According to research, up to one in five people in Britain are affected by depression at some point in their lives and the use of anti-depressants has reached an all-time high. The word itself has become frightening, even depressing in itself. However, there are many types of depression, including reactive depression, the treatment of which does not necessarily require medication.
Reactive depression is also know as situational depression, or adjustment disorder and there are three types of it, namely relational, situational and adjustment – and it’s a depression that happens as the result of something that has occurred in a person’s life, or is related to a person’s life events, which is where cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) comes in.
CBT takes the point of view that it’s not the events (or situations) in life that disturb you, but what you believe about those events that disturbs you. So, if you’re thinking, feeling or acting in a way that you don’t like, but don’t seem to be able to change, a CBT therapist wouldn’t help you look at the situation, but would look at what you’re telling yourself about it. Change what you tell yourself and you can change how you think, feel and act.
CBT takes an elegant approach to mental wellness, one known as the ABCDE model of psychological health: where activating events (A), trigger beliefs (B) which cause consequences (C). You need to dispute (D) those beliefs to bring about an effective rational outlook (E) to that original activating event.
Your consequences at C include your thoughts, feelings behaviour, symptoms and emotions.
As most people go through life, they talk in what CBT therapists call AC language, that is they say the event made them feel that way, as in “my boss makes me angry” or “giving presentations makes me anxious.”
But, with CBT it’s not your boss that makes you angry, it’s what you tell yourself about your boss that makes you angry and it’s not the presentation that makes you anxious, it’s what you tell yourself about it that does that, hence the ABCDE model.
Going back to reactive depression, we can easily become depressed over certain life events, such as the loss of a loved one, being fired, breaking up with someone and so on.
All these situations are activating events at A. Your depression is a consequence at C. And, in between, you have whatever it is you are telling yourself at B that is making you feel depressed.
Now, in the aftermath of losing a loved one, of dealing with a breakup, depression is a normal, if not pleasant emotion and one that will usually fade with time. But, if you are still depressed several months, or even years down the line, then it’s time to do something about it.
Most people are too scared to do that though, as they fear the diagnosis. They fear being labelled as a depressed person, they fear being put on medication.
However, if you realise that your depression is a reaction to a particular life event, it’s worth mentioning to your GP or, better still, seeking out the services of a professional therapist. Forget the Prozac, you don’t need it. A few sessions of CBT, or CBT and hypnotherapy combined and you’ll be feeling like your old self again in less time than you think.
CBT is highly effective here, as we are looking at depression as an emotional problem, rather than as a condition, when it’s depression as a condition (clinical depression, for instance) that most people fear.
Clinical, or major depression is not always the result of what you are telling yourself about certain life events, it is quite often chemical – the brain doesn’t have the chemicals it needs to balance itself out. But, people with clinical depression can still find relief with psychotherapy.
However, that’s the subject of a blog for another day.