Depression affects people in many different ways and with different levels of severity.
However, some of the symptoms you may be experiencing are:
Some common causes of depression
How do I work with depression?
We will investigate together why your depression developed in the first place. It may be that there is a history of depression in your family and you feel that it was inevitable that you too became depressed. You may have experienced adverse childhood events and have found that with each subsequent challenge, you have sunk lower. Alternatively, you may be someone who generally felt quite good about life until a recent event or series of events seemed to change that.
Depression was, at some point in your life, a way of responding to overwhelming circumstances or feelings. In terms of it being an adaptation, it would have initially been a useful response. When we have been faced by challenging events, it can serve us well to stop and conserve energy rather than to keep pushing forward when we just don’t have sufficient resources to do so.
Stopping in our tracks can be the safest option, so that we are protected from harming ourselves further. There are actually some benefits in the short term as being in a depressed state can lead to greater self-reflection, changing of habits and increased understanding of others
However, if you are reading this page, I expect that you have not just passed through this depressive stage and come out the other side having regrouped. My aim would be to help you to do this by increasing your acceptance and awareness regarding what has caused you to become stuck and what is going on for you right now.
What is Depression?
From a Gestalt perspective, the set of symptoms that is known as depression demonstrate that the person has become caught in a fixed pattern of behaviour, so that their experience of being in the world is limited to the repertoire of the symptoms. All symptoms, however, are seen as unique creations of the individual that have developed in response to their environment and life experiences (Perls, Hefferline & Goodman, 1951).
From this perspective, the person is not seen as being in a fixed state that is called depression, but rather as experiencing the world through the lens of those symptoms. The person is dynamic and changes in response to every contact with the world, even from within the constraints of the set of symptoms that is depression (Roubal, 2007)
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Although I don’t use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I really like the theory of depression developed by its founder, Aaron Beck (1967). He describes how depressed people tend to focus on negative things and ignore the positive. He described how they have negative ‘self-schemas’ or beliefs about themselves as well as the belief that they are not loved, life is unfair and that things will never improve.
In experiments, depressed people notice more unpleasant or negative information even when images are moving faster than the naked eye is able to see. This bias for negative information keeps them trapped in the negative triad of feeling worthless, feeling the world doesn’t value them because they are worthless and believing that they will never be good at anything.
Neuroscientist and Psychologist Lisa Barrett in her 2017 book, ‘How Emotions are Made’ describes the anxious person as making too many false predictions about what could occur in the world, and the depressed person as not making any new predictions (Barrett, 2017). The depressed person is assuming that the world will remain as they have previously found it to be, such as challenging and hostile.
This position feels to me like check-mate in a game of chess. All of the components in life so far have led to a sense that nothing can be done and there is no way out. In our work together, we will explore what that is like, working together to increase your understanding and acceptance of what it is like to be in this position. Barrett (2017) describes the emotional language of someone in an anxious or depressed state as being restricted.
As such, many people might start therapy by saying I feel rubbish or similar expression of a blanket feeling. As the therapy progresses, it becomes possible for the person to add in a wider emotional vocabulary such as: when my partner shouts at me I feel scared; I feel creeping dread when I have a deadline at work; I get nervous about meeting new people; I feel frustrated when my Mum won’t help me; I feel despair when I make another mistake…
The aim of therapy
At the start of therapy, with a limited number of ways of describing what is going on, it can feel as though nothing will ever change. As the descriptions of emotion become more specific, it becomes more possible to act on these emotions. If I know that someone not helping me makes me frustrated, I might decide to ask that they do help me or alternatively ask someone who is more likely to help.
As such, I begin to find ways of moving out of what had before felt like a fixed and isolated state into a more fluid one, enabling me to increase my contact with the outside world.