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Depression

Depression

 

Everyone experiences low mood at different times in life, but if the feeling persists (for weeks or months rather than a few days) and has a negative impact in key areas of your life such as relationships, work  and home life, or you are having regular feelings of hopelessness and despair you may be depressed.

 

Symptoms of depression?

Depression can affect us physically, emotionally and behaviourally, with a variety of mild, moderate and severe symptoms. Read through the list below and see if you recognise any.

  • a change in eating, weight and/or sleep patterns
  • reduced energy levels and reduced physical activity
  • impaired concentration
  • negative thoughts and beliefs about self, others and the world
  • avoiding other people and withdrawing.
  • feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • loss of interest, enthusiasm and enjoyment
  • reduced sex drive
  • feeling irritable and short-tempered, or tearful
  • being unable to continue as usual with work and interests, maybe because you feel apathetic, or ‘can’t be bothered’, or things feel pointless
  • the future may seem bleak or hopeless, or you may feel that it is just not worth going on, or think about suicide.

 

Why do we get depressed?

Depression can be directly linked to life events such as loss, illness, trauma and abuse, but many people do not have a clear sense of why they feel depressed. Listed below are some other possible triggers for depression and contributing factors.

  • certain medications can affect mood
  • conflict - historical or present
  • loss of a loved one
  • the end of a relationship
  • genetics – a family history of depression may increase the possibility
  • life transitions – e.g. new job, re-locating, children leaving home
  • financial pressures
  • substance misuse
  • unhealthy relationships

 

How can I help myself?

Self-care

When we are depressed it can be hard to take care of ourselves as we might ordinarily. It is good to take simple steps to support your wellbeing as best you can so keeping a watch on sleep patterns, eating habits and exercise, is a good place to start. Try not to judge yourself on how you are currently managing these areas – just begin to notice and then make small to moderate positive changes wherever you can.

Day-to-day routine

Try to notice the moments in your week when you experience positive feelings or thoughts, it may help to keep a mood journal. Catching these moments and feelings can help to shift our focus from the negative experience and offer hope. Depression affects self-confidence and can lead us to withdraw from and avoid the things in life we previously enjoyed.  Try to gently resist this impulse in small ways and arrange connections and activities that have the potential to open up positive experiences.  Accept that your mood is likely to leave you feeling less motivated and less productive - be kind to yourself and acknowledge and celebrate each small positive step.

Negative automatic thoughts

Depression can leave us feeling battered by an overwhelming volume of negative automatic thoughts which are often self-critical, judgemental, or based on how we feel at that moment rather than a more objective reality.  As an initial step, the more you can increase your awareness of these thoughts, which may have become very familiar and habitual, and start to step back from them and challenge them, the easier it will become to establish new thinking patterns. Try to focus on:

  • becoming more aware of your negative thoughts
  • recognising that your appraisal of situations may be biased or distorted due to depression
  • learning how to challenge your own negative thoughts and beliefs so that they become more balanced.

 

Some examples are given in the table below:

 

Situation

Negative thoughts

Other explanations

Getting critical feedback for a presentation  

I am stupid

I didn’t have much time to prepare for this - the workload has been very heavy recently.  I chose to do other things as well.  Constructive criticism helps me to improve.  I’ve done OK in the past - which shows I can do well.

My partner does not want to see me tonight

They don’t care about me any more

They said they had work tonight - this is most likely true.  We saw each other at the weekend and had a good time.  They’ve said some nice things to me lately and seemed caring the last time we met.

 

Resist automatically believing your negative thoughts no matter how powerful they feel at the time – remember, a thought is just a thought, it’s not a fact but an opinion. We don’t have to believe everything we think. By considering other explanations, your ‘worst possible’ conclusion will be seen as only one of a number of possible explanations for your situation.  This allows you to consider each explanation and see which is most likely or to collect ‘evidence’ which will help you test the different explanations. 

 If you feel it is appropriate, try talking to other people to help you get a balanced perspective on which are the most likely explanations.

 

Seeking further help

If the above steps feel out of reach or you think it would be helpful to begin by talking to a trained professional, you can refer yourself to the Staff Counselling Centre where you will be assessed by one of our counsellors and then either offered short term counselling or be supported to another more appropriate service. If you experience any of the following it would be advisable to speak with your GP too.

  • your low mood and negative thoughts persist or are so strong that you feel  powerless to do anything about them
  • your low mood is interfering with your life, work or relationships
  • you experience feelings of hopelessness, have thoughts of self-harm and or suicide, are actively self – harming.

 

Where to seek help

 

  • Complete a self-referral for the University Staff Counselling Centre

Complete Pre-Counselling form online

  • Talk to your GP, who can discuss the range of treatments available to you
  • Self-help resource– CCI

https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Depression

  • Qwell – online mental health support platform

https://www.cpslmind.org.uk/qwell/

  • Samaritans –  Tel: 116 123

https://www.samaritans.org/

  • If you feel that you are at a crisis point you can call your GP, call NHS 111 (option 2) to speak with a mental health professional or dial 999 for the emergency services.

 

 

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