Mindfulness Counselling for Depression
Depression is the UK’s most common form of mental illness and, unlike many physical ailments that have specific characteristics, symptoms of depression can be very different to each individual.
Feeling down, at a low ebb or suffering deep despondency, could be terms used on the ‘spectrum of depression’ but however you describe it, acknowledging that you are depressed and deciding to do something about it is the first step to clearing the fog and moving forward.
Mindfulness depression counselling brings together powerful tools to help you cope when your depression takes hold.
Quick links to:
Am I depressed?
Depression is a mental illness that affects the way we see the world, our actions and the actions of others. We respond to events or stimuli in a way that, when in our non-depressed state, we would handle differently.
Although there are many scenarios and symptoms of depression, here are a few that you may identify with:
(the list is derived form PHQ-9 questionnaire used by NHS professionals to assess depression)
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things that you usually enjoy
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
- Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
- Persistently feeling tired or having little energy
- Or the opposite – being fidgety / restless unable to stay still
- Changes to your food intake – poor appetite, overeating, binging on comfort food
- Feeling bad about yourself – or that you have let yourself / your family down
- Trouble concentrating on things e.g. reading, watching television, completing work
- Moving or speaking so slowly that other people notice and comment on it
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way
You may have already had a discussion with your GP about how you feel, and they have diagnosed that you may be depressed in terms of feeling low and unmotivated.
However, the GP may have reassured you that your mental state would not be diagnosed as ‘clinical depression’.
This is because depression isn’t ‘a single state’.
For example, a GP can diagnose a throat infection and say, ‘you have a streptococcus infection’ and I will treat it with this medication’ – one diagnosis and one treatment.
However, the state of depression is stretched over a spectrum – and depending on intensity and number of symptoms, you may or may not be assessed as ‘clinically depressed’. This doesn’t mean that you are pronounced well and happy and should therefore ‘keep calm and carry on’, despite feeling down. It does mean that you still may be in need of professional support.
Depression, feeling unhappy, existential sadness – what is the difference?
Understanding the difference and identifying correctly where we are on ‘feeling depressed spectrum’ is extremely important in terms of what help is appropriate.
Someone who is clinically depressed but sees themselves as ‘just unhappy’ may have an ‘inner voice’ that is critical and harsh, seeing their low mood and energy levels as ‘being lazy’ or ‘feeling sorry for themselves’ and adding to their feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness, by making unreasonable demands of their mind and body.
On the other hand, another person may feel unhappy about one specific issue in life but not know how to resolve it, sending them into a state of ‘depressed immobility’, that needs to be challenged.
So-called existential sadness can be defined as a ‘state of mind’ which someone may arrive at by contemplating their own mortality or place in the universe, feeling small, unimportant in an unpredictable world. Such state may lead to depression if not resolved, or – if discussed in therapy – can open new ways of looking at one’s purpose in life, introduce spirituality, gratitude, sense of interconnectedness with the world.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to take your feelings of sadness or depression seriously and seek help to understand their meaning and get appropriate support.
Mindfulness Depression Counselling with Anna
A way out of the fog and despair, back to clarity and awareness
Mindfulness counselling for depression, sometimes referred to as mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for depression, offers you effective tools to understand and overcome depression.
For some the deeper roots behind depression may be found in the past.
Depression is often caused by events in the past which might have altered the way they see the world and, in consequence this has led to them creating certain thinking and emotional patterns that reinforce that ‘view’ and provide strategies for survival.
For example, loosing parents at early age may create a view that the world is unfair, dangerous and can’t be trusted. Quick to follow are thinking patterns like:
- nothing is certain
- it’s not worth trying or taking risks
- I am not worthy of love
- I can’t trust anybody
For others there may be no obvious ‘why?’. They report the feeling of being depressed for as long as they can remember, but with no obvious reason.
As important as it is to understand what causes depression, our first urgent task in Mindfulness based therapy is to help you regain basic functioning in life, overcome feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Once we achieved that, you will be more able and willing to explore the thinking patterns behind depression, to first reduce their emotional effect and then to alter them to more life affirming beliefs.
This approach is essential to help you to live with your depression now and overcome it in the future.
I think that the following quote by Stefan Hofmann, PhD, a Boston University professor whose lab studies anxiety and related disorders, succinctly sums up the process.
“Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’s emphasis on cultivating awareness and acceptance of the present moment also seeks to harness ruminating and mind wandering, both of which are implicated in depression.”
Take the first step and contact Anna to discuss Mindfulness Depression Counselling
Are you living with and helping someone who suffers from depression?
Deciding to support a loved one through depression is an act of courage and kindness. This is the most important message I want to deliver, because in my experience, often those individuals don’t see it.
This is because the carer of the depressed person rates their efforts by the effects it has on the person suffering from depression, and these efforts may seem negligible.
This is not because they aren’t doing the right thing, but because depression is almost a synonym of loneliness and hopelessness, taking its sufferers hostage and forcing them to isolate and withdraw, whilst at the same time crying for help internally.
- come to terms with pain of watching someone’s suffering, and feeling powerless about it
- anger about the unfairness of life (for yourself and the sufferer)
- anger with the depression sufferer for not getting better
- anger with yourself for not doing enough
- your own feeling of sadness, exasperation, loosing hope
- recognising when you need respite and TLC.
Living with black dog
Mindfulness Depression Counselling in London
If you need support while helping someone else, take the first step and contact Anna to discuss Mindfulness Depression Counselling support
Some frequently asked questions about depression
What is the difference between depression and depression disorder?
Is there a link Between Anxiety and Depression Disorder?
Are there different types of depression?
Major Depressive Disorder – a condition whose primary symptom is an overwhelming depressed mood for more than two weeks and affects all areas of the person’s life, including work, home life, relationships and friendships. A person with this kind of depression often finds it difficult to do much of anything or get motivated, so even going to seek treatment for this condition can be challenging.
Dysthymia or chronic depression – symptoms are similar to Major Depressive Disorder, but occur over a longer period of time – more than 2 years. This is considered a chronic form of depression, and treatment can be challenging as an individual with Dysthymia has often already tried all manner of treatment. Individuals diagnosed with this condition can also suffer from occasional bouts of Major Depressive Disorder.
Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood. – when a person is adjusting to some new facet or change in their lives that has caused a great deal of stress. This disorder can even be diagnosed when a person is experiencing a good event in their life – such as a new marriage or a baby being born. Because the individual usually just needs a little additional support in their lives during this stressful time, treatment is time-limited and simple. Within this type we include
- Postnatal depression or Baby blues
What causes depression?
(see adjustment disorder with depressed mood) This is a valid question because theoretically when we know what causes the illness we can prevent it, at least to some degree. There is an indication that certain life situations can trigger depression – hence specific types of depression we talk about
- Post-natal depression
- SAD – seasonal effective mood disorder
Here are some life situations that have not worked for their own “type” but may lead depression if the underlying issue is not resolved
- Bullying and harassment at work
- Loss of a loved person
- Long term illness with extended periods of recovery and loss of ability to do life affirming activities
What helps when you suffer from depression – and what doesn’t?
- Be informed and kind: understand the nature of your illness and don’t make it worse by being impatient and giving “just get on with it” messages
- Celebrate each smallest improvement in energy and wellbeing every day
- Look after your sleep: avoid stimulants in your diet as they affect sleep , making you feel worse instantly
- As much as possible engage in physical activity – even a slow walk changes the body chemistry and distracts your brain form engaging in depressive thoughts
- Use mindfulness – choose practices that work for you (its best to consult with an experienced teacher , e.g mindfulness of breathing may not be helpful if you suffer from panic attacks)
- Accept that some days none of the above will work at all, but be willing to try again
How to overcome depression – treatment
Overcoming depression and living with depression“Depression is not only the most common mental illness, it’s also one of the most tenacious. Up to 80 percent of people who experience a major depressive episode may relapse. Drugs may lose their effectiveness over time, if they work at all. Consequently some of us may come out of depression and never experience it again whereas others will need to “live and cope with depression”. In such case depression can be viewed as a “relapsing condition”. In such instance understanding your depression and developing a relationship with it, through talking therapies is an essential part of treatment
Black dog video
Medication, therapy or both?
Medication can be extremely helpful – lifesaving in times of acute bouts of illness. It does alleviate the symptoms which make life unbearably painful. It brings a person to the stage where they are able to absorb any therapy work. However on their own they will not eliminate the root cause of depression or inject coping strategies during illness or preventative/transformative learning when the illness subsides.
Imagine depression as a dark well and you are in the bottom. If the way out is too high, jumping up will just exhaust you and make the well feel even deeper and impossible to get out of. Medication is a stool, which on its own will not take you out of the well, but will give enough height to give you a chance if you try.
If you need help to find your way forward and out of the fog contact Anna to discuss Mindfulness Counselling for Depression
Resources and useful links for help with depression
This is a thought provoking video on how we perceive those who are depressed
This article appeared on the American Psychological Associations website which explores the benefits of Mindfulness for treating depression