The symptoms of depression can be lessened by prescribed biological medication, but psychotherapy treats depression as a whole by addressing the cause and reasons for why the it is there in the first place. Therapy has a more lasting effect in changing the biology behind depression than medication. This is because the patient learns to recognise the first signs of depressive episodes and can apply the knowledge they gain from their sessions to avoid repeating the same hardships. With the insights and new skills learned from therapy their depression can be counteracted. Psychotherapy can be a long term, preventative treatment that equips users with the tools to tackle the disorder themselves, if it rears its head again in the future.
There is also research suggesting that unless we experience adverse events, even with a predisposition to become depressed, we wouldn’t necessarily experience mental health issues in the absence of external triggers. This is essentially saying that depression is not just a biological problem. In fact, events can alter biology and the evidence as to which comes first – events that affect biology or biology that affects events – is still inconclusive.
All cases of depression have the following aspects in common: thinking errors and lack of problem solving. The best course of action and treatment is to address these cognitive errors. We can do this by investigating and evaluating our ways of thinking, develop problem solving skills, and explore our deeper individual reasons for depression. With the help of a therapist, we can come to see which of our thought processes are rational and which can be changed to improve our outlook, ultimately reducing the physical and behavioural symptoms of depression.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression
Our thoughts determine our feelings and our feelings determine our actions. By making changes to the way we view life, think, and the way we behave, we can improve our mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes we can be too far into a depressive episode to see this for ourselves, but the insight and support of an outsider can make this happen. Find out more about the cognitive behavioural therapy that we offer.
Existential therapy for depression
Individuals suffering from depression characterised by feeling lost, numb, a lack of meaning in life and apathy, or in the face of traumatic events can benefit from an existential approach. This approach will focus on helping clients come to terms with, understand, and eventually move past their condition, rather than suppressing or attempting to cope with it.
Psychoanalytic therapy for depression
If you would like to deal with long standing and severe depression that you have coped, but struggled, with for a long time, psychoanalysis can be really helpful. This approach is recommended if other treatments haven’t worked effectively, or if you’d simply like to gain a better understanding of yourself. Our psychoanalytic approach is outlined here.
It may be the case that certain people are more prone to depressive episodes than others due to individual characteristics (ultimately, their genetics). However, nearly all research concludes that depression is caused by a complicated combination of inherited personality traits, mindsets, and external life events. We cannot control the events that happen in our lives, but we can control the way that we process, approach, and evaluate these. This is the basis of psychotherapy.
People may become depressed following a difficult life event or period of emotional trauma, such as stress or grief or following a physical injury. Individuals can also suffer from existential depression. This is when the person is feeling lost, generally unhappy, doesn’t feel they live out their values, or doesn’t know what they want. Others may suffer from chronic depression. These individuals were probably deprived physically and emotionally earlier on in life. For example, they may have missed out on quality relationships which give meaning to life, or didn’t have a positive role model or reliable carer and, as a result, came to view the world, people, and themself in a negative light.
As with many health conditions (whether physical or psychological) evidence demonstrates that depression is caused by a complicated combination of both environmental and biological factors. The biological factors can be treated, but not necessarily cured, with medication and individuals can learn how to accept and live meaningfully with the environmental factors through therapy or counselling.
I feel depressed, is there something wrong with me?
No – our mood (how we feel psychologically, our emotions, and, as a result, how we feel physically) is determined by hormones and neurotransmitters in our brains and bodies. These are constantly interacting and changing. It’s important to understand that our emotions have a purpose. They are are essential pieces of information that signal and highlight underlying issues which need addressing.
Depression is a complex condition that’s caused by multiple factors. Experts are still trying to figure out the exact details, but research shows that both dopamine and serotonin play a role in depression. It is associated with lower levels of serotonin, testosterone, progesterone, and oestrogen and high levels of cortisol.
There are many psychological symptoms which may be difficult to spot, but these often affect and cause a variety of physical symptoms which we have outlined below.
The individual may experience:
- Feeling sad, deflated, and generally negative
- Low energy levels or fatigue
- Reduced enthusiasm for activities that usually bring pleasure
- Feelings of anxiety, being overwhelmed, and ‘out of control’ of their life
Negative mindsets which they cannot seem to shake:
- Feeling that they are hopeless or helpless
- Feeling of guilt and worthlessness
- Loss of interest in living, thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting suicide
- Lack of motivation
People around them may notice the following behavioural changes:
- Loss of interest in activities which they once enjoyed, including hobbies and socialising
- Anxious behaviour – anxiety and depression are often (but not always) linked
- Irritability or frustration
- Reduced ability to problem solve and plan ahead
- Avoidance of eye contact
- A tendency to catastrophise (view or present a situation as considerably worse than it actually is)
- Reduced capacity for concentration and memory
- Changes in sleep patterns (sufferers may find it difficult to get to sleep, stay asleep, and/or get up in the morning. Some may sleep more than usual, others less)
- Moving or talking more slowly than usual
- Aches, pains, or illness that lack an obvious physical cause
- Changes in appetite or weight