When you are experiencing depression you will most likely feel sad, lonely, worthless, ashamed, guilty and hopeless. It is not something you can just snap out of, but a more persistent sense of despair and lack of joy. Depression can feel overpowering and has a negative effect on your thinking, behaviour, and relationships. Approximately 20 percent of people will experience depression at some point in their lives, most commonly in their late teens or early twenties for the first time.
Causes of Depression
There is no one clear cause of depression and it is often difficult to pinpoint if and what may have been the triggering event. Even environmental factors such as Melbourne’s rainy and cloudy weather can bring on the “winter blues” (or else, seasonal affective disorder).
We know for certain that neurological factors which affect our brain chemistry play an important role in the rise and maintenance of depression. For example, the levels of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin change when we are depressed. We also know that depression is associated with an increased activity in our `stress systems’ when they go in overdrive (e.g. many depressed people have an elevation in the stress hormone cortisol).
What happens in our lives also has a major influence in how depression begins and takes a hold. Events such a relationship breakdown, relocation, work stress, financial instability, or health concerns can all be precursors to depression. In addition, the experience of trauma or growing up in an environment where our core childhood needs were not met can make us more vulnerable to depression later in life.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression can vary in terms of the relative degree and severity of symptoms, their duration and their frequency. We talk about three levels of depression – mild, moderate or severe. People may experience only one episode of depression or many episodes through various periods of their lives. While the list here can be varied because people will act on and display the symptoms in many different ways, generally depression involves the following:
- Apathy and loss of energy. Things seem pointless and the future hopeless
- A markedly reduced ability to experience any pleasure
- Feeling `empty’
- Increased feelings of anger, irritability, anxiety, shame, envy and guilt
- Difficulty maintaining attention and concentration
- Reduced memory
- Rumination and negative ideas about the self, the world and the future
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Becoming more demanding and clingy, seeking constant reassurance
- Sleeping issues such as waking up too early or sleeping too lightly
- Loss of appetite or a significant change in body weight
- Loss of interest in sex
Treatments for Depression
Depression can be partially treated with medication, but in Australia this can be prescribed only by a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. If during therapy we both decide that this is an option, I will discuss the positives and negatives with you and help you commence medical treatment.
My expertise in treating depression is by using talk therapy. Together we will explore when your depression started, what were the possible triggers and what may have made you vulnerable to it. We will focus on your thoughts that help maintain the depression and the typical mental distortions that depressed people engage in. If appropriate, we will delve deeper into your past and childhood experiences to find clues about how certain patterns came to be. We may also devise some practical experiments that will help you test certain self- defeating beliefs and increase your sense of wellbeing.
Above all, throughout our counselling journey you will remember once again what your strengths are, the values that drive you and the dreams you had before depression sent them to the background.
If you think you may benefit from counselling with me, contact me to find out more or arrange an appointment.
Servicing the areas of Malvern, Armadale, Prahran, Glen Iris, Caulfield North and surrounding suburbs.