What is clinical depression?
The first month of 2011 has come and gone and 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, let’s 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, despondent, fed up with life, or unhappy. This is one reason why anti-depressants don’t work for many. 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 in the first place, which may only be the case if they actually have clinical depression.
Whether you are depressed, sad, fed up, or unhappy, this article may still apply to you.
The four main sources of depression
1. Fusion with anxious, or depressing thoughts
If you are a habitual worrier, perfectionist, or guilt-tripper then, on a daily basis, your body will become accustomed to 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 defuse from unhelpful thoughts.
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 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 the mind 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 defect is hopeless 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 the ‘damping down’ response I described earlier.
The way forward is to develop a possibility-finding approach to problems.
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, depressed people have simply got confused and lost their way. This could be because they are stuck in routine in which one day is more or less like the next, and which becomes a kind of living death. Emotions like boredom and frustration are apt to appear at this point. 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 your passion.
4. The person is blocking the release of strong emotions, such as anger and sadness.
A build-up of unexpressed or unresolved emotion around your issues with work and relationships leads to a similar effect as chronic anxiety: uncomfortable over-arousal. Once again, the brain 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 appointment page.