We all experience moments when we feel down. Sadness is an emotion just like happiness. And all emotions are temporary so they will always fluctuate, depending on what happens to us in life.
But if feeling low has become the norm for you, and you’ve been feeling this way for weeks or months rather than a few days – then you might be suffering from depression.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
Depression can manifest in different ways, and looks different from person to person. You might find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, feeling numb and empty, or perhaps you’re just simply not finding enjoyment in things in the way you used to.
Whichever way it decides to manifest, depression has a nasty habit of clouding everyday life. A feeling like you’re wading through mud, making even the simplest tasks feel hard.
For many of us, depression will conjure up images of what’s known as major depressive disorder, the most severe form of depression. Due to its severity, this type of depression is much easier to spot and diagnose, impacting family and relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. Someone with major depressive disorder might feel like life isn’t worth living and stop basic self-care activities like eating or getting out of bed.
But depression can also be low level and “high-functioning”. In these cases, you might still be able to carry out normal daily activities, but everything just feels that a lot harder and less worthwhile.
Because of this, it’s possible to be depressed and not actually realise it.
We might know something’s “up” but pass it off as a rough patch or believe that our low energy and mood is simply because we’re stressed. That’s why it is really important to get familiar with some of the less talked about symptoms of depression. We’ve included a few below:
– Difficult thinking clearly/concentrating
– Feeling detached and out of body
– Prolonged feelings of fatigue and low energy (not restored by sleep)
– Over-sleeping or difficulties sleeping (either not being able to fall asleep, but also getting up very early or waking up multiple times throughout the night)
– Physical aches and pains for no reason
– Digestive troubles
– Loss of sex drive
One of the most debilitating things about depression is that it can make you feel powerless. But you are not powerless. Depression is very much treatable and with the right help, you can get better. Therapy is one of the best treatments for depression, and can help you take back control of your life and learn to manage difficult feelings and emotions.
Let’s take a closer look at what therapy for depression might look like.
1. Reframing your thinking
One of the ways in which depression gets (and maintains) its grip is by distorting our thinking. Thoughts such as, “things will never get better” or “why is this happening to me?” tend to be commonplace for those experiencing depression. In psychology, these kinds of inaccurate thoughts are called cognitive distortions. Here are a few examples,
Fortune-telling – “I won’t get the job”. If you’re prone to fortune-telling, you have a habit of predicting the future, usually with a negative bias.
Catastrophising – “I’ll never meet that deadline so I’ll probably get fired”. Catastrophising is the tendency to blow things out of proportion and assume the worst.
Overgeneralisation – “Last time I took my driving test I flunked it. Obviously that’s going to happen again this time”. When we overgeneralise, we take one specific experience in one set of circumstances and define all experiences by it.
In therapy for depression, you will learn techniques to question whether your thoughts are real or not. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is especially helpful for this, teaching you how to replace harmful thought patterns with healthier, more positive ones. You might be asked to challenge your thoughts with the following kinds of questions:
– Is there evidence to support this thought?
– Is this fact or opinion?
– Is this thought in line with my values?
– Is this thought beneficial to me?
– Would I say these things to a friend?
Taking action by calling out negative thoughts can help us take back control, and overhaul the way we see and experience the world.
2. Develop self-awareness
Building self-awareness plays a really important part in the recovery process. In your sessions, you’ll explore what triggered your depression, how long the negative feelings last for and also how your body feels when you’re depressed. You might be encouraged to create a mood diary charting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations throughout the day. Digging deeper into trigger points and learning how the depression first took hold is really important in order to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
3. Working on self-esteem
Depression and low self-esteem tend to go hand-in-hand. Depression has a nasty way of lying and telling us that we are worthless and crushing our confidence. Because of this, depression can leave you with feelings of shame and low self-esteem. In therapy, you will work on building your self-esteem, celebrating the victories and developing positive self-talk. You also might learn different visualisations to help with this process.
4. Checking-in and re-visiting
Change takes time, and sometimes it’s necessary to revisit things several times in order to finally break free from ingrained patterns and way of thinking. This means that in order to enact the necessary positive changes in your life, you will need to play an active role in your sessions, and your therapist will encourage you to come to your own conclusions – because the most powerful insights are always the ones we make ourselves.
Each week, you’ll talk over what’s helping and what isn’t so that your therapist can make any necessary adjustments to your course of treatment and ensure you’re on the right track for your recovery.
Why it’s important to seek help for depression
Left untreated, depression can have devastating effects on our quality of life. Not only can depression hinder our ability to carry out daily activities, but it can also impair our relationships and make it difficult to hold down a job. When we are depressed, we are also at greater risk of developing other mental health issues, like eating disorders and sleep disorders. Many people also end up having issues with substance abuse in order to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings.
If you’re depressed, travelling to a clinic and meeting in-person might feel overwhelming. Not only does online therapy cut out the travel time involved in going to an in-person clinic and make sessions more affordable, but you might also feel a greater sense of security and anonymity having your sessions by video.
Depression can make you feel hopeless. But please always remember there is hope. With the right treatment and support, you can get back to better health – and make a full recovery.