A Growing Problem
Depression is one of the most common ailments in our society and rates of depression are rising. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020 depression will be the second highest cause of death and disability in the world. Although more women suffer from depression, men are more likely to die from suicide as a result of depression.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines depression as, “a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration”. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities.”
Depression is not just “feeling blue” or “down in the dumps.” It is more than being sad or feeling grief after a loss. Depression is a serious disorder that day after day affects your thoughts, feelings, physical health, and behaviours.
What is it Like?
People describe depression in many ways such as: “Being in a black hole”, “Its like someone turned the lights off”, “Utterly stuck”, “It’s like wading through treacle”, “I can’t see the point in carrying on”, “My life has stopped”, “To outsiders, I look quiet and detached – but inside I have this boiling rage like I want to scream because I can’t see any way out of this mess”.
Reasons for Hope
Depression has been widely regarded as a difficult and complex illness. The pharmaceutical companies would like us to believe that it is due to a “chemical imbalance in the brain” – which raises the hope that we could fix the problem if only we had the correct medication. We do know that SSRIs help something like 45% of people but they do not help everyone and there can be side effects.
There is debate about whether the “chemical imbalance in the brain” is a cause of depression or an effect of depression. There is no medical diagnostic test for the chemical imbalance concerned with depression. In normal daily life our brain is known to manufacture powerful drugs which have a range of effects similar to those caused by both cocaine and morphine.
Recent research has shed new light on why people get depressed and stay depressed. Even long term chronic depression may be lifted quickly and effectively by human givens therapists. See below for things you can do to find help.
Human Givens Practitioners take the view that depression is a disease of the REM sleep state. This can be caused by a number of factors which almost always include periods of severe stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and disturbance of sleep patterns.
The Cycle of Depression
We may not remember our dreams, but they serve a vital purpose in maintaining our mental health. Dreams serve to “flush out” the emotional expectations of the previous day. When the system is working well it allows us to awake with a clear head and able to face the new day. The things we have worried about during the day (but which have not actually happened) will be acted out in our dreams, freeing our brain from those expectations.
However, sometimes the pressures of life mean that we are overloaded with worries. The more we worry, the more “work” needs to be done while we sleep. The dreaming process takes place mostly in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state of sleep. While we are dreaming our brain is about as busy as it is whilst we are awake. At this time out brain is using 20% (about one fifth) of the total energy of our body.
If we have excessive worries during the day, we will have more REM sleep during the night (even though we may not be aware of it – we only tend to remember dreams which were happening at the time we awake).
Excessive REM sleep leads to two effects: The first is that our brain gets tired from all the effort. The second is that we have less time for slow-wave sleep. This is the deep sleep during which the “repair and maintenance” of our brain takes place.
For two reasons we therefore wake feeling exhausted. Even if there was money on the floor we might not be bothered to pick it up because it is just too much effort.
When are brain is exhausted we put things off. Things which need to be done (making calls, paying bills, seeing friends, going to work, eating) don’t get done. There is no pleasure in doing the things we used to enjoy – so we stop doing them. If we think about it, we say “we’ll do them when we feel a bit better”.
When things don’t get done, some of our “needs” as human beings stop being met. This always causes us worry. So we have more to worry about. So the cycle repeats and we spiral down into doing less, worrying more and getting more and more stuck in the cycle.
Should I Take Anti-Depressants?
Anti-depressants like SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) help many but not all people. We think this may be due to the fact that they reduce REM sleep. Some people describe taking SSRI’s as allowing them to “take a holiday from the worry”. This may be enough to lift them from the cycle of depression. Others suffer from side effects or dislike the slightly “spaced” feelings they get whilst on these drugs. Some people feel that taking a pill will only mask the symptoms but will not address the underlying issues which may be due to unmet emotional needs.
Our experience is that different people have different problems and often need different forms of help. The effects of anti-depressants can sometimes make the therapeutic process harder or longer, but some people clearly benefit from the help they can give. We would recommend that if you are considering seeing someone for psychotherapy or counselling, try this first and use pills as a last resort. However if you are already using anti-depressants we can still help you.
Please be aware that it is often not safe to suddenly stop using SSRI’s. If you want to stop you must consult your doctor and only reduce dosage under a closely supervised plan. Some anti-depressants can have dangerous side effects if you stop taking them too rapidly.
What Else Can I Do?
Recognising that there is a problem is the start of getting better. Understanding why you are depressed is not always terribly useful. In fact it is often blatantly obvious why we are depressed. Who wouldn’t be depressed after what you have been through? The problem is knowing what to do about it.
Take regular Omega 3 fish oil supplements. These contain fats which can help the brain to stay healthy and some people report great benefits from taking them.
Please call us if you have any questions. We can help you.