Depression is an illness characterized by 9 symptoms.
Sad mood for most of the day and nearly every day, feeling down, anxious or empty, irritable or tense almost every day
Less interested or no pleasure in things, hobbies and activities you used to enjoy
Feeling excessively worthless, guilty or helpless nearly every day
Being tired most of the time, no energy
Having a hard time concentrating or making decisions, indecisive nearly every day
Overeating, gaining or losing lots of weight, no appetite
Feeling agitated or slowed down nearly every day
Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Aside from the emotional problems caused by depression, individuals can also present with a physical symptom such as chronic pain or digestive issues.
To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least 2 weeks. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure to be diagnosed with depression.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, there are 3 types of depression being categorized:
Major Depression – intense, suffer a large number of symptom
Chronic Depression – less symptoms yet longer lasting
Minor Depression – less intense and short lasting, feelings of misery or feeling impaired in daily life
Typically people who are suffering from depression do not seek treatment from a mental health professional for a long time even if they have been depressed in the past. Some people argue it is normal to feel sad, depressed, hopeless and inadequate. Being depressed is more than just having a pessimistic view of yourself and the world though so what causes us to feel depressed?
Causes of depression:
Many illnesses develop when there are 2 things present at the same time.
1. Inborn susceptibility or predisposition
2. Life stressors
Studies have found that many people who suffer from depression show low amounts of various brain chemicals such as norepinephrine, dopamine or serotonin. They carry high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol and suffer from disturbed deep sleep.
Research has also revealed that patients with depression have abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex (manages emotions and thinking) as well as limbic system (involved in sleep, eating, memory, stress).
If a stressor of some kind gets added (trauma, illness, financial or relationship stress, loss, natural disaster), it can lead to a full-fledged depression.
We can also display maladaptive attitudes or negative automatic behaviours that are learnt or developed over time; for example “My bosses critical remark means that I am a total failure at work or If i can't provide for my family, I am nothing”, which are harmful conclusions and stories not based on reality.
One of the diagnostic features of depression is this kind of self-diminishing, negative thought patterns. Fortunately cognitive therapy can be very effective for some of these maladaptive behaviours and thoughts.
So why are some people more prone to these negative thought patterns?
Let's look at some behavioural factors that can contribute to people having lower self-esteem, feelings of low self-worth or feeling depressed and negatively about themselves.
Behavioural risk factors that contribute to depression:
Poor social skills – These people tend to seek criticism from friends and family
Shyness or withdrawal – In the face of stress shy people avoid the very things that can protect them which is companionship and social support
Excessive dependency on others – Constantly seeking reassurance and validation from others
If one of them seems familiar to you, know that these can increase the risk of getting depressed. Your therapist shall confirm the actual decision as to whether a diagnosis of depression exists, so to be sure; I encourage you to seek help.
What to do if you are depressed? There are great ways to start getting more information and the relief you need:
Psychological evaluation or assessment
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Participate on a happiness increasing program
Positive Group Therapy or Psychotherapy (6-12weeks)
If confirmed that you or someone you care about may be suffering from depression, I encourage you to keep seeking help from a mental health professional over a longer period of time until you feel better. The following further treatments are the most effective to find relief from depression.
Most effective treatments:
Pharmacological therapy – Antidepressants or Medication (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft…)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Depressed patient learns to recognise and dispute negative beliefs and replaces them with more adaptive thoughts, teaching problem-solving, self-control, behavioural activation, focuses on the here and now
Interpersonal Therapy – working on resolving relationship problems, instilling optimism, focuses on the here and now
Marriage and Family Therapy – 2 most successful interventions are behavioural marital therapy for marital discord and parent training for child management problems
Another therapy that has effects on depression is psychodynamic therapy that resolves problems through intense self-exploration with the therapist
I hope you choose to be committed to your health and well-being and feel inspired by your strengths to beat depression. If you do, you come out of it stronger, happier and more engaged in life.
Additional happiness increasing activities in your daily life can be:
Expressing gratitude and cultivating optimism
Practising acts of kindness and savouring life’s joys
Learning to forgive and nurturing relationships
Avoiding rumination and social comparison
Learning coping and social skills
Goal setting and committing to them
Self-care, Self-Compassion and focus on well-being
Practising religion and spirituality
Depression is an illness that lasts for more than 2 weeks and can be caused by predisposition and life stressors experienced. It will worsen if not attended to properly. I suggest getting the right help to find relief. There are great therapists that can help you gain the necessary skills and the emotional support needed to overcome this and live a more fulfilling life.
Additional Resource: The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubormirsky
McAtee Psychology is a private family psychology practice offering counselling, assessment, and therapeutic services to families. Our services include counselling and assessment for individuals, couples, and children & teens. Our mission is to help you and your family create a more rich, connected, and meaningful life.
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