Depression is when someone experiences a low mood, loss of interest or enjoyment in activities, and low self-esteem over a prolonged period of time. Daily life may feel a struggle and you may feel you can’t cope with day to day activities.
Symptoms of depression
There are many different symptoms associated with depression, these include:
Psychological symptoms (or changes in cognitions) include: feeling agitated, irritated or angry; feeling worthless or helpless; low confidence; guilt; feeling you have lost control of your life; and suicidal thoughts.
Behavioural symptoms include: increased aggression towards others; losing your temper quickly; taking more risks than usual; finding it hard to concentrate on tasks; reduced interest in social activities; little interest in sex; and lack of motivation to take care of yourself by eating properly, keeping clean or exercising.
Physiological symptoms include: changes in appetite (loss or gain) and thus rapid weight loss or gain; and difficulty sleeping.
These are some of the most common symptoms of depression, however there is a large variation in how each individual experiences it. You may experience a handful of symptoms or all of them to varying degrees of severity.
Depression is classed as ‘mild’, when daily tasks may feel a struggle and you may experience little satisfaction in life; or ‘severe’ when your symptoms have a big impact on your normal day-to-day functioning due to their intensity and you are more likely to feel suicidal.
Bi-polar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a type of depression in which your moods may swing from euphoric highs to severe lows.
Causes of depression
Depression may be a result of events in your life or the underlying cause may be less clear. In the latter case, the underlying cause may only become clear during therapy. Issues from childhood or current problems can both contribute to depression.
Issues from childhood may include: parental divorce, poor relationships with parents, and experiencing childhood abuse as a child (sexual, physical, psychological)
Current issues may include: relationship problems, suffering with a long-term illness, bereavement, social isolation, job loss, and financial problems
Men are often particularly affected by the last two factors. Statistics show that one in seven men develop depression within six months of becoming unemployed, which really shows how significant these issues can be.
Experts also believe there to be a genetic element to depression and family history of depression can make you more susceptible to depression.
Dealing with depression at home
By doing just some of the things below you will be challenging the negative symptoms of depression and should feel the benefits.
Exercise: Exercise has been shown to greatly benefit people with depression. Not only does it release endorphins in the brain (mood enhancing chemicals), but it is a good way to socialise, lose weight and get fitter. Exercise two to three times a week to gain the maximum benefits.
Socialise: If you have someone you can confide in, this will be a great benefit for you, particularly during the low points. However, general socialising with friends or colleagues can prevent you from retreating from social situations (a common feeling during depression).
Use self-help guides: There are many useful self-help guide to dealing with depression and bi-polar disorder – the most useful books will be written clearly and be easy to follow. We have listed some books below that you may find helpful.
- Coping with Bipolar Disorder: A CBT-Informed Guide to Living with Manic Depression by Steven Jones, Peter Hayward, and Dominic Lam
- Practical guide to managing Bipolar Disorder informed by ideas drawn from cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
- 'Understanding And Managing Depression - A Workbook And Guide' by First Psychology (pdf)
- Overcoming depression by Paul Gilbert
This is an accessible self-help book based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It provides a good explanation of depression and ways to challenge it. There are many exercises and techniques for those who like to work in a structured way.
- The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert
“We have known for some time that developing compassion for oneself and others can help us face up to and win through the hardship and find a sense of inner peace. Instead we concentrate on ‘doing, achieving’ and having’. Now, a leading authority on depression, Professor Paul Gilbert explains how new research shows how we can all learn to develop compassion for ourselves and others and derive the benefits of this age-old wisdom.”
- I had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone
This is a picture book, almost like a child’s picture book. Each picture has a caption and the page encapsulates one aspect of depression depicted using the “black dog”. It is useful for those who are struggling to come to terms with depression. Also excellent for young people.
- Living with a Black Dog by Matthew and Aileen Johnstone
This is a continuation of the Black Dog and written to help family and friends and carers of people with depression. It is also written in the form of pictures and captions.
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness by M. Williams, J. Teasdale, Z. Segal & J. Kabat-Zinn
This book explores the use of mindfulness practice for those who struggle with depression or simply want to understand their mind and emotions better. Mindfulness can be a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences without obsessing over them. Using mindfulness training to prevent and treat depression is a novel approach in the West, though it is a traditional application of Eastern meditation practice. The authors of this book explore the reasons for depression and provide guidance, support and tools to find a way through it. It comes with a companion CD of guided meditations.
Further information about depression
Feel free to contact us to ask about psychological therapies available at First Psychology Edinburgh that may help with depression and other mood-related issues.
Ana Georgieva, Senior Counselling Psychologist (Online only)