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