Depression affects some 1.5 million adult Australians every year and is generally characterised by a loss of interest in activities previously found enjoyable. A depressed mood can be a common reaction to negative life events; it is more than feeling sad but it is treatable and the earlier you seek support the better to avoid it becoming a disabling condition.
Common signals of depression may include:
Physical – withdrawing from friends and family, difficulty making decisions, fatigue, sleep disturbance either insomnia or over sleeping, feeling fatigued and tired and a marked weight gain or loss.
Emotional – feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt, losing interest in things you previously enjoyed, feeling overwhelmed, decreased libido, feeling helpless and alone. When not addressed these feelings may escalate into feeling hopeless with suicidal ideation.
Melancholic Depression – is a biologically based condition, and feelings may include ‘emptiness and inactivity’ , for example feeling unable to ‘fire-up’ or to not want to get out of bed in the morning.
Antenatal and Post Natal Depression – Women are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy (known as the antenatal or prenatal period) and in the year following childbirth (known as the postnatal period); some 10% of women will experience this form of depression. The ‘baby blues’, or general stress adjusting to pregnancy and/or a new baby, are common experiences, but are different from depression. Depression is longer lasting and can affect not only the mother, but her relationship with her baby, the child’s development, the mother’s relationship with her partner and with other members of the family.
Seasonal Affective Disorder – is thought to be related to the variation in light exposure in different seasons and characterised by mood disturbances (either periods of depression or mania) that begin and end in a particular season. Depression which starts in winter and subsides when the season ends is the most common.
How is depression treated ?
While drug treatment is often necessary, the more self-management skills you can learn, the faster and more durable your return to optimal health will be. Firstly, discussing with you how depression is impacting on your life and what your treatment goals are to design your individual treatment plan which will include empathic counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Cognitive addresses the negative thinking of depression while the behavioural therapy addresses changing behaviours that are reinforcing the negative thinking; for example self-criticism. Positive skills learnt include mindful yogic breath control and self-pacing skills. Once learnt these CBT skills and strategies can be used by you to avoid internalising stressful situations and relapsing into a depressed mood.