What is Depression?
Depression is a debilitating and serious mood disorder that significantly impacts a person’s quality of life. While everyone goes through periods of feeling sad, moody or lacking energy, some people will experience these feelings particularly intensely or for long periods of time. Depression can be triggered by difficult life events such as a death, losing a job, a stressful work environment or a relationship break-down, but sometimes no such trigger factors are present. In these cases, depression has been found to be caused by things such as a genetic predisposition, hormonal change and social factors.
Experiencing Depression: Signs and Symptoms
Experiences of depression can vary from mild to extremely severe. The signs and symptoms can include:
• Taking little pleasure from previously pleasurable activities
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Difficulty concentrating
• A change in sleeping patterns (can include both losing sleep, as well as struggling to get out of bed in the morning
• A feeling of hopelessness and/or helplessness, especially when thinking about the future
• Physical changes such as a loss or increase in appetite
• A loss of motivation, affecting even simple day-to-day activities (like getting dressed in the morning, washing, eating etc.)
For many people with depression, their depressed emotions are an everyday state of mind. Unfortunately this means it can be surprisingly hard to recognise. Moreover, people with depression often keep their feelings secret, and suffer in silence as they do not wish to ‘burden others’ with their problems. Often they are unaware that help is available.
Consulting a counsellor or psychologist is the best first step to gain further advice if you feel the symptoms described above are relevant to your current mood, or that of a family member or friend. Mental health professionals will also be able to diagnose whether you are suffering from one of the two major depressive disorders: Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia (Chronic Low Mood).
Major Depression v Chronic Low Mood
Not everyone will experience depression in its most extreme forms. While some people will have an intense bout of debilitating symptoms lasting weeks, months or even years (which psychologists label as ‘Major Depression’), other types of depression tend to be milder and far less obvious, but equally as chronic.
Dysthymia or Chronic Low Mood is a mild to moderate form of depression, meaning that while people will be able to function in their lives, they won’t get much pleasure from it. To be formally diagnosed with Chronic Low Mood, a person must have had symptoms for over a two year period. Common defining features include:
• Low energy or a sense of fatigue
• Low self-esteem
• Finding it difficult to laugh or enjoy previously pleasurable moments
• Poor concentration
• Insomnia or excessive sleeping
• Difficulty making small decisions
• A feeling of general hopelessness
How We Help
Counsellors and psychologists help their clients deal with their depressive illness by:
1. Teaching necessary coping skills to reduce the impact of their symptoms on their lives
2. Encouraging you to talk about your personal history and family history, in order to discover patterns of depression and negative ways of coping when faced with difficult life events
3. Creating a safe environment in which feelings and emotions that you may be avoiding or repressing are explored, so that they can be processed and eventually moved beyond
One of the goals of counselling for depression or Chronic Low Mood is therefore not only to help you understand what has triggered your depression, but also to discover and integrate healthy coping strategies to deal with the debilitating signs and symptoms of depression. A therapist can help you understand and recognise when you are falling into a depressive episode and teach you how to understand your depression, redirect your emotions, and improve your psychological wellbeing.
Contact our Sutherland Shire office today to find out how we can help you beat your depression.