Last Updated 18 September, 2015

Depression

  What it is and how to cope with it

Depression has a very long history. Over two thousand years ago the Greek physician Hippocrates labelled it melancholia. The Royal College of Psychiatry states that depression is very common - one in five people become depressed at some point in their lives.

What is depression?

Most people experience temporary lows that may have been brought on by life events - and over time we will gradually pick ourselves up and return to normal. Sometimes though the feeling down can lead to a depression where everything is a struggle and we feel bad about ourselves, the future seems bleak and nothing worthwhile. For some people the depression can go on and on and become dominant in their lives, be severely disabling and even life threatening.

Depression affects us in different ways, but some common characteristics of depression are listed below:

Motivation
apathy, loss of energy and interest
Feelings
capacity for positive feelings is reduced, and sometimes there is no capacity to feel any pleasure. Feelings of helplessness, of disempowerment, of being trapped in a situation that is not of one's choosing, are all typical of depression. And underlying this black mood, there often lurks cold currents of anger and resentment whose expression is inhibited or denied.
Thoughts
being forgetful and problems with maintaining concentration. Negative thoughts about self, the world, the future. Difficulties in making decisions.
Behavioural
people often stop engaging in enjoyable activities and may withdraw from friends. Or they may become more demanding and cling to others, desperate for reassurance.
Biological
often there are problems with sleeping, loss of appetite and interest in sex. Can also feel inclined to smoke or drink more when depressed.

People do usually recover from depression and may even find they can use the experience constructively as an opportunity to review their lives and make some positive changes.

Understanding Depression

There is still much mystery about depression and what it is, but depression is frequently linked with stressful life events such as a bereavement, redundancy, divorce and long-term stress that appear difficult to resolve. Depression can sometimes be linked to physical ill-health as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Early childhood experiences can also have an impact on how we deal with life events and whether we become depressed. Similarly our coping strategies for when things go wrong will have a bearing on whether or not we become depressed.

Any of us can have an experience that is overwhelming, frightening, and beyond our control. A traumatic event could be the sudden/violent death of a colleague, a near miss accident to yourself or a colleague, a threatening event at work such as a violent assault by a member of public or the witnessing of a violent incident.

A trauma is a frightening experience, which your mind and body may have trouble coping with. Remember: it is normal for a trauma to cause changes in how you feel, think and act. Try not to worry about these changes; this will only make things worse. What is traumatic to one person may not be for someone else. Some causes of trauma include:

  • Experience of abuse or neglect.
  • Dangerous, life-threatening events.
  • Accident, injury or disability.

What can you do?

Talking to someone close to you about how you feel can help. Going over a painful experience several times and crying it out can allow the mind to heal. Some of the steps below may help free you from the depression so you can move on.

  • If you feel you are experiencing some of the symptoms of depression, it is important to contact your doctor, who will be able to monitor how you are feeling and recommend some treatments. These may be either counselling or anti-depressant medication.
  • Physical activity stimulates the body's natural anti-depressants. Going for a walk or some other form of exercise will help you to keep fit and hopefully, sleep better.
  • Getting involved in something practical like making something or doing jobs around the house can take your mind off thoughts that may make you depressed.
  • Getting in touch with a friend or relative, and being able to share how you are feeling and ask for support can be helpful.
  • Giving yourself a treat or doing something that really interests you will also improve your mood.
  • Acting more confident than you feel and using positive thinking can have an impact on how you feel too.
  • Make sure you eat well even though you may not feel it and don't drink alcohol as this makes depression worse, although it might not seem to at first.
  • Try not to get worried if you can't sleep but do something relaxing in bed such as reading, watching TV or listening to the radio.
  • If you think you know what is causing your depression, it can help to write down the problem and then think of the things you could do to tackle it. Pick the best actions and see if they work.
  • If you have become depressed while suffering from a disability or caring for a relative, then a self-help group may give you the support you need.
  • Also try to keep hopeful. Remember this is a very common experience and you will come through it, probably stronger and more able to cope than before.

Getting help from others

Counselling gives people a chance to talk through their difficulties and feelings. Counselling can provide a powerful way of safely exploring how the depression began and developed, of uncovering what lies behind the depression and of assisting the individual to mobilise those centres of resilience that still remain to make positive life changes.

Medical treatment through GP is another avenue of help, they may offer a psychiatric referral or more commonly offer appropriate anti-depressant medication which can prove helpful. The depression may be linked to an imbalance in the chemicals inside the brain. The antidepressant drugs act to even out that imbalance. This can help lighten your mood and allow you to cope more effectively.

Some people find either of the above on their own enough, whilst others find a combination of both counselling and anti-depressants works for them.

Depression is a distressing experience and forces us to look at ourselves and our lives and consider how to change things. We may even come to see it later as a useful experience, although at times it may feel overwhelming.

Rowan Consultancy

Personal and Organisational Growth and Development: in the HOME, in BUSINESS, in the COMMUNITY.

Rowan Consultancy, 4 Kinnoull Street, Perth, PH1 5EN. +44(0)1738 562005