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Have We Got Depression All Wrong?

For generations depression has been seen as an illness or as abnormal functioning of the brain. It certainly causes much distress and sometimes even death.

Thankfully, researchers are now questioning our current definitions of depression and argue that it is not a mental disorder but the result of one or more negative experiences which get registered in the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). This is part of our biological defence system and is designed to help us survive so, maybe it’s time to ask have we got depression all wrong?

When the body detects danger or feels threatened it activates this defence system and the body shuts down. This initiates a set of symptoms in the mind and body which we call depression. Low energy, lack of interest, feelings of shame and low self-worth along with feeling numb are common symptoms.

When the ANS feels safe, we experience life as normal. We are happy to engage and connect with others and we feel a sense of well-being.

When the ANS senses danger, threat or fear, it triggers our fight or flight response which we experience as anxiety.

If we live in a constant state of anxiety for any length of time, the body decides it can no longer fight or flee from the danger so it simply shuts down and this is referred to as immobilisation.

The role of immobilisation is to dull the feelings of pain. People often report feeling numb or dis-connected. This is a form of protection from emotional pain which can often be too much to face. So, in this sense, depression could be seen as a good thing!

However, this biological defence system is designed for short term use so if immobilisation continues because the danger or threat remains present, it can alter people’s emotions. They experience difficulty with problem solving and feel lethargic both physically and mentally and report feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

So, how can we overcome depression?

Firstly we need to establish if the danger is real or perceived as they need different approaches. Either way, the danger needs to be removed and replaced with real feelings of safety.

Then we need to look at ways to re-establish self-esteem through support and engagement with others in ways which are safe. When we feel safe, connected and loved by others as well as our own self, we can overcome depression.

Sadly, in today’s world if often feels like every day we have to face danger or threat in one form or another and it can be overwhelming. The numbers of people experiencing anxiety and depression are increasing at an alarming rate so I think it’s definitely time to ask if we have got depression all wrong.

People with depression should know that it is not their fault, they should not feel ashamed and they should be encouraged to seek professional help. There absolutely is hope for them and they can turn their life round. When we begin to see that maybe we have got depression all wrong, we can look at ways to overcome it in new ways and from a different perspective.

People with depression should be treated like anyone else, they are normal and should be applauded for carrying on in the face of adversity.

If you are experiencing depression and would like to learn how I can help you move forwards  Contact  me today.