What is Depression?
Most people feel down or low in mood at some point in their lives and experience daily fluctuations in their mood. Often these feelings of sadness will only last a few days before improving again. However, when someone experiences depression, they can continuously feel low in mood for weeks or months which can seriously interfere with their day-to-day functioning and reduce their quality of life. Depression is a common and serious mood disorder that can affect any type of person at any stage in their life. Whether you are outgoing or shy, youthful or elderly, male or female, rich or poor, about one in every four people will experience depression at some point in their life.
Depression affects how you feel, think and behave and can reduce your motivation, cause a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical health problems if left untreated.
Fortunately, most people with depression see improvement to their symptoms with the right support, this can include psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.
What are the main symptoms of Depression?
Depression can cause a wide range of symptoms and affects people in different ways. In its milder form, some people may feel persistently unhappy or down without any known reason. People with severe depression find this may cause significant problems in daily activities such as going to school, work or social situations as well as in their personal relationships. Some common symptoms may include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness or tearfulness
- Reduction of interest & pleasure in activities once enjoyed such as hobbies
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty maintaining concentration and focus
- Slowed thinking, speaking or movements
- Finding it hard to make decisions
- Fixating and worrying about past failures or mistakes
- Frustration, irritability and outbursts of anger
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame or guilt
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Feelings that life isn’t worth living
- Frequent and recurrent thoughts about death or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems such as back pain or headaches
Depression is considered to be primarily a disorder of mood, but depressed individuals often also experience certain changes to their thinking and behaviour. While sadness and general low mood are the most common feelings associated with depression, other moods may be frequently experienced such as frustration, disappointment, guilt, shame, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and inadequacy. People struggling with depression will often also experience symptoms of anxiety.
Depression can often lead people to think in certain ways, for instance being overly critical of themselves and seeing themselves in a negative light, being pessimistic about the future, and comparing themselves unfavourably to other people leading to low self-esteem and self-confidence. Depressed people also often dwell on their negative feelings, the state of the world or the hopelessness and pointlessness of things.
6 Ways to relieve Depression
1 Activity scheduling
One way to fight depression is by increasing your activity level. By doing more stuff you give yourself more opportunities to have pleasurable and meaningful experiences which can increase mood. Try reviving an old hobby or tying out something new and try to have fun. Scheduling activities into you diary can make you more likely to do them.
Exercise is known to help combat depression and increase mood and it can provide an opportunity to do activities with other people. Any type of exercise that you are comfortable with is good for your mental as well as physical health and wellbeing.
3 Tell someone close how you are feeling
Being depressed can often cause you to withdraw from social activities and it can be difficult to open up with others about how you feel. This can leave you feeling isolated and alone. Try to talk to a loved one, friend or someone else you trust, they can probably understand how you feel and may want to help.
4 Think positively
When feeling depressed you probably tend to think negatively about things which can keep the low mood going. Therefore trying to notice this habit and thinking of alternatives to the thought that are more positive and realistic could help.
A healthy and balanced diet can help to maintain a more positive mood and improve depressive symptoms. Making sure to eat a good diet will also help increase energy levels and motivation to do more things.
If you think you or a loved one are experiences symptoms of depression, you should speak to a doctor or mental health professional who can discuss treatment options with you. The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) recommends that depression be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, in particular, Beck’s Cognitive Therapy for depression and Jacobson’s Behavioural Activation therapy. Alternatively, adults can be treated with CBT-based supported self-help or attend group CBT therapy sessions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (known as CBT) is an evidence-based talking therapy designed to help patients manage their difficulties by changing the way they think and behave. These sessions focus on becoming aware of thoughts which lead to depression and unhelpful behaviour patterns that keep them feeling stuck, sad and alone. Our team of qualified clinicians specialise in helping people overcome depression, low self-esteem and Seasonal Affective Disorder as well as ways it can present such as anger, relationship difficulties and longer periods of low mood.
If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about our treatment options, please reach out via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.
Written by Oxford CBT therapist Dan Drew