Everyone experiences periods of unhappiness where they may feel depressed temporarily. Depression becomes a concern when feelings such as sadness, disappointment, or worthlessness last for several weeks and become severe.
When a person experiences symptoms of depressed mood or a loss of interest in most activities, it can interfere with all areas of life. It can change the way a person thinks and acts, and also the way that his or her body functions.
The negative effect of thoughts, behaviours, the environment, and the physical self can all be causal factors in depression. Through the use of different exercises and treatment, these factors can be identified and mood can be improved.
For example, in counselling someone who is struggling with depression, I would help the person to identify negative core beliefs (beliefs about the self) and cognitive distortions (distorted ways of thinking) that are contributing to depressed mood. Once these beliefs and distortions are identified, they can be targeted for change. Similarly, other concerns such as unhealthy behaviours, issues at work, school, or in relationships can also be worked on to improve mood and decrease depressive symptoms.
Symptoms of depression include the following:
- changes in sleep patterns (more or less than usual)
- changes in appetite
- difficulty with concentration or decision making
- feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- isolation from others
- feeling overwhelmed with sadness, irritability, or anger
- decreased interest in normal activities
- loss of energy
- thoughts of death