Depression is such a depressing thing!


Overcoming Depression with Hypnotherapy

Depression is not always easy to diagnose and many people suffer this life-limiting condition without ever seeking help or treatment, sometimes they don't even know it's the problem. Then there is another class who actually self-diagnose! The problem with this group, is, they may be right but they may also be wrong? They may just have a condition called cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder). This is similar to bipolar disorder but the highs and lows are less extreme and the condition is characterised as a mood disorder. That is why it is important to get a professional evaluation of your condition. The major issue that many clients, that I have seen, have with doctors, is that the Dr wants to put them of medications (e.g. tricyclics, SSRIs or SNRIs) as a primary treatment option! While many of these drugs, in fact almost all, have an immediate effect on the brain systems they target i.e. serotonergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems, it can take anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks for any therapeutic benefit to take effect. Basically, these drugs attempt to stimulate the brain's production and usage qualities of these neurotransmitters but this is complicated, because, all three of the above (as well as, acetylcholine and histamine) are neuromodulators too. An even bigger problem though is that doctors rarely perform any tests to establish how these neurotransmitters are affecting or influencing brain function, which basically means it's a suck it and see approach to curing depression; hardly inspiring! So, the outcome is, at best, uncertain and the brain's amygdala and extended amygdala deal with certainty and uncertainty in different ways. With certainty, it's an almost immediate fear response and with uncertainty, it occurs over a longer period. This is some respect explains the difference between a traumatic event, e.g. 9/11 or a cumulative trauma, e.g. being told you are stupid repetitively as a child. So taking a medication that works immediately on the brain but takes several weeks to become aware of any emotional/physical (therapeutic) benefit, may explain the hit and miss nature of these medications?

Sadly, many of those who do seek treatment may try one type of treatment regime and if that doesn't work, they give up; thus resigning themselves to a life of misery! But it is important for you to know, that while depression is a condition that affects many different people, it does so in many different ways. This fact alone makes it equally important to know, that if the method(s) you tried didn't work, there are other options available and hypnotherapy, in my opinion, is one of the most effective brain/mind-based solutions. So, if you have tried one or many ways to beat depression, and, so far failed to overcome it, please keep on trying. Trying because it can be difficult and, of course, do be mindful to consider hypnotherapy because this is where you get to discover your full mind!

In his excellent book ‘Treating Depression with Hypnosis’, Michael Yapko PhD, says “Hypnosis is not a therapy like psychoanalysis or behavioural therapy. Instead, it is a procedure (a mind-based methodology) that can be used to facilitate therapy”. First, the therapist guides the client into a Hypnotic state and therapy is then used to assist the client. The real work, however, takes place in the client’s brain and continues to do so after the therapy session has finished. Often we say the change occurs through the mind, conscious or subconscious, but the actual change occurs in the brain. This is so because of the unique way that our brain communicates within itself and then with the world outside. In some sense, our brain is a unique sensory processing machine. How it processes information, is somewhat dependent on how that information was first stored and we often play no conscious part in that storage process. Much of the way our brain stored this sensory information actually occurred in our early developing years. The bigger issue with that, though, is that our brain did not have the structure or skills necessary to store that information, at least not in a way that would work well for us as adults. As young developing children we store most of our sensory information based on observation and experience, simply because we either have not yet acquired our language or they are still nascent skills in those early years! As we develop we begin to use our intellectual abilities: education, training and the experience gained from those skills. This allows us to put different perspectives (spin, distortion, deletion, generalisations etc.) on those earlier memories. What that leaves us with; if only on occasion, is the intellectual awareness that something is, or is not, alright but we often lack the emotional capacity to change that!

But what does that mean? Well, it means that knowing something logically, rationally, cognitively etc. does not necessarily equate to knowing it emotionally! For example, someone with a fear of spiders (arachnophobia), as an adult they fully understand it is illogical and irrational and they know this tiny little 8 legged creature won't hurt them (unless you live in a country where they can of course). So, armed with all the logical, rational and intellectual knowledge that the spider won't hurt them, they should be able to manage their emotions when confronted with a spider, its web or merely the mention of one . . . but the facts are; they can't! As soon as they hear or see anything related to a spider, they go into a full phobic response, logic, reasoning and/or intelligence etc.; they are right out of the window! Truth be known, logic rarely cuts it with emotion and that is simply because, evolutionarily speaking, we are first and foremost emotional beings, cognition came much much later!

Depression, for the most part, is more emotional and neurological than logical. Parts of your brain just aren't working how they should and the why and how of that is not always, in fact rarely, understood. Sometimes the brain's chemistry just goes out of sync, that could be caused by many things, e.g. genetics, infection or disease, brain lesions, accidental damage or trauma, even lifestyle, diet or poor personal/oral hygiene can be a factor. Other reasons could be personal, e.g. loss of a loved one, a pet, your job or home or any number of personal tragedies that befall us. Then there are things like natural or manmade disasters, earthquakes, terrorist attacks etc. However, no matter what the causes of depression are, it is how we find you a cure that really counts. To that end, as I already mentioned, hypnotherapy is a very effective modality for the treatment of the many different types of depression. Hypnotherapy allows each of us to discover our deeper self because it is within our deeper self that we discover our solutions!. And it helps us do that without the usual barrage of conscious mental distraction (aka negative thoughts). The therapeutic strategies that I apply in the treatment of depression are fully explained, when we have a better understanding of the way our brain functions (as opposed to how it should function), it helps to both demystify it and remove the nebulous "I" from the equation. I say nebulous because we have this dreamy notion that the subjective object that we refer to as "I," our own self, is something separate from our brain. In fact, it is the other way around, we are our brain, and the physical self is merely the gofer! When we begin to fully understand who that "I" actually is, life begins to have more meaning, more purpose, more direction. We do so many things to make the shell look pretty, slimmer, more attractive etc. but it is the inside that counts. Everything, in a narrative sense, of value, is on the inside, be it an apple, an oak tree or a walnut? The seeds of the future are with the apple and the acorn and the nutrition, its essence, lays with the shell of the walnut. C'est la Vie! When you discover the true value, of the inside, the outside becomes far less important!

I continually find that clients that present with depression, at any level, are struggling with the vagueness of their life and its meaning for them.  Life is often ambiguous, in that we don’t really have the answers for most of life’s most challenging questions and this can leave anyone a little dizzy thinking about it, let alone looking for answers to give meaning to their existence. However, the real value in life is in its simplicity; I guess this is why someone came up with the KISS principle: Keep it, simple sweetie!

In the masterful work of the late Dr Victor E. Frankle (a Holocaust survivor), 'Mans search for meaning' this need for meaning in one's life is made very clear. More than this it shows that the how, of life, is far less important than the, why of life! In his book, Frankle says “Life does not mean something vague but rather, something very real and very concrete, just as life’s tasks are very real and concrete.  They form mankind’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual”.

In pursuit of one’s destiny, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and EFT can produce good results for many individuals suffering from depression. This is often not an easy or instant fix but steady progress can be made with the individual truly wanting to overcome this life restricting condition. To a large part, this is reflective of the neural changes that take place in our brain. The brain changes (neurogenesis) by making new cells as well as weakening or strengthening existing cells and networks of cells; but this often takes time!

From a clinical perspective, there are some very effective medications that help counter the effects of depression. The key point, however, is that they mostly deal with the symptomatic side of the condition and not the problem causing it! However, if you suffer from depression, relief of any kind is often a very welcome one!

The downside to medication is that it very often comes with unwanted, and sometimes very severe, side effects. My biggest concern, experientially, is that Doctors rarely alert their patients to these side effects and considering that some medications intensify the feelings of anxiety and or depression, clients can be left feeling even more helpless!

In consideration of an argument for medication, one has to look for evidence of a disturbance in the brain’s neuro electro-chemical function (the neurotransmission that is the mainstay of neural communication) and equally important, the many connections that are made in and across networks of brain cells (neurons) and brain regions. These connections determine the quality of life in both normal and abnormal situations. In fact, the way we live at any point in time is a result of those very connections; because everything we do is consequential of brain activity.

Rarely, in my experience, do Doctors and Psychiatrists have the time to do extensive questioning that could lead them to the root cause(s) of their patient’s depression. However, if we find the cause, which is more often than not, a consequence of the patient’s life experience, we can treat the cause of the problem; no problem; no symptoms!

As well as the two forms of treatment for depression, therapeutic and clinical, both of which have a history of good results, there is a third option and that is a combined therapeutic and clinical approach. In this combined approach evidence suggests a higher rate of recovery and a decrease in the condition reoccurring. My own take on this is that the medication helps the client/patient stabilise their mental and emotional responses so that they can more readily accept the therapy. Very often the way into a client’s psyche is blocked by the disruption that high emotional states cause.

So, in conclusion, if you or someone you know suffer from any form of depression, or depressive type behaviour, seek the advice of your healthcare professional, but look for one who is willing to work, or already does, with complementary healthcare professionals, e.g. Psychotherapists, Hypnotherapists, EFT or reiki practitioners.

Thom Bush

Important note: 

If you think you might be suffering from depression, you should always visit your GP or Medical Advisor for advice and help in the first instance.


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