Would you know if you were suffering with depression? The problem can be that many depression symptoms mimic the stresses of everyday life and so often go undiagnosed. The four main symptoms that we are examining today together form the cycle of depression.
Cyclical or repetitive negative thoughts
When our 9 basic emotional needs are met well, we are more resilient and can cope with daily life. Examples of these needs are having a sense of status, community, intimacy, achievement, control and security. With events such as the loss of a loved one, a breakdown in a relationship or any other traumatic experience, it can severely compromise our emotional needs. Consequently when these needs aren’t met well we’re likely to be highly stressed and have an increase in anxiety.
As a result, we can find ourselves thinking a lot of negative recurring thoughts, often on a loop. These thoughts raise our emotional levels and when we are in an emotional state we’re not able to think clearly. This means that all the thoughts we have in this emotional state tend to be black and white, catastrophic thoughts. These catastrophic thoughts only heighten the feelings of anxiety and the negative state of mind.
Feeling constantly exhausted
Worrying and ruminating go on to have a negative effect on the body as well as the brain. When the day is full of negative emotional thoughts, we have to dream more at night to process them. Dreaming is a the only way we have of dealing with unexpressed emotions, and this is done in REM sleep. In this state, the brain reprograms itself and allows us to start the next day afresh. On a day without an excess of unexpressed emotions, a healthy adult will still dream for around 25% of the night.
But imagine you’re having to dream out a day full of negative recurring thoughts. Now you’re needing to dream much more, and the problem is that dream sleep uses more energy than being awake! As a consequence of this you may well wake up frequently in the night, especially around 2-3am, because the brain is trying to conserve energy. Also, you are not getting the right proportion of deep slow wave sleep, and it’s this type of sleep that allows us to wake up feeling refreshed. So between the broken sleep and the lack of slow wave sleep, you’re likely to be feeling pretty exhausted! And this exhaustion isn’t like a physical tiredness, it’s different. The energy we’re lacking is motivational energy. This is the kind that we need to do the things we don’t have to do, but want to do. So you might be sleeping more but feeling more tired.
No enjoyment in hobbies or activities
Most of us go to work. And most of us go to work because we have to. Hobbies and activities are the sprinkles on top that make life fun and balanced. We choose to do these things because we like to do them. However, if you are exhausted you might well wake up feeling like all you want to do is go back to bed, and then it’s quite difficult to find the energy needed to go to the gym or that dance class. Most people will still go to work because they need to do that to pay the bills. You might still do those extra things but it’s such a struggle because you’re so tired that you don’t enjoy them as much. It just seems like too much effort.
So it’s hard to maintain those extra activities if you’re tired and have the choice not to do them. You might find that you stop going to things after work so you can have an early night. And you might stop weekend activities because you want to just chill out and recover from the week.
The problem with this is that these hobbies and activities add balance to our lives and effortlessly help us to meet our emotional needs. So when we stop doing them, our emotional needs take a hit. This means we’re less resilient emotionally AND we have even more time for those negative thoughts!
Wanting to withdraw from daily life
As the tiredness increases and hobbies and interests fall by the wayside there is not so much contact with others. Emotional needs are critically affected, meaning that stress and anxiety are at an all time high. Being anxious everyday means that you’re constantly in a state of fight or flight, and this takes its toll. Many people at this point, will start to shut down. It’s safer this way and cutting yourself off from others, means that you don’t have to put on a front and pretend life is fine. The constant exhaustion means that it’s a major effort to even get washed and dressed in the mornings, let alone go for those walks outside that everyone is always recommending!
It’s important to understand just how this part of the cycle has been formed, and how, being a cycle, it goes on to be self-perpetuating. There’s now lots more time for ruminating and negative thoughts which keeps the dream sleep high and the motivational energy low. This of course adds to the exhaustion.
Things to try for depression symptoms
Lowering your emotional levels and getting your emotional needs met in healthy ways will help to break the cycle.
- Lower the amount of emotional thinking that you are doing during the day. Do things that will distract and raise your mood. By spending less of the day ruminating and worrying, you will improve the quality of your sleep. Try simple things such as having a shower, going for a walk outside in the sunshine or phoning a friend. Start small! It’s understandable if right now these things seem impossible, so just focus on one small thing that you might be able to do today.
- Another way to lower your emotional levels is do this breathing exercise, morning and night for around 5-10 minutes.
- It could be that there is trauma at the root of the depression which needs to be addressed. Trauma can stop you living your life in a balanced and healthy way, and from getting your needs met. Get help from a dedicated trauma therapist to help you move forwards and help to break the cycle of depression.
- Focus outwards rather than inwards. Helping or talking to other people with their problems helps to lessen the amount of introspection and worrying you do.
Can therapy help depression symptoms?
It’s essential that any therapy you have to help depression is solution focused and aims to help process any distressing memories. It should be done in minimal sessions, without there being unnecessary emotional exploration. Additionally, the therapy should only target the issues that are relevant to the current distress, and not dig up past trauma that’s irrelevent. After all, you shouldn’t have to feel worse before you feel better, you’re suffering enough already.
I hope you have found this information about depression symptoms helpful. As always please share if you know someone who would benefit from reading it. For more information and useful downloads, head over to our website.
With very best wishes