“I feel so depressed.” You may hear these words frequently. Perhaps you even utter them yourself. It may be that you think of yourself as depressed when your football team loses an important match, when an annoying rainstorm spoils your day’s plans, when you weren’t invited back for that crucial interview you were hoping for and so on.
The truth is that clinical depression is not a temporary change of mood, a brief period of negativity. It can last for weeks or months at a time. If you are lucky, there may be an occasional chink of light to pierce the darkness of the mind during that time. If you aren’t, then prolonged bouts of depression can be unbridled agony.
A common misconception is that depression equates to weakness. Some may try to argue that it is not a genuine health concern. This line of thinking is highly inaccurate. Depression can strike any one at any time. Regardless of your popularity, your wealth, your physical fitness or your work, you aren’t immune.
Depression has a broad spectrum of symptoms, ranging from feeling consistently down and hopeless to, at the more extreme end, thoughts of suicide and even attempts to act on those thoughts. Other symptoms include a constant feeling of irritation and intolerance towards other people, persistent feelings of guilt, a lack of enjoyment of life and frequent periods of crying. Depression is also a fairly common occurrence, with around one in ten people being affected at some point in their lives according to NHS research. Its causes also vary.
There is no single definitive cause of depression as each sufferer will vary. However, the most common is the onset of a deeply traumatic event in one’s life; the death of a close relative or friend, for example, or a sudden redundancy. Consistent worries in life over issues such as finances or addiction are also a factor in triggering depression. It may also be hereditary, as you are more likely to develop depression if a family member has or is experiencing it.
It is therefore important to obtain a diagnosis from your GP if you feel the symptoms are persisting. But for the depressed person, even this can prove to be a challenge as significantly reduced optimism and motivation can easily lead one to doubt whether such a course of action is even worthwhile.
Depression is adept at sapping its victim of all energy and hope and, as mentioned before, can reduce them to this state for considerable periods of time. Nonetheless, seeking treatment is the first major step in overcoming it.
As with its causes and symptoms, the treatments available for depression also vary in accordance with the severity. Sometimes, one form of treatment will suffice on its own. In other instances, it may be decided that a combination of treatments is most appropriate. One of the most common methods of treating depression is for your GP to prescribe a course of anti-depressants such as Seroxat or Sertraline, usually administered in tablet form. There are around thirty types of anti-depressants, so if one particular course proves to be unsuccessful, you should consult with your GP over whether an alternative may be in order.
Another option that may be recommended to you is counselling. It may be worth noting that sometimes the term “counselling” is used as an umbrella under which all forms of talking therapy are gathered. In actual fact, counselling is a type of therapy in its own right.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), for example, is not considered a form of counselling but again a unique form of therapy.
Counselling involves a qualified therapist sitting down with you on a one-to-one basis, listening to your worries and concerns and helping to devise methods of coping with and perhaps even overcoming your issues. The therapist’s role is to advise, listen and support.
They are not there to judge or to scold you. They won’t usually offer a concrete plan on what to do, but they will help you to navigate your issues and draw your own conclusions on the right course of action.
By its nature and length, counselling is intense. It usually consists of between 6-12 sessions, each lasting for one hour. It should be hosted in a safe and professional environment and you should be made to feel relaxed. A good therapist is patient, tolerant and understanding and they will also encourage you to identify individual goals to work towards positively and with confidence.
They should also be good listeners and empathetic, offering a fresh perspective that you may not have considered before.
In order to get the most from counselling, you must be prepared to be open and honest. You must discuss everything that is troubling you, as the more information your therapist has, the better position they are in to help.
Counselling can be a hard and painful process, especially if you are required to resurrect old memories, but persistence is the key. You will be allocated a number of sessions, so you don’t have to discuss everything immediately. Work with your therapist to devise a strategy that works for you and you will truly benefit from your counselling expereince.
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