People often use the word “depressed” when talking about moments or periods of time when they feel sad or in a low mood. It’s normal to feel this way when you’re going through a stressful or difficult time. However, if you think your mood has been low for weeks rather than a few days, or if you’re not sure why you’re feeling so bad, it could be depression.
‘Depression’, often diagnosed as ‘major depressive disorder’ or ‘major depression’, refers to feelings of sadness or low mood that last longer than two weeks and begin to creep into your daily life.
The duration of depression can vary from person to person and depending on factors such as the severity of their symptoms, response to treatment, and the person’s living conditions. But it can usually be diagnosed when the symptoms of persist at least for two weeks. For some people, symptoms of depression may last a few weeks or months, while for others it may take longer.
It doesn’t have a single cause and is likely caused by a combination of events (such as trauma or loss) and biological factors (such as genetics, hormones, or an imbalance of certain chemicals). People who are affected by depression often experience negative thinking patterns and may stop doing their normal activities, making their symptoms worse. In other words, it becomes a ‘vicious circle’: you’re in a very low mood, you don’t like to do anything, so not doing things you enjoy or doing things you need to do (like schoolwork or chores) will make you feel worse.
Everyone who suffers from depression will experience it differently, but some depression symptoms include common symptoms. Depression can range from mild to severe. If you have depression, some of the symptoms you may experience include:
- Low mood
- Decreased interest and desire in activities that are usually of interest
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Insomnia or excessive desire to sleep
- Unable to enjoy things that you used to enjoy
- Low energy and feeling tired all the time
- Feeling guilty or feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty in concentration
- Hopelessness, pessimism, and suicidal tendencies
- Loss of function in work and social life
Most people experience some of these feelings and behaviors at different times and in different ways. The difference with depression is that the symptoms are more severe, occur more often, and do not go away over time.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world. Current research suggests that this is due to a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It can happen at any age, but it usually starts in adulthood.
Risk factors include:
- Personal or family history of depression
- Major life changes, trauma, or stress
- Some physical illnesses and medications
Persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia): It is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. The symptoms are usually less severe but chronic.
Postpartum depression: It is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that appear within two weeks of birth) that many mothers experience after birth.
Women who experience postpartum depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after childbirth (postpartum depression). The extreme feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany postpartum depression can make it difficult for these new mothers to complete day-to-day care activities for themselves and/or their babies.
Seasonal affective disorder: It is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. This condition usually rises in the spring and summer months. Winter depression, often accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, returns as expected each year in seasonal affective disorder.
Bipolar disorder: It is different from depression, but it is on this list because a person with bipolar disorder experiences extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extremely high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”
If you have mild symptoms, you can recover without seeking further help. However, if you struggle with moderate or severe symptoms that interferes with your life, it is best to seek treatment. It would help to feel better quickly and prevents it’s getting worse and leading to severe consequences in your life. 50% of the people who have one depressive episode tends to have at least another one. Seeking treatment reduces the risk of having recurring episodes.
Depression is a treatable condition. It is important to get help from people who are experts in their fields and have professional competence. When choosing the right professional, it should be kept in mind that depression is a real and serious mental health issue.
Antidepressants are effective in the treatment of depression, and they kick in a short amount of time such as 2 to 4 weeks. You might experience some side effects initially, but they subside over time. They are especially helpful for moderate and severe depression.
The goal of psychotherapy is not just to reduce or eliminate symptoms. The main purpose is to transform the relationship with your feelings and thoughts. When we label the feelings and situations caused by depression as symptoms that we need to get rid of, we start a struggle with our own feelings and thoughts. With psychotherapy, we develop a new relationship with our feelings and thoughts and acquire healthy coping skills.
Research shows that people who have had a depressive episode in their life are more likely to be depressed again in the future. Therefore, the aim of psychotherapy is not only to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of depression, but also to take measures to prevent the same problems from happening again in the future.
Depression can be treated with different psychotherapy methods. A method with high effectiveness and rapid results is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provides individuals with the opportunity to identify the factors that cause depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes.
The basis of CBT is to identify negative or distorted thought patterns that contribute to the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. And then, these though patterns will be replaced with more functional and positive ones. Another aspect is the acquisition of skills to understand and improve the patterns of communication with other people that cause depression to occur and persist. Decreased interest and energy of the individual in depression may affect the continuity of treatment. It is also important to help individuals regain a sense of control and enjoyment in life. Depressed people often look at the world with an all-or-nothing way of thinking. For example, they think that their mood will never improve, they will never be happy, and that the situation they are in is their fault. Psychotherapy aims to help clients see different options and perspectives.
Schema Therapy is an effective psychotherapy approach to help with long-term and chronic issues. It targets the childhood origins of the issues and identify how our negative past experiences shaped the way we think, feel, and behave which are called as maladaptive schemas. If your depression is linked with the maladaptive schemas, we would identify them together and replace them with the healthier alternatives. Schema Therapy can help with chronic or recurrent depression and can provide a long-term solution due to its in-depth approach.
I am an accredited counsellor, CBT and Schema Therapist. I mostly work with people who had a difficult childhood such as experiencing trauma, being bullied, or lacking emotional support and now experience depression, panic and anxiety, difficulties in relationships, low self-esteem, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and body image issues.
I help people with a wide range of psychological problems at my private practice in central London and offer online sessions, if you are unable to attend in person.