by Counsellor, Leamington Spa, Staffordshire
Several people have asked me to write something about depression or low mood. There are many excellent books and self help guides available which explain the symptoms of depression, possible causes of depression and ways of overcoming depression and I will provide a list of some resources at the end of this blog which may be of interest. I recognise that one of the symptoms of depression may be a lack of motivation and that is one reason why counselling can be helpful.
Sometimes clients ask ‘am I depressed?’ There are medical definitions of depression which some people find helpful and again I will include some resources at the end of this blog. It is suggested that a loss of pleasure in most activities indicates depressed mood. There are also some psychometric tests which are sometimes used to measure the severity of depression and healthcare professionals may use these to decide on appropriate treatment plans. Sometimes people have symptoms of anxiety as well as symptoms of depression and the Department of Health issues guidelines which state:
“When depressive symptoms are accompanied by anxious symptoms, the first priority should be to treat the depression. Psychological treatment for depression often reduces anxiety….” (NICE, 2007, p.11).
Common Symptoms of Depression
The following are some of the symptoms which may suggest depression:
Little pleasure in doing things
Lethargy and tiredness
Problems with appetite
Generally feeling bad about yourself
Problems with concentration
Having thoughts about harming yourself or wishing you were not here
Is Depression Common?
Some clients come to counselling and say things like:
No one understands how I feel
I think I’m going mad
I’m ashamed because I feel depressed
I might lose my job if anyone finds out I’ve got psychological problems
I cannot see a way of changing
I recognise that there may be a stigma attached to seeking psychological help for some. In fact the World Health Organisation (2001) has found that 1 in 4 people experience mental distress at some point during their life and that this is a growing problem. Experiencing mental distress impacts not only on the person suffering but also on their family, friends and work.
Do Antidepressants Help?
The Centre for Economic Performance (2006) finds that the most commonly offered treatment for depression is medication. Antidepressants are used to redress chemical imbalances associated with depression. See end of this blog for further reading. I would suggest you talk to your GP about whether antidepressants may help you and to find out about possible side effects.
People of all ages may be affected by depression. The following factors may influence the onset of depression:
Life events, eg bereavement, redundancy.
Early childhood experiences
Effects of physical diseases
Many people are reluctant to take medication and seek counselling instead. So how could counselling help you? The following are some of the reasons why people seek counselling:
I don’t feel connected to anyone
I have no one to talk to about how I am feeling
I feel like I can’t talk to my family and friends about feeling depressed because they are fed up with hearing about it
I don’t want to worry those I care about
I don’t want people to tell me to ‘pull myself together’ or ‘cheer up’……..if I could then I would
I want to talk to someone who won’t judge me or make assumptions about me
I want to try and understand myself
I want to tell my story to someone
I want to gain a different perspective on my situation
I am interested in finding out about some coping strategies which may help me
I want to find a safe place to explore my concerns without worrying that someone at work might find out that I’m not coping well
I want to make some changes in my behaviour and/or the way I see things
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition. Washington, D.C. : American Psychiatric Association.
Beck, A T (1976). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: International Universities Press.
Brampton, S (2008). Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression. London: Bloomsbury.
Gilbert, P (2000). Counselling for Depression. London: Sage.
National Institue for Clinical Excellence (2007). Clinical Guideline 23 (amended). Depression (amended): Management of Depression in Primary and Secondary Care. London: Department of Health.
Papolos, D and Papolos, J (1997). Overcoming Depression, 3rd edition. New York: HarperCollins.
Veale, D (2008). Behavioural activation for depression. Advance in Psychiatric Treatment. 192: 326-330.
World Health Organisation (1992). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision. Geneva, World Health Organisation.
Copyright Christine Bonsmann. All rights reserved.