There’s a big difference between treating the symptom, and treating the underlying cause, of depression. If you’ve ever found yourself repeatedly sinking into the quicksand of despair, inertia or sadness, you’ll know how difficult it can be to heal.
Depression, once treated, often returns – and becomes more likely to recur the more often it is experienced. Every time a person gets depressed, the connection in the brain between mood, thoughts, the body, and behaviour get stronger, making it easier for depression to be triggered again.
Each episode of depression increases the chances that the person will experience another episode by 16%, and after a second or third episode, the risk of recurrence rises to between 80% and 90%. People who first became depressed before they were 20 years of age are at particularly high risk for becoming depressed again.
THE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
Major Depression is diagnosed when someone experiences either of the first two symptoms in the following list, and at least four or more of the other symptoms, continuously over at least a two-week period:
- Feeling depressed or sad most of the day.
- Loss of interest or ability to derive pleasure from all or nearly all activities that were previously enjoyed.
- Significant weight-loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Difficulty sleeping through the night or the need for more sleep during the day.
- Noticeably slowed down or agitated throughout the day.
- Feeling fatigued or a loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or extreme or inappropriate guilt.
- Difficulties with concentration or the ability to think, which can also be seen by others as indecisiveness.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or ideas about suicide (with or without a specific plan for committing suicide) or a suicide attempt.
Two things are important to note. Firstly, that especially in young people, irritability is often a more prominent experience than sadness in depression. And secondly that 80% of those who suffer from depression consult their physician because of aches and pains in their body that they cannot explain. (This is connected to the fatigue that comes with depression, which in turn is the result of the repeated contraction and bracing that occurs in the body – a frown, a tension in the stomach, a tightness in the chest or lower back – when a negative thought or image arises in the mind.)
THE MINDFUL WAY THROUGH DEPRESSION
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness is a book which I regularly recommend to clients, even those who don’t struggle with depression. It introduces the reader to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which combines Western cognitive science with Eastern practices. The principles it outlines are fundamental to healing depression, panic, and anxiety, and are arguably also the foundation of both the art of meditation and the art of living. The book actually includes a brilliant CD featuring guided meditation practices by Jon Kabat-Zin who is internationally known for his work as a best-selling author, scientist and meditation teacher.
Here are a few gems from the book:
- “At the very earliest stages in which mood starts to spiral downward, it is not the mood that does the damage, but how we react to it.”
- “Our habitual efforts to extricate ourselves, far from freeing us, actually keep us locked in the pain we’re trying to escape.”
- “The problem with persistent and recurrent depression is not ‘getting sad’ in the first place. Sadness is a natural mind-state, an inherent part of being human. It is neither realistic nor desirable to imagine that we can or should get rid of it. The problem is what happens next, immediately after the sadness comes. The problem is not the sadness itself, but how our minds react to the sadness.”
- “We’ve been taught that setting goals and working toward them is the way to get to where we want to go: to happiness. It may be difficult to believe, then, that not clinging to goals, even worthy goals, may be the way out of unhappiness.”
- “But mindfulness is hardly passive resignation. It is a stance by which we intentionally welcome and turn toward whatever arises – including inner experiences that we’d normally fight or try to escape.”
If you want to transform your depression for good, I wholehearedtly recommend you get the book and try and listen to the CD as frequently as you can – particularly the “Body Scan”, “Mindfulness of the Breath” and “Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts” . You can find the book on Amazon: UK link http://amzn.to/kQCELM USA link http://amzn.to/iNf9sw.
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