It’s that time of the year again, when the days are becoming shorter and nights longer. We are exposed to much less light, which in itself can put a dampener on our mood (not that we get a lot of sunshine in Scotland anyway!). This in itself can contribute toward SAD – seasonal affective disorder – for which buying a special lamp (lightbox) may help to alleviate the symptoms.
Because longer and colder nights allow for reflection, I started thinking about depression. People tend to feel lower during the cold months and yes, the lack of light that I’ve already mentioned plays its part. But what happens when the sad, gloomy and often hopeless moods persist and become overpowering? They can turn into depression, which is so common now that it could almost be considered the most common ‘disease’ of our modern Western society. I will not bore you with statistics because you can look them up yourself, but the fact is that depression is very common. If you really wanted to know more, find a copy of the book ‘Affluenza’ by Dr. Oliver James, which I highly recommend. Or email me and I’d quite happily send you some academic articles on the topic. (If you are an insomniac, this could be a good cure!).
So what causes depression?
That’s a very good question. Controversial past research claimed that it was because of a ‘chemical imbalance’ in our brains and decreased levels of serotonin but this view is now considered too simplistic. Depression can cause reduced levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help your brain to communicate messages from one part of it to the other as well as to different parts of our body. Hence, antidepressants work on modulating various neurotransmitters in the brain.
The fact is, though, that they do not treat depression, only the symptoms of depression. However, they do play their part in the treatment as they can provide some relief. So if you are on medication, please do not just stop taking it and always consult your doctor before embarking upon any alternative or additional methods of treating clinical depression.
Depression is complex and the best way to look at it is to take into account biological, psychological and social factors. Nutrition, upbringing, family relationships, education, genes, past experiences, sudden trauma, our own view of the world and thinking patterns all play a part. And let’s not forget societal pressures. The media constantly bombard us with the images of perfection that we all need to aspire to. If you are an adult woman, you need to be size 8 at most, no wrinkles, managing working full-time, childcare and running a busy household all done with a perfect pearly white smile on your face. Younger and younger teenage girls are dieting, wearing make-up, feeling the pressure of being ‘perfect’ already. The spike in the number of people battling eating disorders speaks for itself. If you are a man, you need to have an amazing job, look like a model and the wrinkle issue is slowly creeping into male world too. The reality, however, is that life is not like the magazines.
Depression does not choose whether you are rich, poor, tall or short. Anyone can experience it and everyone will experience it differently. There are some common symptoms though, such as lack of energy (often combined with poor sleep or even insomnia), ruminative thinking, seeing life through black and white lenses or even fantasising about being dead because it would put an end to misery. These are some of the most common symptoms.
How can depression be overcome?
The best approach for treating depression is a combination of medication and some psychological intervention. Hypnotherapy, usually combined with some form of psychotherapy, can be effective but I would like to point out that every client is different. We all have different experiences and views that shape how we view the world, so there’s no one universal approach to treatment. If you’re interested in finding the right approach for you (and have consulted your GP over this) we can combine hypnotherapy with CBT or perhaps mindfulness or another approach…Everyone is unique.
My role as a hypnotherapist is to help you see the world through different lenses, not only a black or white one. This may just mean seeing shades of grey to start with but with the ability to add more colours growing over time. The aim is that eventually you can experience life in its full, colourful beauty again.