Depression is the common cold of mental health problems and is rarely caused by just one thing. It is usually the result of a number of factors none of which relate to any personal failings.

Examples include

  • prolonged or excessive stress
  • life changes
  • a family history of depression
  • physical health conditions
  • hormonal changes
  • relationship difficulties
  • bereavement
  • trauma.

Here’s some things that can keep depression going and it’s not your fault

  1. Feeling depressed makes us feel drained which can make us put off doing things we need to do or would normally enjoy doing. For instance, we might decide to stay in bed or avoid seeing friends.
  2. Initially, “Putting things off” can make us feel a sense of relief and comfort which makes the brain think, this is an important behaviour and a behaviour worth repeating. That’s why we keep doing it and it’s called negative reinforcement. It’s not your fault and here’s why. “Putting things off’ is a type of planning behaviour and planning behaviour releases a feel good hormone called dopamine.
  3. The dopamine high is short lived because the side effect of avoidance is that it cuts you off from activities that could lift your mood and from people that could help. 
  4. The dopamine high is likely to be replaced by feelings of guilt about the things we are avoiding which makes us feel bad and start thinking negatively about ourselves. This in turn can lower our mood even further and the cycle begins again and we get trapped in it.

Here’s the good news story

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  1. Have you ever experienced a time when you had to go to an event, go and see some friends, take on an extra project at home or work or engage in one of your hobbies or interests but just didn’t feel like it? I have.
  2. How did you feel afterwards? Better or worse than when you put it off?
  3. Evidence shows that if we are able to push past that urge to avoid and live according to our values, the dopamine high is much higher and lasts much longer and there are no negative side effects.

Read how CBT can help..

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