Four main causes of depression – and what to do about them

Wispy

The first month of 2011 has come and gone and the statistics show that January is the most ‘depressing’ month, in that more people will seek help for depression than at any other time of the year. As it happens, I have been more than usually busy with depressed clients since the New Year came on; a fact which prompts me to write this article.

First, lets be clear about what clinical depression really is.

In my view, many of the people who are diagnosed by their GP as having depression are not, in fact, clinically depressed at all. Instead, they could be sad, fed up with life, or unhappy. This is one reason why anti-depressants don’t work for the majority. Anti-depressant drugs such as the SSRIs – which increase the amount of serotonin in circulation in the brain – will only work, obviously, if the patient has serotonin depletion, which will only be the case if they actually have clinical depression.

Whether you are depressed, sad, fed up, or unhappy, this article will still apply to you.

Here are the four main causes:

1. Prolonged anxiety caused by negative Headmind thinking.

If you are a habitual worrier, perfectionist, or guilt-tripper then, on a daily basis, your body will become accustomed to very high anxiety levels. Since Bodymind cannot tolerate over-arousal for too long, it will seek to reduce the problem by damping down the system. Typically, this means reducing serotonin (which elevates mood), which leads to the symptoms of clinical depression. In this respect it has been estimated that over 70% of depressed people also have high anxiety levels.

The solution is to change the way Headmind works.

2. The person has developed a ‘hopeless’ mind-set

This problem is typically developed by over-conscientious people who have not learnt how to say ‘No’ or recognise their limitations. The result is that they take on far too many burdens, obligations and responsibilities. Or else they forget to take time out for themselves and keep that crucial work-life balance. One result is burnout.

Depression occurs when personal Headmind reacts to overload by just giving up (a slightly weird response, given that it was faulty thinking that gave rise to the problem in the first place). A common outcome is that the person turns into a victim of some kind.

The most common Headmind defect here is ‘Failure thinking’, which ignores realistic solutions on what to do about overload and, instead, magnifies problems, concludes that there is nothing that can be done about them, and triggers anxiety with the thought that disaster is inevitable. This leads to first anxiety and then to the ‘damping down’ response I described in the previous item.

The solution is to develop a solution-focused, or problem-solving approach to problems. I am in the middle of writing a series on this so please check back for articles on ‘success thinking’.

3. The person has lost her passion for life.

People who have become disillusioned do so as a result of trauma of some kind: the death of someone close, break-up, or departure. Or betrayal, or rejection, by someone they once trusted. Or the usual disasters which befall all of us from time to time but which setbacks the ego will not accept.

In other cases, the depressed person has simply got confused and lost his way. This could be because he has become addicted to trivialities – newspapers, games, television,  the social round, internet-surfing, etc. Or is stuck in routine in which one day is more or less like the next, and which becomes a kind of living death. Once Bodymind sees what is happening here it starts to release copious amounts of the emotions known as boredom and frustration. But here is what is strange: when some people notice they are bored they don’t do anything about it. Instead, they read boredom as another sign that life is hopeless. So they stagnate, more and more.

The solution is to reconnect to Bodymind and your passion.

4. Headmind is blocking the release of strong emotions, such as anger and sadness.

A  build-up of unexpressed or unresolved emotion leads to a similar effect as chronic anxiety: a dangerous level of over-arousal. Once again, Bodymind tends to counter-act this problem by reducing serotonin.

The solution is to find a way to release those emotions.

If you are not depressed right now but you think you might be going that way, then you can find out more about how to stay out of depression here.

Contrary to common belief many people do find a way to improve their mental health without needing to consult a psychotherapist and some of my articles show you how to do just that. But if you do need assistance then you can contact me over on the psychotherapy website.

Image by pinksherbet

Back to bananas


Banana It's been building up for a while, but I have been getting more and more stuck in Headmind and the dis-ease state, due to the fact that I haven't written anything on this blog for over two weeks.

So the banana about having to be clever kicks in and Headmind gives me a hard time about ending up as a failure:

It tells me: 'You must write something good, soon, son, or your dreams about this blog are all going to end up in smoke…'

Which tells me that even the best of us get sucked in to obsessive-compulsions. After all, why the hell should I write something if I have nothing to say?

Similarly, with some of your own bananas:

  • Why should you try to please people who care nothing about your efforts?
  • Why should you get together with people you care little about?
  • Why should you read a blog page that bores you?

Now that I have got that off my chest then I can go back to writing new articles without thinking that I need to appease the Internal Control Freak.

And immediately I write that, I get, first a release, and then a creative idea: Why not write about the Enneagram?

Think I will start on that now….

But meantime, I am humbly reminded that the battle against the obsession to be more than we can be never lets up.

And – please – if you are getting impatient about the delay in my posting new articles on here, then let me have your wishes and creative ideas rather than your complaints.

Burnout? Or Boredom?

Boredom Another stimulating email from a reader of this blog with  a great idea for an article (I seem to be lucky with my readers!).

Frej from Sweden writes

“What exactly is burnout? And what are the physical/neural changes in the body when this occurs?

It would be interesting to discuss this because many CFS sufferers are (mistakenly) diagnosed with ‘Burnout’ before they are diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”

As, I hope, my readers have come to expect, I am going to take a slightly provocative line on this.

I am going to argue that ‘Burnout’ is in fact Boredom in disguise.

That Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, while it is commonly mistaken for Burnout, is in fact more like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Burnout happens when people who
have previously been passionate and committed about something get disillusioned. Nearly every person with ‘burnout’ I have ever met have been cynics. They have lost their ideals, their passion and their hope and the place they have ended up in is a kind of hell.

Mandela
When you are passionate about a Cause you give it everything you have. People on a mission work long hours. That gives rise to the erroneous idea that Burnout is simply exhaustion. But if that were true, someone like Nelson Mandela would have been dead long ago. But, as we saw him at his 90th Birthday party, he looked younger than some of the drug addicts who were performing for him.

Human beings, as Abraham Maslow told us, can only really be healthy when they are fulfilling a purpose in life. It doesn’t matter much what purpose, so long as there is one. Having an important aim in life drives us along to extraordinary feats. And when Bodymind notices that we are totally authentic – and passionate – about what we are doing, it will supply us with all the energy we need. And, as I wrote before, we stay young and live longer too. Partly, that is due to the constant injection of endorphins we are going to get, which continually triggers peak experiences.

Burnout arises when other people take advantage of our passion  and  use us instead of honoring or intentions. The dedicated teacher, with a gift for helping troubled children is given yet another ‘problem’ class to teach. A GP, who already spends 100 hours a week actually listening to patients, is overwhelmed by still more patients running away from doctors who are peddling street drugs for the pharmaceutical companies. Or what about Social Workers who went into the job to help the underprivileged, only to discover that they are being scapegoated by the tabloids for human evil?

Now, this is where it starts to get a little complicated when we are explaining Burnout. Simply because Headmind tends to respond to the fact that we are being used with guilt rather than with healthy indignation. We think: ‘I should try harder’, ”I am letting people down’, or ‘I am a failure’.

What we should be saying is: ‘I need to protect myself’, ‘I need to rethink my involvement in this’, ‘This isn’t fair’, ‘There has to be a better way….’

Instead we work longer, harder, faster and more desperately in order to hold on to our Bananas about saving the planet. And then Bodymind starts sending us the emotional signal we know as ‘boredom’ to warn us that we are stuck in a rut.

Boredom is an emotion that warns us that we have replaced passion with duty, excitement with routine. The result? Frustration. Helplessness. Depression. Apathy. Cynicism. Despair. And – eventually – Exhaustion and Burnout.

Please keep sending me your ideas for articles – I really appreciate them even when I can’t use them.