What is … Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder. Often a PHQ 9 questionnaire is used to help diagnose depression. People can experience depression over a few weeks or months, over a few years or all their life. They may have one episode or repeating episodes throughout their life.  Depression is more than a feeling of ‘fed up’ or ‘miserable’ for a few days as this is a very normal experience for most people to have short periods of low mood. To be diagnosed as clinical depression these feelings of persistent and lasting sadness, hopelessness and unhappiness have to last for weeks or more and are bad enough to significantly disrupt normal functions of your work, social life and family life (doctors sometimes categorise it with mild, moderate and severe labels).

One big question often asked regarding the causes is Genetic/Physical or Life Experience? It is a difficult question to answer. Brain chemistry of depression involving the role of neurotransmitters and chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine, hormones such as thyroxine can be involved. Some research has shown people with depression have slight physical difference in their brain structure as well. Often people who have family members with depression are more prone to depression, but psychologists and scientists are not sure if this is nature (genetics) or nurture (watching and mimicking someone as you grow up).

Some people like to separate depression into types, you may have heard of SAD or Seasonal affective disorder a type of depression that occurs at a particular time of year – usually autumn/winter. Dysthymia a continuous mild depression lasting for two years or more (sometimes called persistent depressive disorder). Prenatal depression (during pregnancy) and Postnatal depression (first year or so after giving birth). Some people class grief as a type of depression, I personally see them as different yet having some similarities based on my experiences having worked as a bereavement specialist, and with people who are depressed.

Depression can be a part of other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, other personality disorders and schizoaffective disorder to name a few.

image kristina-tripkovic

Symptoms of depression include feeling unhappy or hopeless, low self-esteem and finding no pleasure in things you usually enjoy. Depression can have psychological, physical and social symptoms continuous low mood or sadness. These include feeling (not an exhaustive list):

•          hopeless, pessimistic or helpless

•          low self-esteem

•          tearful

•          guilt-ridden or worthless

•          irritable and intolerant of others cranky and restless

•          having no motivation or interest in things

•          finding it difficult to make decisions

•          not getting any enjoyment or pleasure out of things you normally would

•          anxious or worried

•          suicidal thoughts or self-harming

•          struggling to focus or remember

•          moving or speaking more slowly or more quickly than usual

•          changes in appetite (eating more or less) or weight (gain or loss)

•          constipation

•          unexplained aches and pains

•          lack of energy

•          low sex drive

•          changes to your menstrual cycle

•          disturbed sleep – difficulty falling asleep at night or waking up very early, trouble staying asleep

•          tired or lacking energy

•          avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities

•          neglecting your hobbies and interests

•          having difficulties in your home, work or family life

•          digestive problems

•          “empty” feelings

•          a sense of unreality

•          using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual

•          delusions, such as paranoia

•          hallucinations, such as hearing voices.

There is no single or unique agreed cause of depression. It is believed depression can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many potential and different triggers. It can be one event or a collection of events, it may even be linked to an illness. Some of these ‘causes’ can include:

•          Personality /Family history – certain personality traits may make people more vulnerable to feeling depression, possibly due to genetics, or your early life experiences, or both.

•          Giving birth – hormonal and physical changes, as well as new responsibility could possibly trigger pre/postnatal depression.

•          Loneliness – sometimes caused by feeling low and stressful events/occurrences leading us to isolate from friends and family perpetrating the depression.

•          Alcohol and drugs – drugs such as cannabis can trigger depression, particularly in teenagers, while alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, which increases the risk of depression (please see previous blog posts about drugs and alcohol).

•          Illness – evidence shows there is a potential higher risk of depression if you have a longstanding or life-threatening illness, such as coronary heart disease, cancer, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), or damaged pituitary gland, or if you suffer a head injury they can sometimes trigger mood swings and emotional problems. A chemical imbalance or hormone issue, conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, menstrual cycle or the menopause, low blood sugar.

•          Childhood experiences – physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, bereavement, traumatic events, an unstable family situation, bullying

•          Low self-esteem – how you learned to cope with difficult emotions and situations can make you feel less able to cope with life’s ups and downs and lead to failing coping mechanisms.

•          Life events – such as losing your job or unemployment; the end of a relationship; bereavement; major life changes, like changing job, moving house or getting married; being physically or sexually assaulted; being bullied or abused; trauma; illness. It takes time for people to come to terms with events, such as these. If these happen consecutively some people may feel they spiral into depression.

•          Sleep problems, a poor diet, lack of exercise can also lead to depression and altered body chemistry.

•          Other mental health problems and illness such as anxiety; eating problems; PTSD; bi-polar; personality disorders.

Treatment for depression usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medicines such as SSRI commonly known as anti-depressants (please see earlier blog post about medications for more information). A good place to start would be your doctor or speaking to a therapist.

If you are struggling with depression or would like support with mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

Mindfulness Extra

These are some Mindfulness activities I learnt on my mindfulness training. I hope they offer some ideas to you.

The 4 A’s in Mindfulness to help with stress.

AVOID, ALTER, ADAPT, ACCEPT.

AVOID – avoid unnecessary stress, eg stressful people/situations if you can, say no if you can to the cause of stress, must and should are different words and be sure if it is a choice not a pressure.

ALTER – if you can’t avoid a stressful situation can you alter it? Can you alter how you act, feel, respond to the situation. Compromise.

ADAPT – if you can’t change the stress cause change how you think about it – eg reframe the thought, rethink the problem, refocus on the issues differently, review the big picture. It is not raining it is watering the plants, it’s not bad weather if you wear a waterproof coat etc

ACCEPT – sometimes you can’t change things, don’t focus on the immovable, think what can alter in you, how accept it and grow from it.

10 Mindfulness tips.

  1. Do one thing at a time
  2. Do things slowly and deliberately (focused)
  3. Do less (don’t overfill your day, you’ll end up doing more)
  4. Leave space (don’t feel rushed)
  5. Spend a few minutes every few hours doing nothing
  6. Focus on the present
  7. Be present with people
  8. Eat, walk, act, mindfully (slow, focused, deliberate)
  9. Cultivate compassion and gratitude
  10. Do not judge

If you would like support with Mindfulness, or other mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

New Location

Here is our new address: Room 7, The Annexe, The Old Police Station, Water Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 1HN.

The office is situated about a 10 to 15 minute walk outside Newcastle town centre next to the Borough Arms Hotel.

It has some parking on the road in front of the building but it also has a good sized public car park just to the rear marked on the map as King Street Car Park. There are multiple bus stops nearby and Newcastle bus station is a 5 to 10 minute walk away.

In addition after 4 years, due to rising costs, we are announcing a price increase to £40 a session starting 1st Oct 2021.

What is …. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an outlook or mind-set, it is how we view and interpret the world around us. Mindfulness helps us create a purposeful, present, calm, emotionally-aware, non-judgmental mind-set.

Mindfulness was born out of Buddhism and the mind of John Kabat-Zinn. Buddhism seeks enlightenment, or deep understanding of the world and ourselves using focus on the body, breathing and meditation (this is a very brief description of the complexities of Buddhism and I highly recommend you explore it further if you are interested). Mindfulness is based on the idea of acceptance, inner-peace and wisdom.

When asked about the difference of Meditation and Mindfulness I often say Meditation in Buddhism is about a clear and free mind, whereas Mindfulness is about control of thoughts and emotions within the mind (again let me stress I am simplifying a complex subject for a basic blog exploration).

Mindfulness can offer a greater insight into ourselves, and our clarity of experience. It can improve problem solving as it helps us slow down and investigate our thoughts and responses. It helps improve concentration and reaction as our minds are less cluttered. It allows us better acceptance of ourselves and events, often leading to improved enjoyment as we are able to focus more on positives than negatives thus making us less self-critical.

 A key part to Mindfulness is often our imaginations and the power they hold to help calm and focus us. To be compassionate and grateful with ourselves and others.

The three key concepts of Mindfulness are: awareness (of self, emotions, thoughts and other people), non-judgment (of self and others) and being present in the now (not the memories of past or the worries of future).

There are many parts to Mindfulness, including mindful meditation, transcendental meditation, music meditation, guided meditation, group mindfulness, waking or doing meditation,

Mindfulness can help with a number of things including: anxiety, depression, OCD, panic attacks, addiction.

One key idea in Mindfulness you might like to try is this brief emotion flow:

Notice – how do you feel?

Name – Name the emotion/s.

Accept – accept the emotion, the cause etc, don’t try to fight it.

Investigate – what affect is it having on your body/thoughts?

Allow and release – notice thoughts, release judgement, breath and be in the now.

If you would like support with Mindfulness, or other mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

What is … OCD

Positive Thinking

Obsessions, habitual worrying, compulsions and repetitive behaviours are often termed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD.

These behaviours to some extent are normal parts of being human, everyone has habits and routines to help them remember things, such as putting the key on the hook when locking the door, or always filling the drinks before laying the table. Everyone creates a story in their minds to deal with a difficult situation.

The issues arise when we start to use these behaviours to regulate unwanted feelings or thoughts. When we take undue comfort in the familiarity of habits to keep us safe. Such as if I check the tap I will not flood the house, if I don’t turn off the TV the house will burn down so I am safe if I check the TV. This means more checking makes us feel more secure, so we can get to a stage where we have to check a dozen times to get the secure feeling.

Sometimes we create these actions or compulsions to avoid unwanted thoughts or feelings, to rescript bad times in our lives, to avoid the present events, relationships, feelings. To help us predict outcomes so we feel safer, or more stable, to give us a feeling of control or to mitigate feared/imagined negative outcomes.

If we can understand the underlying cause, meaning or event that created the behaviour or routine then we can re-write the script that is causing it and hopefully reduce to impact of the OCD.

If you would like support with OCD, or other mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

What is … Anxiety?

Anxiety is an uncomfortable or unpleasant feeling. It can be described as a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, worry, or fear. It can also have physical symptoms such as shaking, feeling like your heart is beating stronger or faster, sweating, tense or aching muscles, fidgeting, sleep issues, eating issues, rapid/shallow breathing, nausea and dizziness.

Anxiety is an emotional reaction in response to your body’s perception of a vague or unknown or perceived threat.

Anxiety is part of our primal human fright, flight or freeze response and releases adrenaline into our system to ready us to response to the ‘threat’ we perceive or sense. It is to keep us safe.

Sometimes our anxiety response is triggered by things in the modern world that don’t require the fright, flight or freeze response and we can find this is where anxiety becomes a problem for us as high levels of anxiety can prevent us from functioning in our normal way.

Psychologist’s hypothesis there may be many triggers such as genetics, environmental factors, brain chemistry, medical issues (side effects form illness or medication) or side effects from substance abuse.

There are several types of anxiety including social anxiety, post-traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, panic disorders.

The most common treatments are medications and talking therapies, used alone or in conjunction with each other. You’ve probably heard of SSRI’s which are a type of anti-anxiety medication that works on serotonin use (see previous blog post for more details). There are also drugs such as benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, pregabalin and propranolol. There are also talking therapies such as cognitive therapies like CBT, art therapy, person centered therapy, exposure therapy and psychoanalytical therapy.   There are holistic treatments such as mindfulness, meditation, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, yoga and acupuncture.

If you would like support with anxiety, or other mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

What is … A series

Over the next few months I intend to a write a ‘What is …’ blog. This will be a series of brief blogs giving basic and simple information about more commonly experienced mental health issues including the following topics:

What is anxiety

What is depression

What is mindfulness and meditation

What is imposter syndrome

What is a panic attack

What is a phobia

What is PTSD

If you would like support with any of the above mental health issues or you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

What will counselling be like after the COVID 19 pandemic?

This is an excellent question. I think clients are more aware now that counselling can be accessed through more mediums than simply face to face, these now including video, telephone, online (eg a pre-written CBT program online clients interact with/follow) and even text therapy. Clients can now not only choose their preferred method of therapy but have a wider choice of therapists as electronic means of therapy offers clients the ability to pick a counsellor who may live 200 miles away from them but has the skills they need. The right client can now find the right counsellor and the right method of therapy more easily than ever before.  

For many counsellors they have themselves realized that therapy has more access points than they previous worked with and have chosen to expand their practices into those areas they feel competent with. For myself I think the process of how I offer counselling will alter very little, since I qualified in 2010 I have offered video therapy session (I even wrote my thesis on the values of video therapy), telephone therapy and face to face therapy. I am delighted that more clients are aware of video therapy and are now able to make use of my skills from any UK location, it also allows clients to ‘take their counsellor with them’ if they have to travel, relocate for work or family. It allows busy people easier access to therapy as they may not need to travel to a counsellors office but use video, it allows people who are socially anxious to have counselling from home and work up to travelling to the counsellors office, it allows people who need space the option of face to face, it allows people to choose week on week which method of therapy wish to access.

So what has COVID 19 done for therapy? Well one thing I know is that it has improved people’s awareness of ways to access to therapy, and improved counsellors access to clients. Overall I also think it has improved people’s awareness and understanding of the vital use therapy can be when people are struggling.

If you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

Brene Brown

I know I’ve said it before but here it is again, this time Stessopus is busy reading Brene. Remember to Dare Greatly in life.

If you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304

New Job Anyone?

We find ourselves with more freedom as some of the world is starting to look forward from the last 18 months of lockdowns, restrictions, working from home and job loss due to the pandemic. We are changed because of it.

One of those changes I have noticed is I have been involved with several friends and colleagues who have been discussed the idea that their job may not be all they want it to be, may not be fulfilling enough, may no longer offer them what they now desire in life. Our views and needs have changed. This is normal.

So if your desire to change is ongoing here are some interesting links that might help you move forward.

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/skills-assessment

https://www.ucas.com/careers/buzz-quiz

https://jobpersonality.co.uk/career-aptitude-test

https://www.career-test.co.uk/

If, however, you are unsure if it is a real desire to move forward or if it is maybe: a fear of returning to work after the pandemic, a loss felt by working at home, a realisation that when all you have is work it is not enough etc please do consider seeking counselling to help you reach a personal clarity before you move forward.

If you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304