Partnering with you to help you feel better, sooner
Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Feel like a lost soul? Not very many areas of your life turn you on? Not food, or friends, or work, or your kids, not sex or sport?
Do you doubt your decisions? Feel bad about yourself and sorry for yourself? Does life feel hopeless and just getting through the day a huge effort?
Depression is a huge burden, affecting millions of people today. Forty years ago, depression generally struck people first, on average, in their 40's. Today, it's generally in their 20's.
Depression is a serious condition. It’s also, unfortunately, a common one.
The World Health Organisation says that depression is one of the most disabling disorders in the world, affecting roughly 20% of women and 12% of men at some point in their lifetime.
Depression creates in you feelings of sadness, hopelessness and loss of enjoyment in life. Like a fog it can descend and block out all of your other experiences so that the dominant framework is one of depression.
In the throes of depression it can be difficult to remember anything positive about your self or life, and you can't just pull yourself together and get over it.
Depression is more than just a low mood – it's a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health.
While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason.When you’re depressed, it can feel like you’ll never get out from under a dark shadow.
Thankfully, depression has been show to respond very well to psychotherapy, and there are many therapeutic options available. Even the most severe depression is treatable. So, if your depression is keeping you from living the life you want to, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Depression exists in different degrees, ranging on a spectrum from mild to severe. That means that a treatment plan for depression is going to look different for every person. For example, mild depression might involve a lot of self-care (things like physical exercise) while severe depression might involve more focused psychological treatment and medication.
There are also a few other forms of depression which can look quite different from the most common form.
Male Depression is a recently discovered condition and differs very markedly from normal overt depression in 4 very clear ways. First is a discontent with himself. The second is an antagonistic and blaming attitude towards others. Thirdly is exaggerated hyper-masculine behaviour, and fourthly is avoidance and escape.
Bipolar (or manic-depressive illness) is another form of depression which is characterised by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression), often with periods of normal mood in between. Sometime the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but usually they are gradual. Click here for more information on Bipolar - Do I Have Bipolar Disorder?
When in a depressed cycle, the person can have any or all of the symptoms of depression. When in the manic cycle, the person may be overactive, over-talkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgement and social behaviour in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment.
Post Natal depression and the baby blues can affect mothers after giving birth to a baby, particularly their first born. Both of these share many symptoms, including mood swings, periods of crying, sadness, insomnia, and irritability, but the difference is that with postpartum depression, the symptoms are more severe (such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your newborn) and longer lasting.
How does Depression begin?
For most of us, depression can start as a reaction to a tragedy in life. The events that are particularly likely to produce depression are losses, humiliations and defeats that leave us feeling trapped by our circumstances.
If we have been depressed before, a low mood can become easier and easier to trigger over time, because each time it returns, the thoughts, feelings, body sensations and behaviours that accompany it form stronger and stronger connections to each other.
Eventually, any one element can trigger depression by itself. A fleeting thought of failure can trigger a huge sense of fatigue, or even a small comment by a family member or friend can trigger an avalanche of emotions such as guilt or regret.
Unfortunately, once depression takes hold, we can feel powerless to prevent it from getting worse, or to make it better.
As children or young adults, we may have been counselled by well meaning people and authorities to "soldier on" or "just get over it" when we were feeling particularly downhearted or miserable. Because of this, it's normal to pick up along the way the message that it was shameful or weak to express our emotions. We can naturally assume that people would think less of us if they knew we were depressed. Unfortunately, this vicious cycle only leads to further depression and isolation.
What is going on in your head when you're depressed?
FIRSTLY; A NEGATIVE TRIAD OF SELF TALK
Aaron Beck, a very well known researcher in depression, has discovered that the way we think and talk to ourselves crucially influences our depressed state. So when we are depressed, we have a "negative triad of self talk", which means:
1. A negative view of ourself
2. A negative view of others
3. A negative view of the future
Here's some examples. :
"I'll never be able to pull this off"
"I can't seem to be what my wife wants me to be"
"I don't think I'm cut out for being a parent"
"There must be something wrong with them"
"It seems like I mess up everyone I have been close to"
If you look at a snapshot of the thoughts and self talk of someone who is depressed, they show a pattern of frequent, long lasting, and intense negative thought patterns. If you are depressed, any neutral situation creates a negative spin in your mind.
Disappointing events generate a catastrophic spin. And the spin lasts longer than if you are not depressed.
Martin Seligman, who is the originator of Positive Psychology and Optimism, has identified the 3 crucial differences between the way positive and optimistic people look at their life and the future, and the pessimistic and negative way depressed people look at their life.
So, if a positive person and a depressed person are experiencing the exact same difficult situation, the positive person would look at it constructively, and with optimism, hope and faith, and would see the frustrations as a temporary setback; they would also believe the causes are specific to this particular incident and see the whole situation as a challenge to overcome by coming up with solutions and an action plan.
On the other hand, if you are depressed, you are more likely to see the situation in terms of a permanent, pervasive problem that you are to blame for. For example you tend to believe that bad things will last a long time, will undermine everything and are your own fault.
When you are depressed, you're more likely to turn an ordinary negative experience, which is specific, and external and temporary, into a tragic story that is thought of as global, and permanent and as an indication of your personal failing as a human being.
THIRDLY: POOR SELF EFFICACY
Albert Bandura has introduced the concept called Self Efficacy, and this means the belief we have about our capacity to be capable and effective in any particular situation.
And the interesting part of his research is that he found that our level of motivation, our emotional states and the actions we take in any particular situation are based on what we believe about ourselves rather than what is objectively true.
So when we're depressed, our beliefs about ourselves are darker and more pessimistic, and although there may be plenty of evidence that we are very capable and have done similar things before very well, we just CAN'T see it.
FOURTHLY : RUMINATION
Rumination is one of the self talk patterns that can paralyse you when you are depressed. This means going over and over your negative thoughts.
Seligman has found that how much you ruminate will determine how long your depressed mood will last.
It is difficult enough being depressed, without also isolating yourself and spending a lot of time thinking about how terrible you feel, or worrying about not being able to sleep at night or whether your partner might leave you because you are so depressed.
The more anxious you are, the more you will ruminate. This pattern of rumination is paralysing and self defeating, and we have found that there are only 2 ways to loosen its stranglehold:
1. Reframing - developing new perspectives on the problem
2. Distraction - taking your mind off these constant worries
Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure, is a killer. When you are depressed, you can feel like you are dead inside, or just gong through the
motions, as you lose interest in just about everything.
It's not only the big sources of pleasure like getting a new job, falling pregnant, having a romantic weekend away. It's also the smaller things as well, like enjoying your favourite cup of coffee, your child's concert, a freshly made bed etc.
It is as if your brain screens out all the pleasure, even though it's exactly what you need to feel better. You can feel like, "What's the point? It won't make me feel any better."
The Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that we provide during your treatment is very effective in helping you overcome these limitations in your thinking and self talk, and change the cognitive or mental distortions that your mind has you believing.
How your depression affects your relationships
Whether we're talking about laughing over a private joke, sharing what's happened through the day or making love, if you are depressed, your intimacy with your partner is usually a casualty of your depression.
It can take all of your resources just to care for yourself and get through the day, leaving not much left over for your intimate relationship.
So it can be very difficult for your partner to feel positively connected with you while you are depressed, even when they desperately want to.
Additionally, many depressed people can and do transfer their inner pain to their partners, blaming them for things that may not be their fault.
Problems in your relationship can also be a trigger for depression, and many depressed people find it very difficult to share exactly what's going on inside them emotionally with their partner.
When you become sullen, irritable, impatient and cranky, it's very difficult for your partner to ride these waves and not get caught up in them, or to know how to help. This can lead to a downward spiral which can have you arguing and feeling very disconnected before too long.
Being depressed will often affect your sex life too, with many depressed people finding themselves not interested in making love with their partners, and others wanting to have sex far more frequently in a misguided effort to feel good.
Don't suffer alone with your depression
If you're experiencing depression, it's important to reach out to someone who is equipped to help.
If you repeatedly get depressed, keep in mind that it's not your fault. Bad feelings can start, and before you know it, you can be pulled down into a spiral of negative feelings, where no amount of struggle can get you out. In fact, the more you struggle, the deeper you end up.
Freedom from depression is possible, but that freedom comes from an entirely different perspective and understanding of what the problem actually is.
This new perspective will then serve as a map to guide you into new territory.
If you’d like help managing and treating your depression, our psychologists across Australia specialise in this field. We have psychologists that can help with Depression Counselling in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Perth and Adelaide.
Please get in contact today by using our Contact page, or calling us on 1300 830 552.