There are days when nothing seems to go right and we feel quite down in the dumps. On those days we might sit around and mope, even cry, and not feel like talking. That’s quite normal. Depression, however, is different. It goes on for weeks, even months or years. There are several types of depression. The most common is reactive depression.
When we go through a relationship breakup, lose a job, run into financial problems, or find that something in life has changed in a major way, it can really get us down. We find ourselves unable to be happy about anything, even things we used to enjoy. We become couch potatoes and don’t feel like doing much at all. We don’t want to see friends, don’t want to answer the phone, and sometimes we don’t even want to get out of bed or get dressed for the day. We can make ourselves go through the motions of doing things but as soon as we stop we get overwhelmed with sad feelings again. We begin to think that we’re not worth much, that there is nothing to look forward to, and that life is really not worth living. Thoughts of ending it all might go through our heads. If this is happening to you, pick up the phone and book yourself in to talk it all over with a supportive psychologist. It can make a world of difference.
Another form of depression is called endogenous depression, which is basically genetic. Some people are born with a slight malfunction in the amount of hormones that are produced by the various glands in the body. If there is a deficit in a “feel-good” hormone, such as serotonin, then it is hard to feel happy. In the past this has generally been corrected by taking an anti-depressant, but new research is showing that certain natural supplements can be involved in making corrections to the innate malfunction. If you have had lifelong depression talk to a GP-Naturopath, or check out http://www.biobalance.org.au/patients. Once you have your body functions working well you may also need to talk to a psychologist to gain new positive thinking patterns and enhance your daily living.
Some depression might appear to be lifelong depression that has been inherited from a parent who also has the disorder. But since we learn from our parents our attitudes to life, responses to experiences, and thoughts about setbacks, sometimes the ongoing depressed state we live in can simply be learnt behaviour. An eminent psychologist, Dr Michael Yapko, calls this “hand-me-down blues.” Although it is treatable with anti-depressants, it is actually possible to un-learn these thought patterns and begin to live a normal life without medication. This is where a psychologist can help.
(For girls only) A sudden fluctuation in hormone levels can create havoc with our feelings. The most pronounced of these is after the birth of a baby. Nearly every woman experiences the “third day blues” even when everything about the birth and the baby is fine. The re-balancing of the hormones can cause copious tears and misery, but it doesn’t usually last. However, some women go on to experience post-natal depression, a very demoralising state, which may go on for months, and can severely interfere with the bonding relationship between mother and baby. Your GP can help manage the changing hormones. Additional support from a psychologist through this time is excellent for managing the adjustment of thoughts and emotions that go with the many changes that a new baby brings into your life.
The end of our reproductive years is denoted by a time of ups and downs, known as menopause. Many women experience prolonged times of depression in this tumultuous time. As it often coincides with other life transitions, such as children leaving home or retiring from the work force, some assistance with managing what is going on in life at this time is highly recommended. You can talk to your doctor about whether HRT is right for you, but it is also a great idea to talk to a psychologist who can help keep you on track with positive thoughts about the next phase of life.
Depression can also occur as part of an illness, especially if the disease (or the treatment) significantly changes the levels of production in our bodies of various hormones or interferes with our natural chemistry. A combination of medication and counselling is generally the most useful approach.