A normal depressive reaction can be triggered for many reasons, it is often associated to loss, this can be loss of a loved one, a job or even identity.
These symptoms can be experienced on a continuum between mild and severe:
- Low mood for longer than two weeks
- Changes to appetite, either eating more or less
- Feeling guilty (more than usual)
- Negative thoughts about the self, the world and the future
- Low motivation
- Feeling more irritable than usual
- Not getting the same amount of pleasure from life or previously enjoyed activities
The main thing people find when they are depressed is their level of motivation is very low and they do not experience pleasure or enjoyment from things they used to enjoy. It is due to this lack of enjoyment that you may stop doing activities you enjoy which lowers your motivation even further, and you may begin to isolate yourself due to negative thinking and the negative cycle continues.
Cycle of Low Mood and Maintaining Factors
As it is a cycle it is not important where it starts, what is important is that the cycle is broken and the best way to do this is to begin to activate yourself, also known as Behavioural Activation, however this is a very hard thing to do when your mood is low and this is where a cognitive behavioural approach can help.
Behavioural Activation is a treatment that is designed to help you recognise the pattern of negative thoughts and behaviours and teach you to identify when you are caught up in a depressive cycle.
Behavioural Activation (BA), helps you to identify these mechanisms and change them, one of the things that we all do when feeling depressed is ruminate or brood over things we can’t understand or change. Some people see rumination as a way to problem solve their situation, they believe the more they think about something the more likely they will be to resolve it. Whilst It seems like the most natural thing to do, you cannot think yourself out of depression and if anything you will think yourself into it.
Rumination has been shown to have a causal link to depression, the more you ruminate on things you can’t change the lower your mood will be. Once your mood is low you will be caught in the negative cycle of: low mood – negative thoughts – isolate self / withdraw – decrease in enjoyment low mood.
Targeting the rumination by tracking when, where, for how long and structuring your day to do things that give you a pleasure and a sense of achievement.
It can be helpful to aim to do one each of the activities listed below as they are shown to be necessary for good mental health.