1. What is depression?
People refer to the word ‘depressed’ in their everyday life. Even though, what they mean is ‘sad’ or ‘fed up’ for a couple of days in a row. It is normal and common to feel sad in certain situations, for example when someone loses their job, fails an exam, or when a relative passes away. However, when someone experiences symptoms for at least two weeks and these symptoms interfere with daily routine, then this person might be suffering from depression. There are several types of depressive disorders including major depression (i.e. once in a lifetime episode that interferes with daily routine), postpartum depression (i.e. an episode of depression happening after giving birth), psychotic depression (i.e. an episode of depression that includes experiencing psychotic symptoms), persistent depressive disorder (i.e. a prolonged feeling of low mood for at least two years) and seasonal affective disorder (i.e. an episode of depression that occurs as a result of seasonal changes).
2. Causes, signs and symptoms of depression
Depression can be inherited from our parents and this genetic predisposition sets the stage for depression to occur. However, it often also takes other environmental and psychological factors for someone to develop depression. There are many things that play an important role in triggering depression, including:
- Exposure to severe stress
- Major life transitions
- Death or a loss
- Serious illnesses
- Substance abuse
A common characteristic of those who experience depression is that they feel being in a persistently low-mood. Depressive symptoms can be both physical and emotional. Physical symptoms include feelings of tiredness and fatigue, loss of energy, changes in appetite, sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia), loss in sexual drive or sexual problems, and physical pain (e.g. headaches, cramps, digestive problems). While emotional symptoms include; thoughts of worthlessness, feelings of guilt, hurt and anxiety, difficulties concentrating and making decisions, loss of interest, reduced sense of pleasure from activities that used to provide pleasure, low self-esteem, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Other common symptoms are thoughts of helplessness and/or hopelessness.
3. Depression diagnosis
As mentioned above, someone with depression will experience a persistently low-mood and that can result in people’s lives becoming severely impaired. It is recommended that people seek treatment before their daily tasks are interrupted. In order for someone to be diagnosed with depression, the above symptoms will need to last and be persistent for at least two weeks. When discussing depression, it is important to distinguish ‘depressive-mood’ from depression. Many of us have experienced at least a couple of days with low mood and the above symptoms during our lifetime, but unless the symptoms have re-occurred for a prolonged period of time and do not interfere with daily routine, we will not fit the criteria for depression.
4. Depression treatment
Depression is generally treated with psychotherapy/counselling, medication or both. In some cases, self-help books can be helpful in providing alternative ways of dealing with depression. Some self-help books may also provide informative chapters on relaxation techniques and healthy lifestyle changes. According to the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) the recommended psychotherapy for depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a type of therapy that focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviour and teaches the person new ways of thinking and behaving that may help to manage the depression. CBT focuses on identifying unhelpful thinking styles and behaviours that may be maintaining the depression, and then considers alternative ways of thinking and behaving that may alleviate the depression symptoms. Over time irrational thoughts are changed so that people can develop a more balanced and positive view on life and their behaviour is altered as a consequence. Interpersonal therapy is also used to treat depression. Interpersonal therapy focuses on interpersonal problems, such as role transitions, interpersonal conflicts, bereavement and interpersonal isolation.
Depression can also be treated through the use of medication and your GP will be able to provide you with guidance on what medication to take. At present, antidepressants are preferred in the treatment of depression. Antidepressants refer to a selection of medications that include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tricyclics. Some of these medications start working immediately whilst others take several weeks to start working. Common to all medication is that it may cause side effects and some medication should not be taken for prolonged periods of time.
If you would like to carry out a short 2 minute questionnaire to assess your depression levels, then please take a look at our depression test.
How we can help you with depression
If you feel you would gain from depression counselling, we can help you at one of our London locations. Our team of expert depression counselling psychologists will be able to get you through dark times to have a much sunnier outlook. Initially, recognising you have a problem with depression is the first step, the second step is getting help for depression leading to a much more positive life. The benefits of counselling for depression are amazing:
- Can help ease stress
- Greater degree of self-awareness
- Can give you a new perspective on problems
- Improves self-esteem
- Learn ways to talk to other people about your condition
- Life feels more enjoyable and fun!
Where to find us in London for depression counselling
2/8 Victoria Avenue
1 Harley Street