The role of loss in depression.

Life is such that we never get all that we want and this is probably just as well. When we taste some amount of success, we are usually rightly elated for a short time.  However,part of this is that we have also to get used to loss when things go against us. Whether it is the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or a missed target at work, the way we deal with loss is critical and can soon lead to depression if not dealt with properly. When one of the events mentioned occurs, then of course, we are down or sad for a while but this should be a fleeting experience. However, if it lasts longer than a few days, it could lead to depression and can be worse if depression is already present. The depressed individual will then view himself in a negative, distorted manner even more. It leads to experiences being misconstrued and made more negative than normal. The roots of depression are usually found in childhood and experiences of loss at this time,  leaving the depressed individual over-sensitized in adulthood.

Aaron Beck defined what constitutes a loss as highly individual and unpredictable but stated that most were interpreted and responded to in similar ways ( Beck,AT, Cognitive Therapy of Depression).:

1. The individual believes he has failed to reach a goal or objective and has lost something valuable. ( Break-up, being made redundant)

2. He sees little value in setting future goals or engaging in positive or constructive activities and sees his future as bleak.

3. He sees himself as a loser, useless, worthless, inept or untalented.

4. This leads to a destructive vicious circle where

Negative thinking leads to negative feelings which leads to lack of motivation

Each of the above reinforce each other and keep the individual stuck in a seemingly never-ending spiral. During this cycle, individuals engage in a variety of self-defeating thinking patterns. For example, reduced self-esteem, comparing oneself negatively to others, blame themselves for failing in areas where they expected to succeed and magnifying this and increased pessimism. When this goes too far, thoughts of suicide can prevail and a certain percentage will carry this through.

If help is sought, there is much that can be done to combat depression in therapy. A therapist will try ( along with the client) to identify three distinct levels of the depressive episode. Firstly, observable symptoms such as sadness, loss of motivation or apathy then the disturbed underlying motivations, for example, withdrawal from social circles and then dysfunctional cognitions like life is pointless and hopeless. CBT therapists especially employ various methods to challenge these maladaptive assumptions such as visualising success, setting small goals and rewards and finding alternative explanations for dysfunctional responses. Important also is the logging of daily moods and successes as a homework assignment.

Depression : The symptoms

Although it is often classed as ‘mental illness’, clinical depression often has as many physical symptoms as mental. The feelings or emotions that are depression symptoms actually begin to cause the physical effects. How this happens is a vital part of understanding depression and the symptoms that come with it. If you are depressed at the moment some of the following symptoms may sound familiar:

  • You feel miserable and sad.
  • You feel exhausted a lot of the time with no energy.
  • You feel as if even the smallest tasks are sometimes impossible.
  • You seldom enjoy the things that you used to enjoy – you may be off sex or food or may ‘comfort eat’ to excess.
  • You feel very anxious sometimes.
  • You don’t want to see people or are scared to be left alone. Social activity may feel hard or impossible.
  • You find it difficult to think clearly.
  • You feel like a failure and/or feel guilty a lot of the time.
  • You feel a burden to others.
  • You sometimes feel that life isn’t worth living.
  • You can see no future. There is a loss of hope. You feel all you’ve ever done is make mistakes and that’s all that you ever will do.
  • You feel irritable or angry more than usual.
  • You feel you have no confidence.
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about what has gone wrong, what will go wrong or what is wrong about yourself as a person.
  • You may also feel guilty sometimes about being critical of others (or even thinking critically about them).
  • You feel that life is unfair.
  • You have difficulty sleeping or wake up very early in the morning and can’t sleep again. You seem to dream all night long and sometimes have disturbing dreams.
  • You feel that life has/is ‘passing you by.’
  • You may have physical aches and pains which appear to have no physical cause, such as back pain.

It’s this wealth of depression symptoms, and the broad scope that confuses many people as to what depression actually is. Explanations rarely cover all the symptoms, and everybody’s experience is different.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find.

Online Therapy details : Here

  14 comments for “The role of loss in depression.

  1. September 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I was bought up in a family with the attitude of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.
    While clinical depression is a horrible affliction I have every sympathy for I do believe a lot of life events most people can deal with and get on with getting on.

    While my selection of unfortunate life experiences ticks most of the boxes for depression.
    I wonder if we all have it too easy in a way. Are we all wallowing in self pity and begging to be defined as we no longer, for the most part, worry where the next meal is coming from?

    Being positive and upbeat is for the most part a choice in life. Making a plan of action for exercise, Things to look forward to and a solid routine can work wonders as can a determination NOT to let something stop you living life to the full. Just look for example how much better a person can feel by walking briskly and standing tall, smiling at people and projecting: how are other people feeling? rather than wallowing.

    Like

    • September 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Interesting points and ideally most of these would work. However, having experience of treating many patients with depression has taught me that the reasons for and the treatment against depression are as individual as the people themselves. Many depression sufferers will also state that being told “to get on with it” is sometimes the last thing they want to hear.

      Like

    • September 12, 2012 at 12:07 am

      In response I have fought depression for a major portion of my life. It is easy to say, get on with it and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but sometimes some of us just can’t. We may need therapy with or without a combination of anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications.

      I too prefer to try to go as natural as possible and avoid drugs unless it is an emergency situation. I also find exercise and being positive helps keep me from being depressed all the time. When depressed I watch only funny happy movies and TV and listen to fun uplifting music. I also supplement with lots of Stress Vitamin B’s with lots of B-12. Organic foods, Unprocessed foods and Grass-Fed animals, that don’t have the chemicals and pesticides that contribute to illness and depression. Meditation and visualization also help.

      I promote natural ways of getting and staying healthy. But as I said, sometimes, some of us, need that little extra help to get us back on the healthy track. Life can sometimes throw us a curve ball that we hadn’t anticipated and throw us off the track with little inner strength to pull us back up on our own, even if we want to do it on our own. So we may need help from others.

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      • September 12, 2012 at 6:54 am

        There are some very good natural products on the market at the moment for anxiety and depression. However, usually a combination of therapy and some kind of medication is what is called for.

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      • September 12, 2012 at 7:45 am

        I may have worded my self slightly unclearly. I set clinical depression that of course needs help and treatment apart from a general population confusing feeling low with depression.
        I hope you keep feeling strong 🙂

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      • September 15, 2012 at 2:26 am

        Thanks for the thoughtful responses.

        Like

  2. September 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    This is why I am not a therpist 🙂

    Like

  3. eatwilmington
    September 12, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I remember 16 years ago or so when I was going through a divorce and suffered a devastating course of depression with anxiety. Sleeping, eating, and normal functioning became impossible. I was blessed with a great physician who sent me to a psychologist and the two of them helped me get well. It took 2 years, as it turned out there were old issues affecting me as well, but the coping tools and healthier thought patterns that I learned from my therapist continue to serve me well now. One of the most important lessons I learned was that I control how I feel by the way I think about things – its all about perspective! Thanks for sharing this informative post.

    Like

    • September 12, 2012 at 6:53 am

      There is a key message in your comment….that you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think about things. This simple message is usually true in most cases of depression.

      Like

      • eatwilmington
        September 17, 2012 at 2:16 am

        I still work on this all the time, so I think I may be growing in that department my entire life;) The good news is that the more I practice this principle of how I think is how I feel, the better I get at it and the shorter the span of time it takes to resolve any overly emotional instances. Part of my practice is paying attention to my body (heart racing, clenching of fists, fidgity, etc) – those are my clues to what’s really going on and those are what I work on fixing (deep breathing, taking a break, etc). The thoughts improve once I calm down. Oh, and if I am overly tired or hungry, I get a little crazy, so I try to eat and sleep regularly (amazing what a sandwich can do for my disposition – lol).

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      • September 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

        A routine is so very important if you suffer from a depressive illness. Eating, sleeping and exercising are all important factors in recovery. However, I often ask my clients fairly early in therapy about what time they get up, have breakfast for example. Even if the illness keeps a client at home, it is vital to have a routine and framework.

        Like

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