It’s more than sad.
We all feel blue from time to time. It’s natural to get down after a difficult or stressful life experience – a rough break-up, the passing of a loved one, the loss of a job or an unexpected change in circumstance.
But depression is more than sad. It’s like a thick fog that disrupts your thinking, feeling and behaviour and warps your perception of yourself and the world around you. Depression is experienced differently by different people. Sometimes, it can emerge from a mix of issues or experiences, but sometimes there’s no obvious catalyst. Gone untreated, depression can have tragic outcomes.
The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to manage your depression. Remember the fog can clear. And we’re here to show you how.
What you might not know about depression
About 1 in 10 people will experience depression in their lifetime
Women are twice as likely to develop depression
Over half of people diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety
60% of people who die by suicide suffer from depression or a related mood disorder
Physical exercise has been found to have a significant antidepressant effect
To confront depression, you have to recognise what it looks like. People tend to experience depression symptoms differently. However, depression will likely include a combination of the following symptoms, over an extended period of time.
Feelings of emptiness, worthlessness & hopelessness or feeling numb.
Oversleeping or not sleeping much.
Loss of energy, constantly tired & lethargic.
Overeating or loss of appetite.
Loss of enjoyment
(in socialising, activities, food, sex or things that would normally “spark joy”)
Causes of depression
Contemporary understandings of depression make space to acknowledge a biological component – but current research has also revealed depression might be a result of many of our deep, psychological needs going unmet. These needs are largely related to social and personal disconnection.
Disconnection from others
When did you last feel truly connected to others?
Disconnection from meaningful work
Do you enjoy your job and does it give you some sense of control and purpose?
Disconnection from meaningful values
Do you know what gives your life meaning beyond the materialistic and superficial? Do you live in alignment with this?
Disconnection from nature
When did you last feel truly connected to nature & the natural environment?
Disconnection from childhood trauma
Have you confronted and unpacked your past suffering?
Disconnection from a hopeful future
Do you feel like you have the capacity to impact your future in a positive way?
Disconnection from status & respect
Do you exist in a space where you feel respected and have the power to influence outcomes?
Mindfulness, has been shown to be effective in mood regulation and preventing relapse in depression. Here’s a little mindfulness exercise to try:
- Turn your awareness to your thoughts.
- Acknowledge and sit with thoughts, including distressing thoughts that arise, staying with them for few moments.
- Consciously let the thoughts go – imaging them floating away.
- Gently redirect your full attention to your breath.
Get out of your head and into your body. Exercising, listening to music, connecting with nature and being outdoors in sunlight can help to improve mood. Experiences that help us connect with our body in a positive and relaxing way such as yoga, massage and dance have also been shown to be effective in changing mood states.
Connect and talk. Spend time with people who support & understand you and make you reconnect with feelings of hope. This could be friends, family or a therapist.
How to support a friend or partner with depression
Validation. Don’t tell them to “cheer up” or that there’s “nothing to be sad about”. Acknowledge how hard it must be for them and let them know you want to help.
Listen. Be open and supportive of them. Let them know you’re there if they ever need someone to talk to, and ask what you can do to help. Be supportive and non-judgemental.
Learn. If you’re unsure about what depression is, or what it means for your friend – the best place to start is by educating yourself. That will give you a greater understanding of what your friend is going through.
Getting help. Outwardly saying “You should see a psychologist” may be perceived as a judgement. Instead, recognise their struggles and their strengths, and gently encourage them to talk to someone. (Try this: “It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot and you’re doing so well in spite of that, but do you think talking to someone could help you work on those issues?”).
Take it seriously. If your friend has mentioned having suicidal thoughts, talk to them about it and help them explore alternatives. If they’re not in immediate risk, but you’re acutely concerned for their safety, try to keep them company and don’t leave them alone.
As always, it’s important you chat to someone – be it another friend, family member, doctor or counsellor – about your concern for your friend. It’s a huge burden to bear, especially if you’ve been asked to keep it a secret. But your responsibility should be with your friend’s life, first and foremost, and that responsibility shouldn’t have to be yours alone.
Look after yourself. You can be there for someone while maintaining your own boundaries. Recognise that it can be challenging for you too and ensure that you are mindful of your own emotional energy levels.
Meet our Psychologists who can help with Depression
Looking for depression treatment that really sticks? We’ve got therapists who can help you combat depression using a range of evidence-based approaches, including Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), mindfulness and more. Click here to find a Therapist.
Give this a read
Lost Connections – Johann Hari
In Lost Connections, Hari blasts popular myths about depression; what causes it and why it’s now at epidemic levels. Woven amongst moving and interesting stories from people’s real lives, Lost Connections offers a radical new way of thinking about this crisis, revealing new and gripping scientific evidence for different causes of depression – most of which relate to the way we are living today. This book shows that once we understand the real causes of depression, we can turn to pioneering new solutions – ones that offer real hope.
“If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.” – Johann Hari