At some point in our lives, most people will feel depressed. Sometimes we go through a difficult break-up, lose our job or just feel depressed after having a few ‘rough’ weeks. However, in most cases these feelings pass. Clinical depression however, is characterised by symptoms that last at least 2 weeks, for most of the day nearly every day, and cause significant distress. These experiences can leave a person unable to function, sometimes to the point of not being able get out of bed, shower, or eat for days on end.
Common symptoms of depression include low mood and lack of enjoyment in life, lack of concentration or indecisiveness, low level of energy and fatigue even when sleep is not an issue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, excessive feelings of unreasonable guilt, hopelessness and despair, and thoughts of suicide*.
It is vital to understand that if a person is clinically depressed, they cannot just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘think positively’. People experience mood disorders because of a combination factors that are not their fault. People may have a vulnerability to experience depression due to combination of biological, personality and interpersonal factors. When a highly stressful event or a series of stressful events occur, a person can develop a pattern of thinking and feeling that may perpetuate the symptoms of depression and lead to further periods of depression later on down the track.
CBT assumes a direct link between our thoughts, feelings, physiological reactions and behaviours. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking habits can be changed and we can learn how to change them. Depression is like a cycle of strong and overwhelming negativity that can be broken with help. Other treatment such as Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) also show great promise for people experiencing depression. These therapies focus on thoughts and feelings however encourage people to observe these and detach from negative thoughts and emotions, cultivating an attitude of acceptance.
Wellbeing strategies can be incorporated into our lives to keep ourselves strong. These may include meditation, exercise/active lifestyle, a balanced diet, social connectedness, gratitude, expressive writing and a good sleeping routine just to name a few.