood coupled with low energy can create a sense of hopelessness, a lack of self-belief and trust in those around us, and a feeling that the situation will not change. The ultimate expression of this hopelessness is suicide.
Medical Response to Depression:
Antidepressants may bring temporary relief from oppressive feelings which may be important in providing an opportunity to explore other options. However medication is not generally regarded as a long term solution and can have unhelpful side effects.
It is important to make sure there is no underlying physical cause such as anaemia or thyroid problems or a vitamin deficiency. These can be identified through a blood test.
Slowing the Downward Spiral:
There may be emotional triggers that start the spiral into depression, such as certain events or situations or things other people might say or do. These connections are not always obvious and can seem unrelated, which is why these feelings sometimes seem to come out of the blue. However, if emotional triggers can be identified it becomes possible to find ways to manage them so we cease to be as vulnerable to their impact.
Feelings of helplessness in the face of current circumstances can be compounded over time with each bout of depression drawing upon previous ones. In this way a single emotional response can start a descent into darkness with no apparent way out and no belief in the possibility of change.
When our response to a current situation connects with previous similar occasions the experience can change from being an emotion felt in the present to a mood lasting several days or longer. This can make the difference between feeling helpless in a particular situation to believing yourself to be helpless in every situation.
By learning to recognise what triggers these feelings and keeping them focussed in the present it may be possible to manage them more effectively and reduce their impact.
The Road to Recovery:
Recognising that depression is a natural response to what we have experienced means that being depressed is not our fault and that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us.
For many people experiencing depression there may have been times when they did not feel this way. Though this may be a distant memory, it can provide a route back to a better time. Others may not be able to remember a time when they did not feel depressed, however there may be an ebb and flow of feelings which creates an opportunity to focus on those times, however brief, when the feelings seem to subside.
If we can keep our feelings in the present so that they do not link with past experiences we may keep them from becoming overwhelming. Grounding ourselves means focussing on what is happening now, rather than seeing each event as being part of some larger negative experience beyond our control. In time this may help us become more resilient and less vulnerable to outside events and influences so that we can start to rebuild our self-belief.
It may also be helpful to try to identify the life events that may have caused this response. While some will not be resolvable, it may be possible to reflect on what led us to respond in this way so that we can develop the ability to choose how we respond in the future.
Where there has been some trauma, either a single event or repeated experiences, focussing on this might also offer a way out of the darkness.
Support for People Experiencing Depression:
Everyone’s experience of depression is unique. Recognising this as a natural response to the life we have lived provides a way to explore the nature of those experiences and reflect upon our responses both then and now. An experienced counsellor hearing our story without judgement can be an invaluable companion on this road to recovery.
© 2017 Michael Golding
About this blog ...
This is a collection of personal thoughts and observations on issues that many people are facing every day.