What is Depression?

We all experience depression at some point in our lives. Feeling depressed is often a natural response to having a difficult day or hearing sad news. However, depression can  be more serious and sustained, as when our whole energy and concentration is lowered and we struggle to focus, believing ourselves worthless and useless. It is a condition which affects a person’s thinking, energy, feelings and behavior. I do not agree with pathologizing depression, and that what is needed is a relationship-based treatment that reflects that each individual has a unique set of circumstances that contribute to feeling depressed.

Freud believed that the suffering of depressed individuals came from trying to cope with mourning, melancholy, heartbreak, failure, loneliness and harshness towards the self; and that self-hatred is a core element in understanding depression. These super judgmental tendencies are aimed at the self in self-harming and self-destructive ways.

Talking about depression is the first step to u nderstanding yourself, your moods and your behavior.

Depression is more serious when our whole energy and concentration is diminished and it is a struggle to focus, seeing ourselves as worthless and useless. One in ten people at any one time are struggling with debilitating depression; a condition which affects their thinking, energy, feelings and behavior. People with depression may struggle to get out of bed in the morning, eat well, sleep well and be well. They feel sad, anxious or apathetic. Their whole body may feel sluggish, such that the person may experience deep fatigue and low self-esteem. There is a loss of interest in hobbies or social life,  and the individual may begin to retreat or isolate themselves from life. This loss of interest in living can lead to suicidal  and s elf-harming thoughts. People with depression can experience very real pain in their chest, stomach, or joints. Some women suffer from postnatal depression after the birth of their babies.

Current research reconfirms the need for a relationship-based treatment; primarily the talking-cure that Freud advocated. Talking through your concerns and feelings with a nonjudgmental therapist can be a huge help at such a distressing time.

The  Inner Critic

At the root of depression is the concept of self-hatred. Freud believed that self-hatred or this self-attacking “inner critic”  is key to understanding depression. These judgmental tendencies are targeted towards the self in self-harming and self-destructive ways. We all have an “inner critic”,  an inner voice that bullies us into what we should or could be doing or feeling. That aspect or part of ourselves that judges us so unmercifully: our “inner critic”,  robs us of our innate goodness, worth, talent, values, and ability. It’s a part of us that is a conglomeration of harsh voices from our past: our parents, teachers, pastors, priests and individuals in authority over us.

The first step in psychotherapy is to identify this “inner critic” or “inner judge”, as most of the time we have become so used to this inner voice that we aren’t even aware when it’s speaking or operating. The next step is to learn to allow ourselves or give ourselves permission to fail or to be compassionate towards ourselves.

Coping With Depression

Overcoming depression begins with talking to a mental health professional who is caring, warm, confidential and nonjudgemental. Indeed, in counseling/therapy it is essential that there be a “fit” between therapist and client. Many individuals find it difficult to identify their emotions or know how they feel. In fact many individuals have effectively “numbed” out their emotions, and may feel disconnected from themselves. A vital goal of therapy is to develop a compassionate and nurturing side in the individual to counteract their self-attacking "inner critic".

Treat Yourself With Compassion

Many of us treat other’s with more respect and compassion, but treat ourselves like our worst enemy. We talk to ourselves in self-berating and vicious ways, just when it is important to be compassionate and sensitive toward our own feelings. When we pay attention to changes or sensations in our body with openness and curiosity rather than anger or judgement, we can discover that we are feeling anxiety or fear for example, by noticing signs such as tightened chest, butterflies in the stomach or shortness of breath.

Take Care Of Yourself

In order to cope with depression, it is necessary  to take care of yourself. This includes having a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you are capable of,  adopting healthy spiritual habits, and implementing fun activities in daily life. It is critical to develop and implement a wellness approach to your entire life.

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