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Depression - Information Sheet

What is depression?

It’s a word used to describe different degrees of feeling sad, unhappy, blue, down, disappointed, miserable, despairing, downhearted, pained, upset, alienated, distressed, bitter, low mood etc. Everyone will experience some of these emotions sometime in their lives.

Feeling down can be an important signal to make changes in life.

Clinical depression

Some people feel unhappy or low for weeks or even years. Their low mood can interfere seriously with how they function day to day. They may be unable to work or get out of bed and be unwilling to relate to other people, they may feel uncaring towards themselves or others. Some people find that life doesn’t seem worth living and nothing seems to be worth the effort. Suicide or self-harm can appear as solutions to escape the misery. If you feel like this or have such thoughts, it’s very likely that you’re clinically depressed. Do reach out for help because help is at hand – please contact me or use the links below.

Current research says that approximately one in five people will experience an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime. You are not alone.

What causes depression?

It is believed that some people are born predisposed to feeling sad, just as others are predisposed to feeling fearful, happy or aggressive. This predisposition when combined with difficult life events can produce depression in some individuals. There is a hereditary component to mental states, illness and well being, calmness and aggression. Brain chemistry is different for people suffering depression but it’s not known why or how the neurotransmitters which regulate mood become abnormal in people with depression.

People who are depressed engage in thinking which makes their situation worse.

Social trends

Unfortunately, society being what it is with its competition and put downs, intolerance and injustice has produced a culture of blaming those who are down. So, many people who are depressed feel too ashamed to admit they are struggling, perceiving it to be a sign of weakness. They don’t get help and will go on being depressed, feeling miserable, maybe attempting suicide or other form of self harm. Most will continue feeling down and may create difficulties in the lives of those around them, without meaning to do so and then feel even more miserable.

Treatment for depression

There are treatments such as specifically targeted medications and psychological intervention that have been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating depression. Various kinds of antidepressant medication can help to restore the brain's chemical balance to improve mood. See a GP or psychiatrist for these.

Psychological treatments offer support, ways to change thinking and behaviour and to add positive activities to help someone work through their depression. The causes of depression and what keeps it going for a particular person need to be uncovered. These provide a starting point for change. Managing or eliminating stressors, changing negative thinking and reconnecting with deeper values and desires can be helpful for the establishment of a more satisfying lifestyle.

Medication and reliance on counselling and psychological strategies has been shown to be more beneficial for some people than medication alone or counselling alone. Everyone is different. Antidepressant medication helps stabilise a person's mood and increases their responsiveness to psychological treatment. The psychological treatment provides support and strategies to develop coping skills to minimise future relapse.

How do you know if you are depressed?

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, upset, miserable, irritable, sometimes agitated without relief (crying)

  • Inability to sleep the night through, yet feeling fatigued

  • Inability to get on with daily life routines – hard to get out of bed

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, alone or with others

  • Loss of sense of achievement

  • Disconnection with others, feeling lonely yet unable to connect meaningfully or pleasurably

  • Negative thinking – putting themselves down, not seeing the good in their lives or in others, believing nothing can change for the better and that they are helpless to make changes

  • Worry about themselves, the future, their circumstances whilst feeling unable to change anything

  • Preoccupation with negative thinking prevents positive experiences from being noticed or experienced.

  • Easily upset, frustrated, angry for seemingly no reason

  • Hopelessness – feeling trapped, believing nothing can ever change for the better, suicidal thoughts or plans

Tips to help yourself

  • Make a list of small things you could do each day that could make you feel better

  • Increase your activity level no matter how small the steps you take – do something

  • Focus on the smallest pleasurable things eg how good it feels to shower, to have a cup of tea, put

  • on clean clothes

  • When sad or angry thoughts arise, distract yourself some of the time, refocus on doing something

  • Resist dwelling on past hurts and painful events

  • Recall the things you once enjoyed and decide to do them again, including them on your daily lists

  • When talking with others, besides your doctor or psychologist, focus more on the positive or neutral,

  • avoid discussing things that bring you down or anger you further

  • Notice what people enjoy day to day and pick something to do yourself

  • Give yourself credit for making an effort

  • Some people keep a journal of their negative thoughts to get it out of their system and to understand themselves better and to change their thinking patterns, challenge your own thinking

  • Some have ‘worry time’ – specific time eg 15 – 30 mins per day to worry about anything but then to stop for the rest of the day

  • When agitated, let people around you know how you feel, but don’t use it as an excuse to behave badly, don’t blame them for your feelings (your family and friends are your supports, thank them)

  • Connect, talk with others, even if you don’t feel like it

  • Try to identify why you feel how you feel – see what you can do to change something, agitated

  • Some people benefit from relaxation and meditation activities

  • Stop using alcohol or illicit drugs to manage your moods as the good feelings will be short lived

  • Reduce intake of caffeine via coffee, tea and cola drinks – these can keep you awake and agitated

  • Even if you don’t sleep well, stay in bed and meditate, relax, or get up and do something relaxing Don’t nap during the day it will interfere with night sleeping


Get help if you cannot change things on your own, don’t beat yourself up for not being an expert

on depression – you don’t have to go it alone.

Contact your GP for a referral to a mental health professional, phone a crisis line, go on the web to sites such as:

Life Line crisis line: www.lifeline.org.au Phone: 13 11 14

Beyondblue Australiawww.beyondblue.org.au Ph: 1300 22 4636

For young peoplewww.headspace.org.au

Black Dog Institute - www.blackdoginstitute.org.au Ph: (02) 9382 4523


© Eli Sky psychologist 2010. All rights reserved.

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