What is depression?
Depression is fairly common and occasionally people will experience it after a major change in their lives. One in four women and one in six males will be depressed at some stage of their life. Most people use the word depression as a way to describe a time when they feel down, lose interest in things that normally are fun and when they pull away from social events.
Major depression is when those negative feelings become overwhelming and the person experiences physical symptoms, such as weight gain or loss, sleeping difficulties for most of every day for 1-2 weeks or more. There are many ways that people experience depression and different ways of treating types of depression. Individuals with supportive networks often recover more quickly. It is important to identify the cause of depression as part of working out how to treat it and prevent it from reoccurring.
Postnatal depression or PND is when depression occurs in the context of having a baby usually within the first two years. About 16% of women will have postnatal depression. Antenatal depression occurs during pregnancy and is as common as PND. Depression during pregnancy often leads to depression after the baby is born so it is important to identify and work through ways to improve feeling confident and happy during pregnancy.
What causes depression?
Depression is often caused by many factors, such as lack of positive relationships, financial hardship, conflict at home or work, poor diet and sleeping routine, past trauma, misuse of alcohol or other substances, lack of exercise, physical illnesses and burnout from a poor work-life balance. Some families are inherently more vulnerable to developing depression which is important to know as there are many things you can do to build resilience and improve your ability to cope in adverse circumstances. Depression may occur due to a major life change such as having baby, entering or leaving a relationship or onset of a major illness.
The good news is that there are many ways to help yourself and others with depression. By reading some of the links on this website you will find information and ideas for self-help. The journey to personal recovery is driven by you and finding the right sort of help is important. You might connect with your friends and family and seek positive relationships, make lifestyle changes and change things that are clearly problematic. Your GP should be involved in treatment as there are many physical health problems that can cause depression.
Counselling is helpful for depression as it provides a sounding board for changing the way we feel and think about situations that cause distress. Psychologists provide counselling for depression and current research supports that some therapies such as Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help. Many people find a decrease in symptoms within the first couple of visits and are able to identify the cause of the negative emotions and feeling hopeless. Some people have more complex situations for which they will need long term support such as leaving a relationship or managing workplace bullying. Counselling helps by improving coping, resilience, confidence and self-esteem and communicating more effectively.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), MAPS, MAICD.
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