What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes enduring feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest and disengagement from pleasurable activities. Activities of daily living become much harder to engage with.
Depression can vary in intensity from mild to moderate through to severe. You might move between mild, moderate and severe depression during one episode of depression or across different episodes.
Depression effects real changes in the chemistry of the body and brain and because of this it can take time to come out of a depressive episode and isn’t something that people can just ‘snap out’ of. Clinical depression affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Nowadays there are many treatment options for depression that offer great hope for recovery and relapse prevention.
More recently Polyvagal Theory has given us a new way of understanding depression and immobilisation (freeze\dissociation) as defences of the nervous system against persistent stressors. Humans, young and old, can endure many years of stress before depression sets in and for many there is a threshold after which the Dorsal Vagal branch of the parasympathetic nervous system starts to shut us down in an attempt at self protection and mitigation of the effects of overwhelm, stress and loss. This helps us understand that depression is a bodily driven defence and explains why the origins of depression can sometimes be many years, potentially decades in the past. Clinical depression is often a journey taken over time, sometimes linked to one main event, often linked to a series of events.
Types of Depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that occurs at a particular time of year, or during a particular season.
- Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. Also called chronic depression.
- Prenatal depression – depression that occurs during pregnancy.
- Postnatal depression (PND) – depression that occurs in the first year after giving birth
Symptoms of Depression
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Social withdrawal
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Loss of libido
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Causes of Depression
Current research suggests that depression is caused by a number of factors including genetics, biology, environment, and psychological.
Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression does occur in children and adolescents, although it sometimes presents with more prominent irritability than low mood. Many chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as anxiety and behavioural challenges in children.
Depression, especially in midlife or older adults, can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions are often worse when depression is present and similarly depression can be worsened by the medications taken for these health problems.
Risk factors include:
- Family history of depression
- Major life changes, losses, trauma or chronic stress
- Certain medical conditions and medications
Depression Therapies I offer:
In my therapy practice I can help this problem area with a number of approaches.
Psychotherapy can help you to understand the possible origins of your depression as well as uncover other emotions that may play a part . Therapy involves an exploration of past and present experiences building understanding of the history of your depression as well as how it shows up in the present day and impacts how you go about your life. Building a clear picture in this way can help with self awareness and familiarity with some of what is driving and maintaining your depression. It can also form a basis for planning for changes or implementing helpful strategies for reclaiming balance and enjoyment of life.
NeurOptimal Neurofeedback is also very helpful with depression because it directly trains the brain to harness its ability to self regulate and balance. If you have been living with depression for a long time and you are feeling stuck, then it is likely that your brain and nervous system need a little help getting back to resilient functioning. The brain continues to learn and change over our lifetime and it is this neuroplasticity that neurofeedback helps with. Our brain and nervous system are designed to rise to challenges and then to let go again, so it is this grounded flexibility that it tends to recapture. Helping your brain and nervous system return to resilience means that you will be better able to live more fully in the present and to leave the past behind.
Breathwork uses different breathing techniques to help regulate the nervous system. We know that the vagus nerve, the seat of our parasympathetic nervous system and our ability to return to calm after stress runs throughout our respiratory system and that breathing in certain ways changes activates and balances parasympathetic activity. In my practice I have seen depressed states be energised and balanced by breathing exercises. Breathing is also free and accessible all the time so, once you learn the exercises, they are a very handy way to regulate the nervous system and emotions 24/7.
Brainspotting is a therapy technique that targets how the brain processes emotions and memories. Using eye position to find activated ‘brain spots’ for emotions or sensations in the body means that the brain can be harnessed to balance the source of depression in the deeper brain areas without interference from the conscious ‘thinking’ mind.