The Black Dog of Depression--
Understanding the Animal in Question
Since ancient times, depression, or melancholia, has been depicted as a black dog. This is likely due to the dogged loyalty of a depressed mood, and the darkness we associate with it. Depression is more than just being a little down or experiencing a temporary sadness, feelings we all experience occasionally. It is a serious illness which causes persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest. Depression affects nearly 1 in 10 people every year, and is the leading cause of disability in North America. It has significant repercussions for self-esteem, health, relationships, and work.
Given that depression has such a global impact, it is important to understand more about this animal--its habits, behaviors, and handling. Looking at depression objectively, like a naturalist following an animal in its habitat, can help see it as it is. This is important because depression can affect self-esteem, preventing us from seeing things realistically. In fact, self-criticism can increase feelings of hopelessness. Family, friends, or coworkers can also respond in ways that are counter-productive; like telling you to just "snap out of it," "get over it," or "pull up your socks." Understanding is the gateway to feeling better.
Depression affects everyone differently and there is no set way of dealing with it that suits all. Like real dogs, each mood has common traits and its own unique personality. There are some general guidelines, however. The following video from the World Health Organization (Matthew Johnstone illustrator) is a good overview of depression and treatment. (No insult is intended to real black dogs.) This video offers a balanced perspective as it does not judge or condemn depression. In the guise of a black dog, it shows some ways of responding to it, including learning to be emotionally authentic and genuine, keeping a journal of thoughts and emotions, and going for a walk. Among the things real dogs can teach us is that walks, emotional connection, and allowing ourselves time are very good for us.
Counseling is an effective resource in dealing with depression. If you have any concerns about depression, speak with us. We can offer tools suited to your specific challenges.