20th July, 2009
What is Depression?
Depression - A state of extreme dejection or morbidly excessive melancholy; a state of hopelessness and feeling of inadequacy, often with physical symptoms (Oxford Dictionary, 1990)
Depression is a prevalent and widespread issue.
Surveys show that 20 - 30% of the population may suffer symptoms of depression in the course of one year (Treating People with Depression, Wilkinson et al, 1999)
Depression is an overused word, describing very different experiences, ranging from a short-lived mood to a debilitating condition. Everybody's experience of depression is personal with a unique combination of causes and effects. Some people have a clear understanding of the cause of their depression and for others it comes 'out of the blue'. When there is no obvious precipitating event it can be that it stems from an experience that occurred significantly earlier in life.
There are times when we feel depressed and an immediate stress is not apparent. This can be the result of unresolved conflict or a delayed reaction to previous stress in our life (Dealing with Depression, Nairne & Smith, 1984)
Being diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication is not always the answer. Some people are dissatisfied that medication alone is the answer, with little evidence that the 'depression' label reassures them. For others it is comforting to be diagnosed with a known condition making them feel normal and less alone. There is a danger in such a diagnosis, in raising people's expectations that 'depression' is something that has happened to them, which somebody else needs to cure, rather than feeling the solution lies with them.
Depression has a range of symptoms including feeling: fed up, weary, a sense of loss, isolated, useless, unloved, sad, like self-harming, self reproach, angry, guilty, unable to concentrate, suicidal. These symptoms vary in combination, duration and re-occurrence for every person. Depression differs from unhappiness through its particular feeling of isolation which prevents you seeking and accepting comfort from others, as if there is a wall between you.
There is debate whether a physical chemical imbalance causes depression or the depressed mood causes the physical disturbance. More likely is that depression is caused by an ongoing interaction of social, physical and psychological pressures creating a downward spiral. Depression can be viewed more holistically as a natural reaction to protect a person when things are too much. It can be seen as a necessary part of the healing process. Although medication in many cases is essential as it suppresses overwhelming feelings, there is a downside, individuals tend to feel less alive and may not get to the bottom of what is wrong, hence medication can extend what was a natural cycle.
How Counselling Can HelpIn counselling and psychological terms there is general concurrence that depression occurs when we start believing we are not good enough. 'The more bad and unacceptable you see yourself as being the more drastic the things you must do' (Depression the Way Out of Your Prison, Rowe, 1996). Being depressed is one of the more drastic things. Most counselling approaches recognises this negative view of self as key, the sense of failure to satisfy high expectations causing depression.
Counselling provides an opportunity in which a person can talk about, make sense of and find their own way out of their depression with the help of a trained counsellor.
Related articles from our experts
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- "Man up" - talking about men's mental health
Nathan Shearman (BSc Hons, MBACP)4th February, 2017
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