Depression is a chronic state of negative emotionality or lowered mood. Symptoms are commonly physical and psychological, including, tiredness, fatigue, disrupted sleep, loss of interest, sadness, reduced pleasure, impaired concentration and rumination. People suffering from depression often find even basic tasks challenging. The idea of washing dishes, cleaning the house, visiting the supermarket or preparing meals can seem overwhelming.
Depression is a worldwide problem and can impact anyone regardless of age, gender, culture or socio-economic background. There are many causes, including, relationship breakdowns, life dissatisfaction or setbacks, child birth, job stress, loss of family or friends, injury, and lifestyle choices. Depression has also been found to have genetic contributions, with some people genetically predisposed to this disorder. It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that 350 million people worldwide are actively suffering from depression. Sadly, it is believed that 1 million people have taken their lives through suicide during a period of depression.
In the past decade, a mass movement in mental health awareness has arisen. This has led to greater services and education available to those suffering from depression. There has been an uprising in the number of high profile people speaking on their battle with depression, particularly sport professionals. This has paved a way to reduce the stigma commonly associated with suffering from a mental illness.
Despite improved awareness of mental illness, many people experiencing depression still suffer in silence, rarely sharing their struggle. People with the disorder often feel trapped and imprisoned with their thoughts. Many who are depressed fail to connect to their body, instead fused with their mind; fused with their thoughts and unable to become free. These thoughts can be paralysing and destructive. Negative thoughts may often include: “I am not good enough”, “there is something wrong with me” “I do not deserve that”, “nobody cares”, and “there is no hope”.
The negative pattern of thinking associated with depression reflects the mind being stuck, akin to a scratched record playing the same track repeatedly. Depression can be deceiving, tainting the lens through which we see life. As though looking at an art work and only able to see the corner of the painting, blinded to the rest of the picture. When depressed, people only pay attention to the negative information, filtering out and ignoring the neutral or positive information. This is known as negativity bias. The tendency to focus on negative information is rooted in human survival. For our ancestors, it was of evolutionary benefit to identify the negative and threatening things in the environment. While hundreds of years ago this pattern of thinking was vital in the face of threats, in modern society it can be limiting and debilitating.
If you are suffering from depression it is vital to know that there is a way out. That you can shift your focus and begin to see the brighter and more positive sides of life. For this to be possible, the single most important thing that you must do is communicate. You must talk to someone. You must reach out and tell a friend, family member, support service, or therapist of your struggle. Do not suffer in silence. Support and help is available. The first step in escaping your negative thoughts is to talk.
Once you have given voice to how you are feeling, the next step is to challenge your negative thinking. You must notice and observe this negative thinking pattern and tell yourself that this is simply negativity bias (your brain falling back into survival mode). Once you have identified this deceptive thinking try and find a healthy distraction for yourself. The aim of distraction is to shift your attention and focus to something positive or useful. This can be something as simple as writing down five times in your life that something positive has occurred. Other basic steps to help you on your journey include: small acts of kindness towards yourself, forgiveness, treating yourself, journaling, exploring gratitude, improving self-care (washing, grooming, diet), sunshine, walking, and celebrating minor successes.
Depression can be overcome and there is hope. It may take time and some hard work, but through small steps change is achievable. If you are currently suffering or know someone experiencing depression, take the first and most important step and have a conversation about the subject. Do not suffer in silence.
*If you currently believe that you are suffering from depression then the following services listed below are available to provide support:
Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Black Dog Institute – https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/