There’s lots in the news this week about depression and anxiety as it’s Mental Health Awareness week.
I’m not sure if the numbers of people suffering depression have gone up in the last few years but regardless of numbers, I think the questions we should be asking are:
- Why does depression affect some people and not others?
- What are the triggers that cause depression?
- Is it preventable?
Through the work I do in my practice, I believe the seeds of depression are planted in childhood. The seeds are the words we hear or ‘pictures’ we see, or the pictures in our head that we create from the words we hear.
Pictures and words are the ‘diet’ our minds accept and then create for us.
Babies come into the world without any doubts of why they’re here. They love attention, they love being told they’re beautiful and cute. It’s only when they start being more independent as a toddler, that they receive the negative ‘messages’ from the adults around them and then they create the beliefs that they take with them into their future.
Here’s the scary bit: as a small child, you’re like a sponge, absorbing everything and making assumptions and decisions about how the world works and how you are going to ‘be’ in the world. You might hear a passing comment which has little relevance to the person saying it, but your 2 year old brain gives it meaning and gives it importance which becomes a belief. You then create your world around all your childhood beliefs.
What do I mean by that?
Imagine you’re a child of 3, your mum says to you “here’s some chocolate to make you feel better”. Your mind makes the logical conclusion that chocolate makes you feel better so each time you’re upset, you have a craving for chocolate to fix the feelings. Of course, as an adult you know intellectually that chocolate doesn’t fix your feelings and it probably makes you feel worse about yourself. But you were ‘wired’ since you were a child to eat chocolate when you needed comfort.
Here’s the first verse from a poem by Phillip Larkin
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
So now you can start to understand that there will probably be many messages stored in your mind that you have no idea about!
Your mind works on what you tell it. Whether it’s true or not true, your mind doesn’t filter what you tell it.
Somewhere in this process of making sense of the world around us as children, the seeds of our beliefs are sown. Much later in our adult lives, those seeds grow roots and ‘flowers’ which may or may not be compatible with the thoughts and feelings we experience when we’re living with high levels of stress.
Anxiety and states of depression commonly happen after periods of major stress. People often know that they didn’t have depression when they were at school/at university/in their first job.
So the question is “Why did they become depressed”