What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder also called the ‘common cold’ of mental health problems. It tends to affect more adults of working age, but none is immune from depression.
In academic literature, depression remains a controversial term because it can mean different things to different people. Many academics acknowledge that the mental states of depression are real, but telling low mood apart from depression can be difficult.
Depression tends to be defined by the range of symptoms that it causes. A depressed person’s outlook is gloomy about their self, others or their current situation.
Usual effects of depression are a lack of motivation to get about your day-to-day activities and meet deadlines at school or work, or to meet your responsibilities with your friends and family. Many people also report problems in keeping relationships when feeling depressed and also let go of their usual daily routines and personal hygiene.
How is depression different to sadness?
It is common for people to feel low in mood or sad; this is a natural emotion we all show in reaction to life’s struggles.
Yet, when the intensity of sadness increases and stays for more than a couple of weeks, then it may be depression. We can all feel low at times, although if your negative emotions and thinking patterns get more severe, then therapy is something you may need to consider. Feelings of helplessness and worthlessness are signs of depression that can reduce a lot or go away with appropriate treatment.
Depression can occur as a reaction to life events, such as abuse, bullying or family breakdown, but it can also run in families as a hereditary trait.
Depression can often develop alongside feelings of anxiety which can be a result of worry, avoidance and fear of future events.
Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness, and although it’s hard to feel optimistic when you’re depressed, there is lots of support available to help you feel better.
How Do I Know If I Have Depression?
The first step is to establish a diagnosis. This is where you may need to see a professional as there are many mental and physical health conditions that can cause symptoms that look like depression. A Clinical Psychologists is equipped to make a diagnosis. Getting a diagnosis can also be helpful in starting to make sense of your difficulties.
During your first assessment interview, you will have an in-depth discussion with you about your health and wellbeing, to find out if you suffer from depression. Talking in depth about one’s concerns and negative feelings can be difficult for some, and if that the case for you, your therapist will follow your lead to set a more comfortable pace.
The process of talking in depth about your difficulties with a Clinical Psychologist will also help you make sense of why you started feeling depressed and how your thoughts and behaviours are maintaining your symptoms.
Your therapist will be looking out for symptoms like those listed below. But, please remember that trying to diagnose yourself by reading the symptoms can be inaccurate. The symptoms below are offered here as for information. If you are concerned you may suffer from depression, take our free online Depression test or book an assessment with a Clinical Psychologist. Find out what a diagnostic assessment involves here.
Symptoms of depression include:
• A depressed mood most days
• Poor motivation and tiredness
• Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
• Difficulties concentrating and keeping a focus
• Lack of sleep or extensive sleep most days
• Lack of interest or pleasure in hobbies or social activities
• You often think about death or suicide
• You feel restless or slowed down
• You’ve lost or gained weight
What is the Best Help for Depression?
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE UK) recommends that psychological therapy is offered for depression irrespective of the severity.
Medication should be prescribed if depression is severe or if depression has been present for a very long period. A Clinical Psychologist can talk to your GP to recommend medication or refer you to a Psychiatrist.
There are many psychological treatments for depression. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IT) are both recommended by NICE.
There are many more treatments for depression with an established scientific basis. Three of such therapies are Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Metacognitive Therapy for Depression and Systemic Therapy.
Psychological treatment is weekly and lasts between 16 and 20 sessions. Yet, the length of treatment can be shorter or longer depending on your circumstances.
As a rule of thumb, the more severe the depression, the longer the treatment required. Also, when the low mood has remained untreated for a long time, progress can be slower.
Another factor that could affect therapy is your current circumstances. For example, if someone is starting treatment while they have ongoing stress, they are likely to need more psychological therapy compared to someone who is living a relatively stress-free.
Waiting for “the right time” to start treatment is often not a good self-advice as the symptoms may become worse if left untreated. There are times that treatment may be delayed, but you should discuss any delays with an appropriately trained mental health professional.
Usually, CBT is the first type of intervention offered. But if CBT doesn’t help, some patients report losing hope with psychological treatments altogether. If feel hopeless and that your mood will never improve, it’s worth remembering that when one painkiller doesn’t get rid of your headache, you try a different kind of pain relief. The same applies to psychological therapy.
If CBT for depression doesn’t work, you can try another psychological therapy.
Clinical Psychologists are experienced in helping people with treatment-resistant depression. For example, those who have tried psychological treatments without success and for whom medication does not help.
Clinical Psychologists are trained to develop an individualised treatment, based on the information they obtained through their in-depth assessment and the most current scientific evidence and theories.
It’s worth remembering that even when you feel that you’ve tried everything without success, there are still psychological treatment options available for you.