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Depression

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If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you think you, or someone you know may be experiencing depression and are looking for help.

Well done – you’ve taken an important first step.

If you’re here, you’ve probably realised that injunctions to “cheer up”, “snap out of it” or “think positive” just don’t work. This is because depression isn’t simply a state of mind over which you have automatic control. It is rather a whole body disease, with identifiable physical symptoms.

What Happens When You're Depressed?

Increasingly being identified as being in part due to an imbalance of brain chemicals and possibly because of an irregularity in the functioning of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, depression can cause a variety of symptoms in addition to the overwhelmingly sad and negative feelings normally associated with the condition. These include:

  • extreme fatigue

  • decreased motor (muscle) coordination

  • changes in sleep pattern

  • changes in appetite and weight

  • anxiety

  • a loss of motivation and interest in things which were previously pleasurable

  • memory loss

Depressed? - A Mind & Body Illness

Like diabetes, unless controlled, the chance that it will trigger additional physiological problems is significant. And like diabetes, successful management of depression may involve pharmacological intervention, but relies just as heavily on attitudinal and behavioural changes on the client’s part.

Diagnosing Depression

If you suspect that you, or someone you know is experiencing depression, your first point of call should be your doctor. You can of course book an appointment with a counsellor or psychotherapist, but if s/he assesses you to be suffering from a depression which would benefit from anti-depressant medication, s/he will refer you back to your doctor in order to ensure that talking therapy has the best possible chance of being successful.

The therapist, is likely to ask you to undergo diagnostic assessment to determine the extent of your depression. This will involve you being asked a number of questions which you will need to score. A typical set questions might include something similar to the following:

In the last 7 days, have you:

  • Felt talking to other people was overwhelming?

  • Felt able to cope when things go wrong?

  • Felt abnormally tired, anxious, tense or nervous?

  • Been unhappy?

  • Been disturbed by unwanted memories or images?

  • Had someone available to offer support?

  • Thought about death or suicide, or made plans of this nature?

  • Had moments of panic or terror?

  • Experienced difficulty with sleep?

  • Felt despairing or hopelessness when thinking about the future?

Psychotherapy

A number of options for treating depression exist within psychotherapy or counselling, including CBT, art therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Psychotherapy is able to provide the tools you need to recognise your negative feelings, thought patterns and beliefs, the circumstances which are prone to trigger those thoughts and feelings, how to manage those thoughts feelings and how to reduce or eradicate the triggers.

Psychotherapy provides the means to give yourself the best chance of making decisions which will allow you to function well in your world.

Exercise 

There is an increasing body to evidence which suggests that regular aerobic exercise can help alleviate the effects of the mild to moderate depression. Exercise has a multi-layered effect on depression; it causes an increase in the release of endorphins which have an influence on mood and well-being, it may provide a social outlet; it provides a distraction from negative thoughts.