It is generally believed that depression has two main triggers, adverse life events (reactive depression) and biological factors. Biological depression can have many causes and accurate diagnosis is essential in order to obtain effective treatment. It is advised that if you suspect you are suffering from depression to consult with a qualified mental health practitioner as a first step. The good news is that the majority of depression people experience is reactive depression, and CBT has been shown to be an effective treatment for it.
Many factors contribute to a person’s susceptibility to reactive depression, including their biology, personality traits, early and subsequent history, current life circumstances, recent stressful events, and their style of thinking. Regardless of what triggered the depression it tends to manifest in particular ways: negative thinking about ourselves, about life circumstances and about others; negative expectations about the future; withdrawal from social interaction; low energy and subsequent difficulty completing everyday tasks. At worst, depression can result in suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
In most cases reactive depression will resolve itself with time, however seeking help and engaging in therapy can dramatically shorten a bout of depression by months or even years, and further, can prevent its reoccurrence.
Just as depression is usually the result of many contributing factors, recovering from depression is also usually achieved through a multifaceted approach, combining both cognitive and behavioural techniques to bring about emotional change. These include:
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts that are leading to negative views of self, situations and others
- Engage in pleasurable activities
- Increase social support - talk to supportive family members and friends
- Do physical exercise
- Improve nutrition
- Actively identify problems and engage in problem solving
- Set goals
Above all, accept that you are feeling depressed and that this is a common issue in today's society. Depression about depression contributes to a ever deepening downward spiral and this needs to be avoided or remedied. Current statistics show that on average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives. This is a significant number of people and you are not alone in your experience.
Depression is often perpetuated by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that accompanies a feeling of loss of control. A feeling of hopelessness has been identified as the one of the main contributing factors in suicidal thinking, so it is critical that this is addressed.
Depression is often characterised by pervasiveness of negative thoughts that everything is bad and pointless and trying to think positively is simply not enough to combat this. A better approach is to identify the unhelpful thoughts and challenge their validity. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Unhelpful Thought Records are used to achieve this.
When it comes to depression is it often not enough to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts as there are often real problems and obstacles to overcome. For helpful tips about problem solving please refer to the Problem Solving page.
In combination with these issues, a feeling of lethargy and lack of motivation often accompanies depression, making even small tasks seem overwhelming. For great tips on how to overcome the impact of low motivation please refer to the Activities Schedule page.
Not every person experiencing a low mood is depressed, and not every person feeling anxious and worried is suffering from anxiety. These are common, day to day emotions that are a normal part of the ups and downs of life. It is when these feelings start to overwhelm us and cause problems in our lives that they need to be addressed.
On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives. While depression and anxiety are different conditions, it's not uncommon for them to occur at the same time. Over half of those who experience depression also experience symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, one can lead to the onset of the other.