Helpguide for Understanding Depression Part 1

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/dealing_depression_treatment.htm

Depression is melancholy, sadness or a mood of despair, lingering for a long time that limits a person’s ability to function normally. In counselling we frequently have to deal with depression in clients.

What are the causes of depression?

There is no single cause of depression. Early life experience, environmental factors, genetic predisposition, lifestyle factors, and social support - or the lack thereof - all play a part in causing depression.

Feeling connected to people in our daily lives makes an enormous difference in our ability to surmount stress that might trigger depression.

Individuals who feel unknown or unseen, or who avoid the support and comfort of others, are at risk for depression and depressive disorders.

Possible causes

Depression can be the outcome of many different kinds of experiences, from early childhood to later life.

Lifestyle factors may contribute to depression, either alone or in combination. Examples include isolation, overwork, poor diet, excess caffeine or sugar, lack of exercise, and lack of fun and recreation.

Experiences that are known to contribute to the development of mental illnesses, including depression:

  • A chaotic, unsafe, or dangerous environment such as family violence.
  • Serious loss or trauma in early life such as being abused or neglected.
  • Traumatic experiences later in life.
  • Loss of social support including one caused by the death of a loved one or the loss of a job.
  • Extreme stress such as that caused by a serious loss or financial problems.
  • Unhealthy social conditions such as poverty or homelessness.
  • Experiences that undermine self-confidence, such as social failures.
  • Learned helplessness and negative thought patterns, often experienced as the belief that we have no control over the things that matter most to us.
  • Chronic illness that seriously restricts activity, such as Parkinson’s or cancer.
  • Side-effects of medications, such as blood-pressure medications or other common drugs.
  • An unsatisfying love relationship can be a part of the problem mix.

Other possible causes

Physical.  Hormonal changes that affect mood, such as the onset or end of menstruation.

Abuse: Abuse of drugs and alcohol can have depressive effects. Depression may lead to attempts to control feelings by using substances, or the negative consequences of substance use lead to depression.

Genetic causes, although the link could more commonly be an environmental one. It has long been assumed that when depression runs in families, the cause is defective genes. But parents also transmit their general patterns of perception and thinking to their children. Some children are programmed early in life to make grossly negative interpretations about themselves and life in general.

Biochemical causes:  An imbalance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin is known to affect the processing of thoughts and emotions. The theory that a chemical imbalance causes depression, rather than reflects it, continues to be debated. Life experience probably affects brain chemistry at least as much as brain chemistry affects life experience.

 

Traumatic life experiences

Trauma affects the way our brains function at an anatomical or physical level, including chemical changes in the brain.

There is a complex but apparent relationship between depression and the way our minds and bodies react to highly stressful, traumatizing experiences.

Trauma is the aftermath of a stressful experience that inhibits the normal return to a resting or calm state.  It can occur in any context where you feel overwhelmed, alone, and vulnerable. Unresolved trauma may be caused by early life experiences such as:

  • Abusive or isolating experiences.
  • Shocking experiences, such as disasters or car accidents.
  • Experiences such as hospitalisa­tions, “near-misses,” or witnessing something very upsetting.

Play as an antidote to depression

“When you’re depressed, the whole body is depressed, and it translates to the cellular level. The first objective is to get your energy up, and you can do it through play. It’s one of the most powerful ways of breaking up hopelessness and bring energy into the situation.” - Dr. Carl Simonton.

Play creates a state of mind that is safe, inquisitive, and exists in the moment. It is also a body state of relaxation and an uplifting, engaged emotional experience. Some find play a spiritual state of profound connection and joy.

Play is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet we often take play for granted and may completely forget to do it. If a depressed person can get up and off the couch, they will feel better by becoming engrossed in play.

 

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The need for pastoral work

South Africans suffer from spiritual wounds and stress. The causes are many - the lack of reconciliation, poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, ongoing violence, crime and transformation in the workplace. Problems in the family, marriage and relationships are compounded by the issues such as debt and work-related stress.

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