Have you recently experienced feelings of sadness and despair, but you’re not sure why? Or have you noticed a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities? Depression can happen to anyone. While we all feel sad or low from time-to-time, some people experience persistent feelings of sadness – often without any apparent reason.
One in 20 Australians are affected by depression each year.
If you find yourself having intense, sad, or depressed feelings for longer than two weeks and they start to affect your daily life, it’s important to find help. Signs and symptoms of depression can be physical or emotional. You may recognise some of the following symptoms of depression in yourself, or in someone you know:
- low mood,
- sad, teary, anxious, or irritable
- feelings of being alone and isolated
- loss of interest or pleasure,
- feelings of guilt or low self-worth,
- disturbed sleep or appetite,
- low energy, or
- poor concentration.
Symptoms of depression can vary in severity, from mild, to moderate, to severe depression.
What causes depression?
Life Events: Depression can arise from experiencing difficult experiences, such as bereavement, or the termination of a relationship. Feeling low or down is normal during such times. Typically, with the passage of time, these feelings ease. For most people however, these feelings sometimes stick around for longer and become problematic. On the contrary, depression can seem like it comes ‘out of the blue’ for no particular reason.
Thinking Styles: The way we think about, or interpret things, can lead us to feel depressed. This is because how we think affects our emotions. For example, if you walked past your friend at the shops and they ignored you, it would be easy to think this was because you had upset them, or that they dislike you. Nonetheless, it might just be because your friend did not notice you. When we are depressed, we often interpret situations in a negative light, which consequently has a negative effect on our mood.
Avoidance: Depression may occur when we stop doing the things we enjoy. This often means that we have little to look forward to that can make our lives fulfilling. Rather, when we are depressed we tend to spend most of our time alone, which can be unrewarding and unsatisfying.
Biology: It has also been shown that depression has familial origins. That is, there is an increased likelihood of you developing depression if someone in your immediate family has had experiences of depression.
It is likely that a combination of all these factors play a role in experiencing depression. More importantly, it is also beneficial to know what stops us from overcoming depression.
What perpetuates depression?
When we are depressed, we often have a negative outlook of ourselves, the world, and our future. It is thought that this tendency to see things in a negative light prolongs depression. Further, when we feel depressed or low, we often stop being as active as normal, and spend less time doing the things we enjoy. This means that we experience less pleasure on a day-to-day basis, which in turn exacerbates depressive symptoms. When we are inactive, it normally leads to us feeling even more lethargic, rendering it more difficult to escape the cycle of depression.
Similarly, people who are depressed often spend a substantial amount of time lying in bed or sitting around. Often, this leads to people feeling as though they have wasted their day being unproductive, which results in them feeling worse. It also leaves them with a lot of time during the day to beat themselves up or worry about their problems, which of course also makes them feel worse.
Upon reflection, it becomes evident that our behaviour, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations all interact and combine to prolong our depression. For example:
If you think you may be experiencing depression, take a positive step forward today and see how we can help to get you on the path of managing your depression.