Nowadays saying “I am depressed” is quite common. The question is: are you really depressed or is this a term you are using because it is a common phrase? You may find that amongst teenagers there is a ‘set way’ to speak with cool lingo. Saying “I am totally depressed” may be something a teen may say to his/her best friend on the phone after not doing as well as expected on a test. But is this actual depression or deep disappointment and annoyance?
Clinical depression must be diagnosed and treated by your medical doctor. Here is a list of questions for you to answer. If you answer yes to these questions but no on other days, you can monitor your mood. You may consider using natural remedies to increase mood. These may include exercise, eating regularly, decreasing commitments and speaking to someone you trust. You can monitor your answers and if you say yes to the majority, then you may decide that the time has come to talk to your medical doctor to assess whether you are in fact depressed. Please do not suffer alone; there is help and support is available. Going to your medical doctor may be the first step. Counseling and psychotherapy can also support massively.
Are you experiencing little interest or pleasure in doing things? This could be a general fed up feeling; ask yourself: are you bored in your job, are you having trouble in a relationship, or what do you think is going on?
Are you feeling down, depressed or hopeless? (Is this a new feeling? Can you pin point the trigger? E.g. – I started feeling down after my work meeting where I did not reach the scores I needed to)
Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much? (Are you a new mother? Sleep can be a common disturbance amongst parents, bear this in mind.)
Are you feeling tired or having little energy?
Do you have a low appetite or are you over eating?
Are you feeling bad about yourself or that you are a failure or having let yourself or your family down?
Are you having trouble concentrating?
Are you moving around slowly or being more fidgety than usual?
Are you having any thoughts of self harm? (If you have any thoughts like this, go straight to your local hospital immediately, or call Samaritans, your medical doctor or the ambulance service).
Freddie Strasser (2005) writes, “Sadness is part of human experience and one of the givens of the world. I cannot discard or ignore it. I also feel sometimes that sadness has a function in my life: a feeling to be emptied and to provide conditions for refilling the emptiness with new energy, and allow me to reappraise my life. “I find Strasser’s words to be very hopeful and encouraging. Even though he was so honest and authentic, he teaches us not to dwell in our sadness and view it as meaningful.
This reminds me of a client who spoke to me about her depression. We explored her depression and understood that she felt she had gone against her value system which caused her low mood. We worked on strengthening self belief and trust, and asserting herself in situations where she felt unheard, she was able to feel more empowered. Often when we feel empowered, we feel worthier, which then goes on to help us not to feel low in mood. This client used her depressive episode to help others and trained to become a therapist.
Aviva Keren Barnett (PgD, M.A ) is a UKCP registered existential psychotherapist and counselor. Aviva holds a Master of Arts in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling. Aviva, a very passionate therapist, works with individuals on a private basis.