Am I depressed? (Counselling/Therapy)
We hear a lot in the media these days about depression, and many of us experience times in our lives when our mood feels really low. But how do we know if we’re experiencing depression ourselves? Here we discuss how to recognise depression, and where you can seek help.
How does depression affect the way you feel and the ways you behave?
As therapists we’ve found that clients affected by depression have always had things happening in their lives that they are depressed about. The more you’re experiencing difficult life circumstances and the less control you feel you have over them, the more at risk you are of becoming depressed. One of the things that distinguishes depression from “ordinary” low mood is its persistence. An individual adverse life event might lower your mood for a while, but difficult circumstance that continue over time may lead to depression.
Many people affected by depression are still able to function fairly normally, for instance continuing to work and look after children, but feeling miserable the whole time. Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness are common in depression, and when you’re depressed you might find yourself crying for no immediate reason. You might also have a feeling of worthlessness. Some people find their depression expresses itself through anxiousness, or anger. It can be hard to concentrate or to remember things. You might ruminate, endlessly turning things over in your mind. You might lose your motivation to take care of yourself, for instance not eating properly, washing, cleaning your teeth, or wearing clean clothes. You might also find yourself losing interest and taking less pleasure in things that you previously found enjoyable, such as your usual leisure activities or your relationships with other people.
How does depression affect you physically?
Depression can affect you physically, too. You can feel constantly tired and less physically able. Your sleep patterns might be disrupted; it can be difficult to get to sleep, or difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Some people lose their appetite and lose weight as depression maintains it hold on them. It’s equally likely, though, for people affected by depression to use eating as a form of comfort.
What it’s like to be severely depressed
Sometimes depression takes complete control over someone’s life. When this happens it’s all-consuming; you can’t live your life normally. Lewis Wolpert, in his book Malignant Sadness, described it like this: “It was the worst experience of my life… It was not just feeling very low, depression in the commonly used sense of the word… I was totally self-involved, negative… I could not think properly, let alone work, and wanted to remain curled up in bed all day…Sleep was impossible…the future was hopeless.”
What should I do if I’m thinking about suicide?
Sometimes negative feelings can lead to thoughts about suicide. If life feels overwhelming and you’re thinking that suicide might be a way to end your difficulties, you’ll find information about some things you can do to get through this moment and to keep safe at http://www.lemonstolemonade.co.uk/assets/docs/need-help-now.pdf
What can I do myself?
There are some things you can do for yourself that can help to alleviate mild to moderate depression. There’s good evidence that contact with nature helps, so spending time every day in the garden if you have one, or at a local park, is a practical form of self-help. So is exercise - such as a daily walk. Getting into a good sleep routine can also help – for advice on this from the NHS, have a look at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/.
How can I get professional help?
If depression is affecting you and you feel you need professional help, your G.P. is often the starting point. The National Institute for Health and Care Guidance (NICE) guidelines recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and your G.P. may be able to refer you to a local NHS service that offers this, though unfortunately the waiting times can be long. G.P.s can also prescribe medication that can alleviate some of the effects of depression, though it can have negative side effects.
As an independent counselling and clinical psychology practice, Lemons to Lemonade can work with you to lift the burden of depression without a long wait. Sometimes depression is a normal response to something else that has gone wrong, and it’s the something else that you may need support with; we can help identify this and work with you to cope with it. We specialise in CBT and Narrative Therapy, two approaches that are effective and complement each other. To get our help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text us on 07376 010506.