Everybody feels sad or "down in the dumps" at one time or another. This does not mean that you have depression. People who have depression almost constantly feel down for long periods of time and this interferes significantly with their daily lives. Depression changes how you act, think and feel and typically results in you having little or no energy or motivation to get up and on with your day. A little recognised fact about depression is that most people who have it have been experiencing strong anxiety for some time and the anxiety has directly contributed to the onset of the depression. When this is the case successfully treating the anxiety typically results in full recovery from the depressive symptoms. Depression often results from anxiety because the anxiety can make you feel trapped and helpless.
Feeling sad or “down in the dumps” for weeks at a time often worse in the morning. May include frequent tearfulness.
- Poor appetite or overeating.
Trouble sleeping- often involving sleeping longer than usual and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.
Low energy or fatigue. You find it difficult to engage in activities you usually get pleasure from.
Poor concentration or difficulties making decisions.
Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness and helplessness. Often increased self criticism.
How did I Develop Depression? A number of theories exist as to the causes of depression. The most likely explanation for its occurrence is that depression is an inbuilt natural response to feeling defeated that is present and can be triggered under the right circumstances in virtually everybody. From an evolutionary perspective depression allows you to shut down until dire circumstances improve. For millions of years our ancestors had to hunt and gather everyday in order to get enough food to survive. There were no supermarkets or even food crops until very recently. At times they were trapped by predators, drought, famine or even other attacking humans. At these times access to food was very limited and a mild hibernation response (which we now call depression) would slow their metabolism and subsequent need for food, allowing our ancestors to survive for longer periods and weather the difficult circumstances. As a result, today when you feel trapped by something (eg relationship, work, health or emotional difficulties) a chemical response in the brain may be triggered causing you to go into this pseudo-hibernation called depression. The emotional centres of our reflex brain don't recognise that feeling trapped in the modern world does not typically mean that we won't have access to food.
What Can I do to get rid of it? In short, work on changing whatever you are feeling trapped by. This may involve changing your circumstances through effective problem solving, goal setting etc, or changing your responses to occurrences in your life through methods such as . If you have been experiencing anxiety for some time leading up to the onset of depression then obtaining professional assistance to eliminate the anxiety will typically eliminate the depression. In this regard (CBT) has been well evidenced to provide long lasting relief from anxiety and depression symptoms. As a short term measure simple strategies such as getting fifteen minutes of direct sunlight in the morning, regular exercise and writing a list of activities/goals for the next day each night, can also send a message to the emotional centres of the brain that you are out of the cave hunting again and do not need to hibernate. It is important to remember that these methods alone will not bring long term relief however, if the issue/s which is/are causing you to feel trapped in the first place are not resolved.
What about Medication? Anti depressant medications although widely prescribed produce only questionable results in the treatment of depression. In the few controlled studies to date they have been shown to have long term effectiveness only slightly greater than placebos (sugar tablets) (reference -Schiffer (1998) Of two minds: The revolutionary Science of Dual Brain Psychology in Emery.G (2000) Overcoming Depression. Best Practices for Therapy Series New Harbinger Publications). Despite this, modern medications can at times be very useful initially in providing fast relief from depressive symptoms. For this reason your doctor may prescribe antidepressants particularly if your symptoms of depression are severe. Relapse rates are higher for medication treatment, however, and medication can also produce unwanted side effects. By contrast a number of research projects studying the effectiveness of CBT have found that the vast majority of individuals can overcome their depression without the need for medication and people that overcome their depression without medication have lower relapse rates. In any case, if you are considering beginning or making changes to your medication you must first consult your doctor.
Remember: Depression is a natural response to feeling trapped that can occur for almost anyone. In order to effectively eliminate depression you need to find a way to overcome whatever you are feeling trapped by. If anxiety has contributed to the onset of your depression then this anxiety needs to be the primary target of your treatment. CBT has been well evidenced to be highly effective in this regard. If you would like more information as to how this therapy can assist you please click on 'help for anxiety' in the left page menu or contact our friendly staff directly.
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