What is Depression?
Most people have felt sad or low at times; this can be a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles or an injured self-esteem. Depression is when these low or empty feelings are too intense for too long and don’t seem to be shifting, when feelings of intense sadness, helplessness, hopelessness or even worthlessness lasts for days to weeks. Depression keeps you from functioning normally and/or enjoying pleasurable activities.
In short, Depression is when low mood takes on a life of its own and gets stuck, no longer connected to anything in your life.
A key sign of depression is either depressed mood or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. For a diagnosis of depression, five of these signs should be present most of the day and almost every day for at least two weeks. In addition, the depressive symptoms need to cause distress or impairment. They cannot be due to the direct effects of a substance or a medical condition.
People with depressive illnesses don't all experience the same symptoms. How severe they are, how frequent and how long they last will vary depending on the particular illness.
Psychological Symptoms of Depression include:
- A depressed mood during most of the day, commonly in the morning
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
- Loss of pleasure or meaning in life
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Poor energy or being physically tired
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping, particularly early morning wakefulness) or hypersomnia (too much sleep)
- Significant changes to appetite with weight loss or gain
- A sense of irritability, restlessness or being slowed down
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Treatment for Depression
Firstly, we need to assess what is the nature, type and function of your particular depression. There are the basic diagnostic categories: major depressive disorder, bipolar, postpartum, seasonal affective, and so on. Then, each of these needs a different approach personalised to your needs. Then there are the functional types of depression: smiling depression, clinical, existential, grieving, complex, repression, avoidant and so on. These are different kinds of depression that therapists encounter and need to approach differently for long-term recovery.
Depression treatment has had a long history of average results, but this disorder and its treatment is currently being taken much more seriously. From research into therapy methods to brain scans to refining medication; there is an explosion of interest with new understandings coming through all the time. The days of a generic approach to therapy and pills is coming to a close. This problem is too big and too important to continue with mediocre outcomes.
“More than one in ten people in their life time suffer from depression, a disease which is so common in modern society and we can even find the remains of [a common drug used to treat depression] in the tap water in London,” explains Jianfeng Feng, a member of the research team and professor at both Warwick and Fudan. (https://futurism.com/not-just-a-state-of-mind-scientists-locate-the-physical-source-of-depression-in-the-brain/)
What we are learning is that individuals respond very differently and we need to be build a treatment plan to fit them. There are times when therapy is more effective than medication and times when a combination works best as well as times when medication is essential. With some people, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’s strategies are all that is needed for the person to get on top of their own recovery. While, other times longer relational and personality directed treatment is needed to make sustained changes. In many cases, serious attention needs to be given the situations that a person is living with currently.
There is much that can be done to help with depression and treatments are becoming more and more focused, individualised and effective.