When we feel down and ask ourselves, “Why am I depressed?”, there unfortunately isn’t always a clear answer. Depression is different to sadness. When we feel sad we can often pinpoint why we feel sad. It could be due to losing something we love dearly or we might feel sad after a disagreement with a friend. Depression is different. There usually isn’t clear reason and that’s because depression is often caused by a combination of things.
Psychologists have long discussed the “nature versus nurture” debate. This debate addresses the possible causes of depression. Nature refers to the genetic component of depression. It often runs in families and there is definitely a genetic component. Twin studies have shown that some twins, separated at birth, didn’t both get depression. As a result, genetics alone cannot explain the cause of depression. Nurture refers to the environment we grow up in. Again, not all siblings growing up in the same household under similar circumstances end up depressed. The current thinking is that depression is affected by both nurture and nature.
Other aspects to consider are how good an individual is at problem solving, how well they are able to regulate their emotions and tolerate distress as well as how strong their social support network is. Long term denial of emotional issues can also lead to depression in the long run. I have struggled with depression on and off over my whole life and have often tried to find a reason as to why I am depressed. It’s normal to try figure out what the reason might be as that could lead to a solution.
Depression is a bit slippery in that regard. My clients often minimise their depression and tell me they shouldn’t be depressed because they know people that are far worse off than them. This is faulty thinking because we all have our own ‘cross to bear’ and depression feels different to each one of us. Some of us experience severe depression where getting out of bed and washing seem too much effort. Others, just lose interest in anything and withdraw from the world. We are all affected differently but for each one of us, depression can be debilitating.
How to manage depression
The act of taking a shower and brushing your teeth can be enough for those that are severely depressed to help them feel a tiny bit brighter. Self care can often be neglected when we feel depressed but it’s the easiest one to address. Just pulling a brush through your hair could be a victory for some of us – every small baby step counts!
Do one small new thing every day and try to add a new one every day. Be proud of yourself for every samll step you make.
Exercising releases endorphins and is a great antidote for depression. It can be hard to do though. Again, take small steps. Just 5 minutes of exercise on the first day is a great start and then build that up by 5 minutes every consecutive day. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for every effort you make, no matter how small.
When we are depressed, it’s common to withdraw and isolate ourselves. We don’t want to feel a burden and we also don’t want others to know that we aren’t coping. Getting out of the house is a great way to affect depression in a positive way. Go out to the shop, go for a walk…even if it’s only for 5 minutes. The freash air on your face will improve your mood.
This can be a tough one and I have had to literally force myself in the past to socialise. It has felt like torture but, without fail, I have felt better every time I have met with others. Get support from others, it feels good to share and feel less alone. One in four of us will experience some from of mental health issue in our lives, we are not alone but it can feel that way when we isolate ourselves. people care far more than we think they do.
It may be a good idea to see your Doctor if you have had depression for more than 3 months. You may just need that little bit of extra help. Talking to a professional can help immensely. Counselling is also a great option and can speed up the recovery process.
One of the best ways to alleviate depression is to start DOING more. Whether it’s brushing your teeth initially or speaking to a friend (depending where you are on the depression scale), taking a small action is an excellent way to start leaving depression behind.