If you are reading this article, you are most likely worried that you – or somebody that you know – has depression.
The first thing to know is that depression can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. It’s also nothing to be ashamed of; and it can be treated effectively with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
What is Depression?
Depression may be described as persistent lowering of someone’s mood, which can last for weeks, months or even years.
It can interfere with a person’s daily life, making it hard to cope. Understanding and recognising symptoms in ourselves or others are important steps in managing depression. There are many effective ways to treat depression, and many individuals go on to lead meaningful and productive lives even if they have been diagnosed with depression.
Depression is considered to be a mood disorder: If someone has depression, they have experienced a low mood that has persisted for longer than two weeks. It is possible however, they they many not feel bad all day or every day; but overall, they have a dismal outlook and sense of darkness.
Depression affects the individual emotionally, mentally and physically.
Emotionally: Emotionally, depression may manifest in a wide variety of feelings, such as anxiety, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, unmotivated, numbness or anger. It is not necessarily somebody who is constantly sad and tearful. If someone has depression, it usually has a significant impact on their relationships. Many people diagnosed with depression become unhappy and unsatisfied with their relationships – with their partner, family, friends or other relatives.
Mentally: Someone with depression may find that they have difficulties with focus and attention, as though their brain is in a fog; or overwhelmed by indecisiveness, in contrast to what is normal for them.
Physically: The common physical symptoms associated with depression include lack of sleep or sleeping too much; lack of appetite, or eating more than usual; a decline in sexual interest; reduced energy; even more physical aches and pains than usual (eg head ache, stomach ache).
Causes of Depression
It is important to understand that depression is not necessarily caused by one thing; there are both biological and psychological factors which may contribute.
Biologically, some people do possess or inherit genes that make them more vulnerable to developing depression – just like conditions such as hay fever may appear to run in the family.
The psychological factors include:
- Trauma: Following a natural disaster, accident, abuse, assault or other traumatic event, it is common for people to develop symptoms of depression, such as sadness, frustration, lack of energy, loss of interest and motivation. This could be weeks, months, or even years after the initial traumatic incident.
- Grief and Loss: Often, loss is associated with an increase in depression symptoms. While we commonly think of the loss of a loved one when we think of grief and loss, it could relate to losing a job, a pet, even shifting to a different location, where we have lost something that we valued.
- Stress: An accumulation of stressful events. According to this life events stress scale, they don’t even have to be negative to be stressful (eg getting married, retiring, or a much wanted pregnancy).
Depression and Thought Patterns
One of the other contributing psychological factors for depression is negative thought patterns. For example, when somebody is in the habit of overstressing the negative; taking the responsibility for bad events but not for good events; having rigid ideas about how one should behave and think; or worrying that others are thinking badly of them.
It can be a vicious cycle, as while negative thought patterns may contribute to depression; they are also a common effect of depression. When depression strikes, the individual may see themselves as being useless, inadequate and ‘a failure’. Their self-esteem and self-confidence become very low. They may feel that the world is a terrible place, and that everything is hopeless. If the thoughts are significantly negative, then they may start self-harming or having suicidal thoughts, that everybody would be better off without them.
With negative thought patterns being so prevalent in individuals with depression, it is easy to understand why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), has been found to be an effective treatment. CBT recognises that our thoughts are a driving force in influencing our feelings, which in turn affect how we behave and so on.
CBT for Depression
While there are several therapeutic interventions that are useful in the treatment of depression, the strategy will depend on the type, severity and duration of the individual’s experience of depression.
CBT deals with depression symptoms such as thoughts, physical reactions, feelings and behaviours; it sees these symptoms as all related to and influencing one another. So, increasing one symptom will result in increasing another, and vice versa.
The most common goals of CBT in treatment for depression are:
- To promote your self-awareness and emotional intelligence by teaching you to ‘read’ your emotions, and distinguish difference between the healthy and unhealthy feelings.
- To assist you in understanding how your perceptions and thoughts contribute to painful feelings.
- To promote your ability to better manage and respond to your negative thoughts and feelings.
- To equip you with skills to prevent future episodes of your emotional distress, and to develop your personal growth by helping you to change the core beliefs that are often at the heart of your suffering.
If you are seeking a mental health practitioner with experience in CBT and depression, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.