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Understanding and treating Depression

Depression — admin @ 7:41 pm

Here at counselling connections this week we were talking about how an episode of depression and in particular how it is treated can represent an opportunity. That may see like an odd thing to say because nobody would willingly choose to have depression. The point is that we often find that depression can occur at a crossroads in life. It is probably accurate to say that an episode of depression can eventually lead to making great changes.
Depression is experienced in different ways. People often describe a loss of interest in life and specifically a loss of appetite for food and sex. Concentration can become difficult and simple tasks which we would have carried out without giving them a second thought can suddenly appear quite difficult. This can have the effect of shaking our confidence further. Sleep often becomes a problem with clients reporting that it can be difficult to get off to sleep or that they wake in the middle of the night. These symptoms are often accompanied by a general low mood.
Low mood can vary quite a lot from person to person. At times someone will describe a low mood which is quite persistent, which doesn’t really lift but which is not severe enough to stop the person from working or interacting with others. This kind of low mood is sometimes present for a long time before deciding to talk to someone about it. At other times mood levels are sufficiently low as to be quite debilitating. It is not unusual for someone to be quite self-critical at times like this and unfortunately this can make an already gloomy outlook on life appear worse.
All of these symptoms are telling us that at a very fundamental level inside us we have become dissatisfied with how our life has evolved. We can drift somewhat into a position in life where our job or lifestyle or key relationships just don’t match up with how we imagined they were going to be. We may have developed strong internal beliefs say in fair play or reward for hard work and honest effort. And these might meet again and again with frustration and rebuttal in the world. Our depression offers us a chance to re-evaluate all these kind of beliefs and presents us with an opportunity to change.
This is easier said than done and we would not have developed a depression in the first instance if we hadn’t been trying really hard for some time to make things work out. We also have to face, perhaps for the first time our internal critic. This figure in our imagination has likely been the cause of many a plan being abandoned and many an opportunity for contentment missed. This is the internalised version of a harsh parent or other significant person from our past. And sometimes rather than confront the idea that ‘I can’t do this’ it is just easier either to give up or not try at all. This kind of behaviour becomes very fixed and can be difficult to change.
Change is brought about by becoming aware of our internal beliefs and standards. It is about getting to know and understand ourselves at a very fundamental level. It becomes possible to challenge our fears and misconceptions about our own capabilities. Sometimes during therapy and following a depression we have to face our own anger at others or at the world for how things turned out. This is in fact a very healthy process and is part of getting to really know our deepest self. Armed with this self knowledge and with realistic expectations of the challenges we may face along the way we can again set about living life and trying to find a balance in our relationships; in love and in work; with all aspects of the world outside.
Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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