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What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder known as the ‘common cold’ of mental health problems.

In academic literature, depression remains a controversial term as it can mean different things to different people. Many academics acknowledge that the mental states of depression are real, but telling a 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 tends to be gloomy about themselves, others or their current situation.

The usual effects of depression are a lack of motivation to get about your day-to-day activities and meet deadlines or responsibilities at work or school. Many people also report problems keeping relationships when feeling depressed and letting 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 an emotion we all show in reaction to life’s struggle – it’s normal.

However, when the intensity of sadness increases and stays for more than a couple of weeks, this could be depression. We can all feel low, although therapy may need to be considered if negative emotions and thinking patterns get severe.

Feelings of helplessness and worthlessness are signs of depression that can reduce significantly or go away after the 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 result from worry, avoidance, and fear of future events.

Although it’s hard to feel optimistic when you’re depressed, lots of support is available to help you feel better.

Do I Have Depression?

The first step in a journey through depression is to establish a diagnosis. This is where a person may need to see a professional as many mental and physical health conditions can cause symptoms that imitate depression. A Clinical Psychologists can make a reliable diagnosis. Getting a diagnosis can also be helpful in starting to make sense of your difficulties as it helps put in perspective why you’re struggling.

During a first assessment interview, a person will have an in-depth discussion about their health and well-being to determine if they suffer from depression. Talking in-depth about concerns and negative feelings can be difficult for some, and if that is the case for any individual, a therapist will follow that person’s lead to set a more comfortable pace.

Talking in-depth about difficulties with a Clinical Psychologist can help a person make sense of why they started feeling depressed and how thoughts and behaviours contribute to symptoms.

A therapist will look out for symptoms like those listed below. But, remember that self-diagnosis can be inaccurate.

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 or low mood most days
  • Lack of motivation and tiredness
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Difficulties concentrating and keeping a focus
  • Lack of sleep or long periods of sleep most days
  • Lack of interesting hobbies or social activities
  • Often think about death or suicide
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

What Help is Best for Depression?

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE UK) recommends psychological therapy for depression no matter how severe it is.

Medication should be prescribed if depression is severe or has been present for a very long period. A Clinical Psychologist can talk to a person’s GP to recommend medication if needed or refer 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
  • Systemic Therapy

Weekly psychological treatment lasts between 16 and 20 sessions. Yet, the length of treatment can be shorter or longer depending on an individual’s circumstances.

As a rule of thumb, the more severe the depression, the longer the treatment required.

Another factor that could affect therapy is a person’s current circumstances. For example, if someone is starting treatment while they have ongoing stress, they are likely to need more psychological treatment than someone living relatively stress-free.

Waiting for “the right time” to start treatment is often not good advice as symptoms may worsen if left untreated. There are times that treatment may be delayed, but this should be discussed with an appropriately trained mental health professional.

CBT is usually the first type of intervention offered. However, if CBT doesn’t help, patients can lose hope with psychological treatments altogether.

It’s worth remembering that when one painkiller doesn’t get rid of a headache, a different kind of pain relief may be needed. The same applies to psychological therapy.

If CBT for depression doesn’t work, try another psychological therapy.

Clinical Psychologists are experienced in helping people with treatment-resistant depression, including 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 obtained through an 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.