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What is depression?

    There may be many times during our lives when we feel down or experience low mood. Some people may be able to make direct links between the way they feel and a particular event, such as a bereavement, relationship breakdown, or unemployment. Major changes in our lives can also have an impact, such as children leaving home for the first time, or moving house or job. Even seemingly positive events like contemplating retirement can have an affect on mood. The term given to the type of depression that arises from such events is often referred to as reactive depression. Reactive depression therefore describes depressed feelings that appear to have a direct cause.

Conversely, many people may feel that they cannot make any direct connection between their low mood and specific life events. The term sometimes used to describe this is endogenous depression - the word ‘endogenous’ simply meaning ‘originating from within’. In other words, our depressed feelings may originate from the mind and have no apparent external cause.

There are also a number of other terms or categories used within psychiatry to describe low mood - these include:

Clinical Depression: depression so severe as to warrant clinical
Manic Depression: (also known as Bipolar Disorder): depression
  characterised by recurring bouts of mania and depression.
Postnatal Depression: depression occurring after childbirth
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Depression that occurs only in
  the autumn and winter months.

How useful are psychiatric categories?

Medical classifications are recorded in a publication called the DSM, which is available to doctors for clarification of psychiatric disorders. Many people feel that having a medically recognised diagnosis to describe their depressed feelings is useful in giving a name or label to their difficulties. One reason that a formal diagnosis may be helpful is when a temporary break from work is required, or if financial support is needed during an extended period of depression.

However, some people believe that psychiatric classifications are of limited use and that by narrowly defining depressed feelings as 'psychiatric disorders' we may be closing our minds to other possibilities. For example, if we accept that endogenous depression is due exclusively to changing chemical levels in the brain, we may opt for a temporary medical solution such as antidepressant drugs. However, if we regard low mood as a naturally occurring phenomenon that affects us all from time to time, and for which there is invariably an underlying cause, we may achieve a far broader understanding of our difficulties. By exploring our problems, both past and present, or perhaps re-evaluating the way we think about problems in our lives we may be able to reach a more long-term solution to them.

How do people feel when they are depressed?

• Lack of energy or motivation
• Feeling physically rundown
• Poor concentration altered appetite
• Altered sleep patterns
• A reduction in physical and mental functioning
• Smoking or drinking more
• Memory problems
• Feeling upset and anxious
• Feeling vulnerable
• Distancing yourself from others
• Losing confidence in yourself
• Feelings of unreality
• Blaming yourself and feeling unnecessary guilt
• Pessimistic thoughts
• Self-harming
• Suicidal thoughts

Will Counselling help?

There are numerous types of psychotherapeutic and counselling approaches/techniques currently available – psychoanalytic, cognitive and behavioural, humanistic, insight therapy, human givens, feminist and intercultural, gestalt, family and group therapy, interpersonal, existential and psychodynamic to name but a few. It is therefore relatively easy to become confused about which one might suit you best ! Many GP surgeries now have attached counsellors who are available to their own patients. If your local surgery does not provide this type of support, there are now many counsellors and psychotherapist in private practice or you may occasionally find local charities providing informal counselling or listening-ear services.

Although, it is important to remember that simply ‘talking’ to another person who is able to provide care and support is almost always beneficial when you feel down. Support from a counsellor, or more in-depth assistance from a psychotherapist may be the next step if you feel you need professional help to resolve your problems. However, it is important to choose your therapist carefully - just as you choose your friends. An understanding and caring therapist with whom you can have an honest and equal working relationship is essential....



Andersen Counselling & Advice, Chelmsford, Essex UK.
Andersen Counselling © 2005-2011. All rights reserved. Created by CWD
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