Clinical depression is serious and your first contact needs to be your GP. Diagnosis can be categorized as mild, moderate, severe without psychotic episodes or severe with psychotic episodes. There are two significant categories of mood disorders; major depression (unipolar depression) and bipolar disorder.
Environmental stressors and emotional pressure can cause someone to become depressed.
The Corona Virus pandemic has put thousands of people under significant stress in many different ways. Our staff in the NHS have had a relentlessly busy and traumatic year. Others have lost their livelihoods or social networks. Life is hopefully starting to normalise for all those who have suffered extreme emotional hardship during the Lockdowns.
Whereas sadness and grief through bereavement, loss or trauma are natural human responses, depression is an illness. Most of the general population experience low moods from time to time. A diagnosis of depression requires the persisting presence of several symptoms for at least two weeks. Bereavement can trigger a depression especially when a person blames themselves for not being there more or not doing more, or not saying enough. When a person has died, it is just too late to do any of those things. Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience and there have been so many such bereavements during the pandemic. For anyone who is used to sharing their life with someone they love, the loss of that person can be devastating.
15 – 20% of adults suffer symptoms of depression at some time in their life and feel that their lives are affected to such an extent that they need to seek treatment.
For people who have never experienced depression, it can be impossible to realise just how bad it can feel. To the outsider, it could just appear that someone suffering depression is either un-cooperative, withdrawn, lazy, anti-social or just not bothered. It may be extremely hard for a person suffering depressive illness to communicate their feelings to someone who is not. To someone who is not depressed it would just sound like a lot of negative thinking. A busy, active, positive-minded person could think “oh they just need to snap out of it. Why don’t they pull themselves together!”
There can be biological factors for depression. High levels of the adrenocortical hormone, cortisol, can lower the density of serotonin receptors and impair the function of nor adrenergic receptors. However, the thing to bear in mind is that the one affects the other i.e how you are feeling is affecting your neurochemistry and your neurochemistry is affecting how you are feeling. Mild to moderate depression can often subside after 3 – 6 months, although it has the potential to recur. Where depression becomes chronic, the sufferer may find it difficult to return to the same level of function they had previous to the last bout. Therefore it is important that people become aware of ‘becoming’ depressed and take active steps to prevent a depression deepening.
Over the past two decades, depression has been effectively treated with SSRIs, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which replaced the tri-cyclics which had more severe side effects. Prozac is an SSRI. Prozac has controversial implications associated with reports of increased risk of suicide although in comparison to the numbers of people it has helped, the risk is relatively low.
SSRIs can be extremely effective for alleviating the symptoms of depression, but the underlying causes are not addressed, unless a GP has prescribed a course of counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in addition to the medication. When a course of tablets has ended, after a period of time, depression can recur unless you have developed the resources and awareness to manage it.
Exercise and Depression
Exercise has proved to be an effective component in treatment for mild to moderate depression as exercise stimulates the release of helpful chemicals. However, taking exercise requires a level of motivation that a depressed person will not have. Just starting to walk around the block is a start to getting your mind-body system moving.
Food and Depression
Recent research is showing that what we eat has a significant impact on our mental well-being as our gut has a direct communication to our brain. We can improve the bacteria in our gut (our biome) by eating a greater variety of foods and cutting out sugary, starchy foods.
Hypnotherapy and Depression
Hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for depression. If you are considering hypnotherapy and suffer depression, it is important that you find a hypnotherapist who is familiar with depression and has the competence to work in this field. I have several years experience of voluntary listening and support work with people suffering depression. This has given me a breadth of understanding that, when combined with Clinical Hypnotherapy competence, gives me the confidence to work with clients in this area.
It can take longer than 6 sessions for symptoms of depression to be alleviated.
I will formulate a treatment plan once I have established the key features of your depression. There are various psychological theories for why someone might develop this condition. I would normally start by looking at your perceptions of yourself and your life and how you feel this may have changed over time. Negative life events affect people differently and you may have developed a ‘set’ way of thinking. I would encourage you to develop techniques to control your thought processes. I would use confidence building, guided imagery, metaphor, post-hypnotic suggestion and possibly regression. It can be immensely beneficial for clients to re-frame past emotional experiences where they may be carrying unhelpful emotions such as self-blame, guilt, anger and fear. We will explore past experience through association and disassociation in order that you may gain insight about your feelings. In later sessions you will learn self-hypnosis and focus on cognitive re-structuring to empower you with resources to manage any future occurrences of negative thought patterns before you become depressed.