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Sometimes we have tough days, and that's okay. However, having a tough month or year may indicate something more serious.

What is depression?

Depression is a complex psychological health problem that affects thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It is not just about feeling low; it is a severe medical condition that can affect all aspects of your life.

But as with any condition, there is help and relief. Different forms of depression include postpartum depression, melancholia, dysthymia, unipolar depression and recurrent depression.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

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Why do people get depressed?

There is rarely one cause of depression. The reason for depression is loss. It can be the loss of people in your life or the loss of abilities you had that you no longer have. It can also be a kind of unexplored loss. Some people feel that something is missing from their lives. It is as if they have lost something they never really had in their life but somehow think they should have, perhaps when they were a child.

Depression can also have physical explanations. Perhaps a substance in the body has low levels, or a person’s nervous system has been under severe stress for an extended period. That said, there are many different explanations for why people can become depressed. If you have an undefined depression, do not hesitate to seek out a professional therapist to help you. You don’t have to struggle alone.

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You are not alone

South Africans are ranked in the bottom three countries, year after year, in terms of our population’s mental health. In Sweden, for example, around 25% of the population will experience some form of depression in their lifetime; in South Africa, it is as many as 1 in 3 (33.3%). While this can be a frightening figure, it has a positive connotation – we as a society are becoming more and more aware and vigilant about depression. Help and care are available when we suffer from depression, and it is getting better all the time.

Identifying symptoms and signs

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Apathy
  • Difficulty sleeping or;
  • Excess sleep
  • Physical symptoms such as fatigue or pain
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of zest for life

Do you feel the workload is too much? Perhaps you are withdrawing socially and feel constantly tired. Do you no longer feel like doing the things you used to enjoy doing? If so, it is essential not to ignore these signs, as they may be indications of an underlying depression.

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Effective therapies for depression

There are various treatment options for dealing with depression. Psychotherapy is standard as a treatment and lifestyle change; sometimes, medication is also needed. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has proven to be an effective treatment method, especially when combined with drugs such as antidepressants. By talking to a professional therapist or psychologist, you can identify the underlying causes of your depression and work on concrete strategies to improve your well-being.

We make the hard stuff easier

Talking about mental illness is sometimes taboo, but seeking help is an essential step in improving your quality of life. Benefits include improved mental health, better workability and improved relationships. Many people mistakenly believe that therapy is a sign of weakness or that it is unnecessary. The truth is that it takes strength to seek help and that therapy is a proven method for dealing with mental health problems.

Dealing with depression is not easy, but it is a necessary step to improve your quality of life. By seeking professional help, you can make the tricky part a little easier. If you or someone you know has acute symptoms or has a mental health emergency, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group at 0800 567 567 or seek emergency medical help immediately.

12 FAQs about Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that affects your mood, thoughts and behaviour. Symptoms vary but often include sadness, fatigue and lack of interest in activities.

What are the most common symptoms of depression?

The most common symptoms include persistent sadness, lack of energy, sleep problems and a reduced appetite. Consultation with a psychologist or therapist can help make a diagnosis.

How is depression diagnosed?

Diagnosing depression is usually done through interviews and questionnaires that assess your mental well-being. Sometimes, blood tests may also be taken to rule out other medical causes.

Are there different types of depression?

Yes, there are several types, including chronic depression, seasonal depression and bipolar disorder. Each type has its specific treatment methods and symptoms.

How is depression treated?

Treatment options vary but often include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment.

How long does depression treatment last?

The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity and individual needs. Some people can experience relief within a few weeks, while others need long-term treatment.

Is depression hereditary?

Genetics can play a role in depression, but it is usually a combination of several factors, such as life events and personal circumstances, that contribute to the illness.

Can exercise help with depression?

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve mood and mental health. However, it should not replace professional care and medication.

What are the risk factors for depression?

Stress, trauma, and personal adversity are common risk factors. Other medical conditions, such as heart problems or diabetes, can also increase the risk of depression.

Is depression more common in men or women?

Depression is more common in women, but men are less likely to seek help. Symptoms may also differ between the sexes.

How does depression affect relationships?

Depression can make it challenging to maintain healthy relationships and can lead to social isolation. Couples therapy or family counselling can be helpful.

Where can I get help?

If you experience symptoms of depression, it is essential to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online consultations at your convenience.

Steps to manage and regulate depression through therapy

Seeking help for depression is a big step, and it is expected to feel unsure or tense about the upcoming process. Deciding to take control of your mental health is a positive thing. Here is an overview of the steps usually included in therapy to manage and regulate depression.

Step 1: Diagnostic evaluation

  • What this means: Your first meeting with your psychologist or therapist is usually a diagnostic evaluation, during which you review your mental and physical health.
  • What to expect: Expect questions about your life situation, feelings, thought patterns, and behaviours.

Step 2: Goal setting

  • What it means: Here, you and your therapist set specific goals for therapy.
  • What to expect: Discussion about which areas of your life are most affected by your depression and how you would like to change them.

Step 3: Choosing a form of therapy

  • What it means: Depending on your situation and goals, different forms of therapy may be more or less appropriate.
  • What to expect: Your therapist will recommend a form of therapy, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or psychodynamic therapy.

Step 4: Treatment

  • What it means: This begins the treatment phase, where you start working towards your goals.
  • What to expect: Talk therapy, exercises, and perhaps homework assignments aimed at giving you tools to manage and regulate your depression.

Step 5: Follow-up and evaluation

  • What it means: After a certain period, a follow-up is done to assess the effectiveness of the therapy.
  • What to expect: If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted or renewed.

Step 6: Closing and looking ahead

  • What it means: As therapy ends, it’s time to reflect on progress and plan for the future.
  • What to expect: Talk about how you can use the tools and strategies you’ve learned going forward in life.

If you or someone close to you is seeking professional help for depression, do not hesitate to book a session with one of our qualified psychologists or therapists.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by samantha

Sr. Samantha Pieterse is a registered psychiatric nurse who is deeply committed to mental health and well-being. Samantha brings a unique and valuable perspective to her role as an editor for Lavendla South Africa. She has worked in Government and Private mental healthcare institutions in Gauteng and her expertise ensures that the articles on our website are accurate and accessible. Samantha is dedicated to enhancing mental health awareness and education in South Africa.