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I practise counselling in West Brompton and clients who come to see me there often state that they are depressed. Depression has become one of the most common reasons for people to seek psychotherapy. Perhaps this is because there is less of a stigma to admitting that you may be depressed than there used to be. Or, I have also heard it said, we live in an age that produces more depression among people. Arguably, depression is a response to a given situation and therapy can be a way of learning a healthier response.
Depression can be a way of stifling painful emotions, literally depressing them. In therapy you can learn to let those emotions be expressed safely and develop the strength to be with them.
I have heard it said that depression is like being in a prison where you hold the key. It might seem strange that someone would not want to come out of their depressed state but prison can be used as a place of safety and depression can feel comforting. It can be used as a way not to deal with distressing feelings or risky confrontations. However, the energy that could be used to move a life forward becomes spent in keeping it in check leaving a person feeling stuck and exhausted.
It is hard to have a relationship with someone who is depressed. You can feel your energy being sucked out of you and your motivation being sorely tested by their negative thinking. Living with them can feel like walking on eggshells as they take out their frustration on you. People who are depressed can be very self-absorbed and they can be difficult to reach. Paradoxically, when those with depression most need support can be the time when they act to push people away. Therapy can help them to obtain a more positive perspective.
There is a view that there is a chemical component to depression. I believe that antidepressants have their place in dealing with its effects but I do not think they can provide a long term solution. The longer they are taken the more the body develops a tolerance towards them and higher doses become necessary to provide relief. There is a danger that people can become dependent on them and become scared to stop using them after they have ceased to be able to provide any relief. Perhaps it is healthy relationships that will bring long term change to brain chemistry. These need not just occur in therapy but can be found in wider communities.
Being active can also help change brain chemistry for the better. It can help to break the isolation of the prison of depression and thus reduce the effects of depression. If being depressed is a response to the society we live in then helping to make society a better place can perhaps lift our depression. To work to help others who are more in need than ourselves can give us an illuminating perspective on our own lives. This may be working to address issues that are recent or that have always blighted our lives. To experience the best of life you must let yourself experience the worst.