Significant life events can shape our lives and none more so than challenges that are stressful or traumatic in nature. So having a serious accident, experiencing sustained stress, conflict or abuse in relationships, being unemployed for long periods, death and loss, serious illness to name some can lead to the possibility of depression for those who may have a predisposition or contributing personal factors.
Recently there has been more press coverage about the impact of climate change and the seeming consequences to the environment and the human species. As a result some people are feeling powerless and a sense of despair about the future, which has resulted in people feeling depressed. It’s being coined climate change depression.
If depression has occurred in previous generations then there is a possible genetic predisposition to this mental illness, but again this is not a given. Research indicates an increased possibility for depression if the life events described above are experienced. Even then this may not occur as each individual has different ways of coping with life’s roller coaster events.
Personality factors may be part of the equation that equate to depression. For instance, someone who worries a lot or has a perfectionist streak or has low self-esteem or plagued by negative thoughts could have a propensity towards being depressed.
Problematic drug and alcohol use can both lead to depression and be the consequence of depression. Again there isn’t an exact causative factor that one leads to the other, but there is a potentiality that depression may eventuate as a result of drug and alcohol use.
Gestalt therapy has its own perspective on depression. Not that it disagrees with the possible causative factors mentioned above rather it holds the diagnosis itself more lightly, as labels can have a pejorative connotation that has the possibility of neatly pigeon holing somebody as being a particular way. In Gestalt we will tend to say a person is ‘depressing’ themselves rather than they are depressed. What this means is that an individual is depressing their emotional energy/life force in relationship to their environment as a means to adjust to particular circumstance/s. This creative adjustment can be enacted due to recent events or events that occurred in the past.
Where the creative adjustment occurs due to a recent event, such as the loss of a partner, then withholding ones’ energy and drawing it inwards allows for this significant event to be addressed appropriately. This ‘depressing’ action facilitates conservation of energy and reduces activities that waste their resources allowing more time and space to recoup and readdress their life direction.
Due to circumstances in the past, such as incidents that occurred during childhood, it may have been completely appropriate to withdraw emotional energy, for instance, where personal safety was paramount. These historical events, if they are not dealt with at that time, become patterned in neural pathways forming into emotional schemas. In certain situations or whilst experiencing particular events can lead to the reactivation of these schemas resulting in depression or “depressing’ activity.
Interestingly, neuro science theory on depression has shown that some individuals have a deficit in neuroplasticity. The nervous system loses its flexibility to adapt to certain situations – they become fixed. This may account for some individual’s genetic predisposition to depression where previous generations have not effectively worked through the causative reasons behind their depression thus passing on the susceptibility. The use of antidepressants and psychotherapy can be used to counter this fixed neuroplasticity and facilitate renewal of the nervous system to become more adaptive and flexible.
If depression is part of your life and you would like support then please call one of our therapist who would be happy to assist you. If you require immediate support then please call Lifeline 13 11 14.
May this day finds you well
Counselling and Psychotherapy Team