Thursday, January 28, 2010

Depression – The” D” word

Feelings of depression are a fairly common concern of people who come to counselling. Some researchers have noted that depression in the western world is almost reaching epidemic proportions and the age of first onset seems to be getting younger. Depression is a complex condition and it has biological and social aspects to it as well as psychological aspects. (I’ve referred to the bio-psycho-social approach to many client concerns in an earlier blog.)

In focusing on some of the more psychological aspects of what my client’s call “Depression”, I’ve noticed that depression has become the “D” word. But the word “depression” often hides more than it reveals. There are many different and oftentimes interrelated experiences that client’s refer to as depression. It can involve sadness, resignation, lethargy, and low mood. The dictionary definition of depression also includes a sense of “slowing down” or “pressing down” which can of course refer to the experience of depression or to other uses of the word –e.g. to depress the gas pedal. With depression, I often get the image that something or someone is contributing to the pressing or slowing down of a person. It then becomes the job of counselling to expose the culprit.

Depression is the “D” word for a number of reasons. Although one might argue that there is less stigma with experiencing depression since it has become so widespread – stigma still exists. People may admit to occasional bouts of small “d” “depression but will admit less frequently to big “D” Depression. The stigma goes something like this: Depression can sometimes suggest a failure of the individual to exert sufficient willpower or be lacking somehow in enough moral fiber to “get over” whatever might be troubling them. (These stigmas have no basis in reality and only serve to make things worse for the depressed person.)

Depression is the “D” word for another reason as well. Under the umbrella of depression, a counsellor may very well find a number of other D words hiding in the client’s experience. Notably, there seems to be a preponderance of “D” words involved in the experience of depression. A few that I have noted include discouragement, despair, disillusionment, dejection, disappointment, disenchantment, distress, discontent, dissatisfaction, distress and dissatisfaction.
While the word “depression” often confounds more than it reveals (other than the image of depression as pressing or slowing down), the other “D’ words are much more approachable in my attempts to understand and work with the experience of “depression”.


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