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The World Health Organisation considers depression to be the leading cause of worldwide disability, affecting 300 million people globally. In any year in Australia, one million Australians adults will struggle with depressed mood, and 2 million with a range of anxiety problems. We all get sad from time to time as life throws challenges and difficulties our way. However, depression is more than just feeling a bit down. Clinical depression is a term used when a person's symptoms of depression reach a certain threshold.
The symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of depression can be found below. If a person is experiencing 5 or more of the criteria below, within a two weeks period, then a diagnosis of clinical depression can be made.
Clinical depression typically indicates more severe symptoms of depression. However, whether a person meets full criteria for a major depressive disorder or not, if any symptoms of depression are affecting your life, then engaging with a clinical psychologist will likely prove to be highly beneficial.
Psychological treatments for depression are highly effective. Most people will respond well to psychotherapies aimed at reducing the symptoms of depressed mood. One approach that has been extensively researched is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT. Below are some of the core components of CBT for depression.
Cognitive therapy: Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, spoke of the negative triad in people who are depressed. This refers to negative beliefs about the self, the world, and the future. People who are depressed tend to hold more negative beliefs in each of these domains. Working to more closely evaluate a person's beliefs (which may be largely unconscious) lead to reductions in depressed mood.
Behavioural activation: Depression leads to low motivation, pessimism regarding the future, concentration problems, and fatigue. Each of these symptoms make it hard to work towards goal-directed activities. As so often, people who are depressed aren't engaged in rewarding and meaningful activities. This reduced the amount of reward and pleasure that someone can experience in their life, further compounding depressed mood. Gradually supporting someone to engage in an increased number of valued and goal-directed activities, is another effective strategy that can help to improve your mood.
Mindfulness training: With a barrage of negative thoughts and feelings, mindfulness training can assist to get relief, and distance, from these experiences. While cognitive therapy aims to change or correct negative thinking patterns, mindfulness aims to change a person's relationship with their mind, thoughts, emotions, and all perceptive experience. Being able to see thoughts as just that, thoughts, that will always pass, are never permanent, and which are just one perspective on reality, can assist those suffering with depression to better cope and work towards what they truely value.
Other components of CBT: In addition to the CBT strategies above, a variety of others components can make up the full CBT treatment regime. Other components of this psychotherapy approach can include assertion training, relaxation training, and behavioural experiments. There are also many core components about talking to a clinical psychologist that lead to positive changes in mood. Having someone who can listen and provide guidance and support alone, can lead to improvements in depression.
Dr Mark Bartholomew is a Gold Coast Clinical Psychologist offering psychological treatments for a range of common psychological concerns. MHM Psychology is located in Coomera on the Gold Coast. We can be contacted on 1300 848 072.