Most people experience some form of depression at some stage in their life. The impact of depression can range from unpleasant and short lived, to devastating and long term. Depression can virtually destroy your motivation and enjoyment of just about everything and over a period of time can lead to things around you becoming a bit of a mess. It is an insidious emotional state that can often creep up on you. I am often asked whether depression can lead to wearing sleeveless 1980’s gold mesh belly button tops and hair-gel with too many sparkles. Unfortunately, this condition is very serious and should be treated with a professional fashion consultant combined with medication. (just a bit of humour)
The difference between depression and sadness is important. Sadness is a very normal and healthy response to losing anything significant, such as someone you love, an important job, house or automobile. Depression is loosely defined as a depressed mood, along with the loss of interest in nearly all activities. It can change your sleeping and eating patterns, take away your energy, give you a deep sense of worthlessness or guilt. It also causes difficulty in thinking, concentrating or making decisions and sometimes can lead to recurring thoughts of suicide. If this is happening to you for more than a few weeks, it is important to talk to a professional psychologist/counsellor.
Generally speaking, depression can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or a reaction to difficulties in life. Sometimes, if people have a chemically based depression, it may lurk there for years and be triggered by problems in life. Biochemical depression is often treated with anti-depressant medication and counselling. It can be treated quite successfully with some effort and support.
The other cause of depression is a response to a lot of things happening in life. Fortunately, most people who suffer from depression are able to overcome it with effort, perseverance, counselling from a registered psychologist/counsellor and for some, short term medication. If medication is appropriate, you will need to talk to your doctor who will also monitor the effectiveness and possible side effects. This is usually given over a short period of time, often just to get you through practical day to day stuff so you can focus on working on overcoming the depression.
Depression can often be maintained through the way that you perceive the things that are happening in life. For example, if your partner left you for your best friend, it is natural to feel very sad for quite some time. It is however not healthy to become depressed, socially isolated, and lose interest in life for a long period of time. To become depressed rather than naturally sad, you are probably saying things to yourself such as: “because he/she left me, it must mean that I’m no good and unlovable, and no one will ever love me again, and even if they do, this will always happen to me. Not only is it bad, but it’s also terrible, my life is worthless and my future is bleak and will be filled with loneliness.” It is important to identify these types of thoughts, as you may not even realise that you are thinking about them.
The next step is to challenge them. Ask yourself “even if this happened three more times, where is the evidence that it will always happen. Just because they left you, how does this mean that you are worthless and unlovable?”
If you are depressed, it is also important to achieve something small each day. Set a goal that is realistic, and then try to reach it. Be aware that if you don’t, you will probably automatically beat yourself up about it and add to the negative dialogue in your head. Again, be aware of what you are saying to yourself and challenge your thoughts.
When you are depressed it usually feels that it is impossible to overcome. With sustained effort, people to talk to, professional support and a strong will to make changes depression can be overcome. If you want to get some support, contact our Brisbane psychologists today.
Delaney is a senior registered psychologist working with people of all backgrounds and with a special interest in LGBTI+ people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Indigenous people.