Feeling down from time to time is perfectly normal and most of us recognise when a drop in our mood can signal when things are getting difficult at home, at work or in our relationships. Trying to stay positive and optimistic has some obvious benefits but we can't always feel better just by thinking positive thoughts. That's why looking after your mental health and well-being is every bit as important as staying physically fit. Being aware of the signs can help you to avoid spiralling down into depression. Even if you have become depressed recovery can be always be helped with professional support and guidance.
The feelings associated with severe depression are much more serious than the general ups and downs we encounter every day. Depression is a real and debilitating illness that can undermine our ability to function normally. It has a corrosive affect that eats away at our confidence and self-worth, darkening our view of the world around us
How does depression affect us?
Depression puts a negative slant on the way we see ourselves in the present and the predictions we make for our future. Left unchecked it can cause our mood to sink further and further downward allowing negative thoughts to build on each other making it even harder to get back to a more balanced sense of well-being. Without help we can begin to feel that things will never get better. But the thing we really can't see when we're depressed is that the feelings are likely to be temporary. Even if it feels like you've had depression for a long time it's unlikely that you will always feel this way. There is usually something keeping depression in place and preventing it from being resolved. Finding out what is maintaining our low mood can be hard to do on our own.
For some, the feelings that come with depression can be so bad that they cannot easily be put into words. Instead sufferers may use images like "being in a black hole" or feeling "like being under a huge weight" or "in a "pit of despair" to try to convey the extent of their pain and anguish.
If you're experiencing depression it may be that images like these dominate your thoughts and feelings or maybe you just feel anxious and disconnected or just "numb". You may have tried talking to friends and family but are worried that you might end up burdening them with your difficulties or risk upsetting them by hearing how bad things are for you. Depression can make it seem like no one will ever truly understand what we're going through. If this happens we might resort to "bottling it up" and withdrawing from the people around us and we can find ourselves staying indoors or in bed for long periods of time. In the short term this may be a way of coping but in time cutting yourself off will simply add to the feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Trying to struggle on alone with depression is never a good idea. If any of this sounds familiar you really shouldn't go on suffering alone - now is the time for you to get some professional help.
How Counselling can help you with depression...
When we feel depressed talking things over in counselling is one of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves. Having someone to turn to who genuinely wants to help can be a tremendous relief. People who have had counselling often say how much it helped them to get over their problems and feel much happier and positive. Good counselling is never about telling you what you should think or do. Instead it has much more to do with the connection and understanding that is created between yourself and your counsellor. Being heard and understood is a really important part of counselling. Knowing there is someone you can turn to who cares about your experiences can help you to feel less alone and give you the care and support you need to recover.
Recognising the signs...
Being able to recognise the early signs of depression is the first step towards overcoming it. But because we're all different and the symptoms of depression can vary from person to person it may not be so easy to spot the signs for ourselves. Generally though, if you're feeling persistently sad or have feelings of hopelessness you may begin to recognise that something is wrong for you. If you see yourself losing interest in the things that you usually enjoy or are spending large amounts of your time on your own with only negative thoughts for company this can be a strong indicator that you are suffering from depression.
If you experience some of the symptoms below for most of the day, every day for more than two weeks, it may be that you are suffering from depression. If you have concerns about your health and well-being you should always consider seeking help from your GP.
Psychological symptoms include:
• Continuous low mood or sadness
• Feeling hopeless and helpless
• Having low self-esteem
• Feeling tearful
• Feeling guilt-ridden
• Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
• Having no motivation or interest in things
• Finding it difficult to make decisions
• Not getting any enjoyment out of life
• Feeling anxious or worried
• Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Physical symptoms include:
• Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
• Change in appetite or weight
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
• Changes to your menstrual cycle
• Disturbed sleep
Social symptoms include:
• Not doing well at work
• Taking part in fewer social activities
• Avoiding contact with friends
• Neglecting hobbies and interests
• Difficulties with home and family life
Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill.
If you are feeling depressed, there is no need to suffer alone. Treating depression is one of my specialist areas, so please contact me to discuss how I can help you get your life back on track.