There are things we can do to help ourselves to begin the move up the spiral and out of depression.
A major move forward would be to recognise the negative thoughts and feelings for what they are – past conditioning coming through – challenge them – make a note of them; get them out on a piece of paper. Don’t leave it there though, get all the negatives out how you feel about other people in general, about what the future might hold.
Then examine them to see if they are real and for all time; are they automatic thoughts – coming at you almost like a built in default. Are they unreasonable; “everybody hates me” – is this true – have you spoken to everybody in the whole world – past or present? Are any of these thoughts exaggerated?
Maybe think about how, when you wrote the list, you deliberately ignored that little voice in the back of your head that questioned what you wrote – when you ignored something that was even slightly positive?
We tend to use the word depression a lot and most of us at some time of other have felt depressed, down or ‘out of sorts’. Often these events are tied to those times when we are highly stressed; when someone dies, when a relationship breaks down, redundancy, or when financial worries get on top of us.
I try to explain it as a downward spiral, where we hit the same issues but at an increasing deeper level. The spiral starts with some stress which drags us down. For some at this point they let go of the issue and walk away from it; they begin to see what they can do about the situation – they stick to the reality. Unfortunately, most of us react in the way we have been conditioned – that it must be our fault, we are can’t do this or we begin to put things off. When we begin to think this way we move further down the spiral as we the begin to put even more pressure on ourselves to do things which we feel we cannot do – we begin to lose our confidence, maybe even lose interest or enjoyment and become irritable and snappy. Eventually we end up in situation where we are paralysed – we want to act but we don’t feel as if we can this might be an emotional response but it can also be a very physical response – we become too knackered to physically do anything because we cannot sleep, for example.
This however is simplified because in reality the spiral is a bit messier than that. To say that stress is the trigger may not be right as the stress may be caused by something else; either external to us (such as financial problems, job problems such as bullying or redundancy, or simply too much being expected by managers) or in some instances internal to us – long term conditioning – being told as a child we are not good enough, or our own thoughts or feelings about ourselves.
The research into depression is very clear; the self-talk (the way we think of ourselves) is really does affect the depression that is experienced. The way you think of ourselves will affect our emotions and therefore our ability to carry out even everyday chores. Some argue that depression is ‘internalised anger’ which is understandable when we think that we can begin to feel guilty and try and push ourselves harder and harder and when we don’t get anywhere we begin to beat ourselves up even more.
I'm a New York based psychologist and I was born and raised in New Jersey. I completed my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey in 1987, and have a diploma in Cognitive Psychology and Neurosciences.