A number of symptoms make up a diagnosis of depression including appetite reduction, feelings of worthlessness and little interest in life. However the most central and obvious symptom is low mood.
Many people suffer brief episodes of depression. When an individual suffers repeated episodes of depression and those episodes last longer and longer, the depression is chronic.
Understanding how an episode can develop illustrates the nature of depression.
Here are two examples of people suffering an episode of depression that was brief because it was quickly resolved.
The first, a teenager called Becky, became depressed on a Saturday evening. She did not eat dinner and went to her room and cried. She stayed in bed that evening and most of Sunday feeling down, immobilised and isolated. Finally, on Sunday night, the low mood lifted, not long after her father came into the room asking if she was okay.
This wasn’t the first time she had suddenly found herself in a depressed mood. Still she had no idea why she suffered these repeated episodes of deep depression.
The second person was a middle-aged man, Peter, who had decided to save money by house-sitting. After years of feeling homeless, he decided to settle. He was very happy about renting his new place so he was surprised to find himself plummet into a deep depression while he was loading his car for the journey to the new home.
There is a reason why these two people suddenly fell into depression. In each case, there was a trigger.
Peter was so shocked by his sudden mood change that he knew something must have caused it. He sat down and reflected. He realised that his depression was triggered by his actions. He was moving boxes into the car, a process he had undertaken at least thirty times in the last few years, and always with the thought of having to set up and settle into a new place for a few weeks knowing he was homeless.
Until this moment, he had not realised the emotional toll the homelessness had taken on him. He was suffering a sort of post-traumatic stress. Not having a home for such a long time had depressed him but he never allowed himself to surface that thought or feeling. He just kept on going without allowing himself to feel the full effect of being homeless. In other words, he just made the best of it.
Once he identified the cause of his depression, it lifted. He was no longer homeless so the problem was fully resolved. His depression was an echo of the past, a grief he had never fully expressed.
I told Becky that there was something that triggered her episode of depression.
We started our investigation by exploring her actions just before she fell into the depressed state. She was talking to her sisters but she remembered being happy. Then she went to her room to do some homework, her English assignment. She started reading To Kill a Mockingbird and in those chapters a man was the subject of negative gossip.
I asked if she had identified with the man in the story. She did. Some time ago, some of her classmates had spread dishonest, vicious rumours about her.
She didn’t realise that her subconscious mind immediately made a connection to that past trauma.
Becky and I had been working to help her let go of the past trauma. She was just starting to realise that the gossip, though hurtful, was not true and did not define who she really was.
Her concerned father coming in to see her when she was depressed reminded her that she was worthwhile. This lifted her out of the feelings of worthlessness that had been triggered by remembering how awful it is to be the subject of gossip.
Once she understood the trigger for this episode of depression, she was more aware of other possible triggers. If she again finds herself plunging back into depression, she can look for the trigger and remind herself that gossip does not define who she is.
Identifying the cause of depression is essential if you want a permanent solution. In our psychology practice, we help you identify the forgotten trigger. Once you understand what caused your low mood, you can take action to resolve any feelings of depression.