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Recognising the Signs of Depression

Recognising the Signs of Depression

Depression is still one of the most unrecognised illnesses in the modern world - most particularly by the sufferer! While we may be aware of such symptoms of depression as poor sleep, not wanting to get up in the morning, weepiness, inability to face work or social situations; we are not taught to recognise, the often subtle, feelings that creep up on us and that become normal to us.  

The following is a list of thoughts and statements that people recognise when life gets overwhelming:  Most people who have been depressed recognise having had some, if not all, of the negative thoughts on this list.

A. Read down the list and score each statement or thought with a number from 0 (don’t believe it at all) to 10 (you believe it 100%).

B. If you have experienced depression in the past, think back to a time when you were most depressed.  Read down the list and note the statements that you believed or remember believing in the past.  Once again score each statement from 0 to 10.  It may be difficult to remember this clearly, but do the best you can.

C. Now think back to a time when you were not feeling depressed at all and rate how much you believed each thought then by giving it a score from 0 to 10 in the same way.

A checklist of negative thoughts

     1.     I feel like I am up against the world.

     2.     I am no good.

     3.     Why can't I ever succeed?

     4.     Know one understands me.

     5.     I have let people down.

     6.     I don't think I can go on.

     7.     I wish I were better person.

     8.     I am so weak.

     9.     My life's not going the way I wanted to.

     10.     I am so disappointed in myself.

     11.     Nothing feels good anymore.

     12.     I can't stand this any more.

     13.     I can't get started.

     14.     What's wrong with me?

     15.     I wish I were somewhere else.

     16.     I can't get things together.

     17.     I hate myself.

     18.     I am worthless.

     19.     I wish I could just disappear.

     20.     What's the matter with me?

     21.     I am a loser.

     22.     My life is a mess.

     23.     I am a failure.

     24.     I will never make it.

     25.     I feel so helpless.

     26.     Something has to change.

     27.     There must be something wrong with me.

     28.     My future is bleak.

     29.     It's just not worth it.

     30.     I can't finish anything.

     31.     There is nothing I can do.

     32.     I am falling apart.

     33.     I have no future.

     34.     I am completely defeated.

     35.     I have lost something I will never find again.

     36.     I am not my old self anymore.

     37.     I am worthless.

     38.     I am a burden to others.

     39.     Something in my life has been damaged forever.

     40.     I can't find meaning in my life.

     41.     I am completely helpless.

     42.     The pain will never go away.

Take a look at your different answers and notice the differences:  Belief in these type of statements and thoughts changes dramatically with mood. When people are depressed they believe the thoughts unquestioningly, but when they feel better they believe the thoughts much less, if at all.

Causes of Depression

Depression has many causes, but unfortunately most people think of depression as only occurring in response to a stressful, emotional event or course of events.  Of course, such events can contribute to a depressive episode, but there are many more common, but far less recognised causes, including:

     •     poor diet leading to poor gut health (did you know that 90% of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’, that is enhanced by anti-depressive drugs such as Prozac/Fluroxetine, is produced in your gut: So an unhealthy gut = an unhappy mind!)

     •     poor vitamin and mineral status due to prescription medication for other health issues, hormone imbalance from the thyroid gland, progesterone-based contraceptives (when your liver and kidneys help your body to use medicines, they often need to use more vitamins and minerals in the process).

     •     disturbed metabolism due to excess alcohol or recreational drug intakes.

     •     poor sleep patterns due to shift work, disturbed sleep by babies or children, self-inflicted staying up late-getting up late, lack of daylight.

     •     poor posture: a hunched posture directly contributes to low energy levels and depressive type feelings

These causes are important to note because they are the ones that you can do something about by:

1. Improving your diet if necessary

     •     reduce your sugar intake: cakes, sweets, soft drinks, alcohol, hot drinks with sugar

     •     increase nutrient rich foods: colourful vegetables, quality meat and fish

     •     improve gut health with probiotic-rich foods such as bone broth, sauerkraut, Yakult

2.  If you are taking prescription medications, check with your doctor or ask for help from a nutrtition professional to find out if they may be affecting your vitamin or mineral status and what you can do to support your body.

3.  Doing whatever you can to improve your opportunities for sleep and recuperation, preferably within the brain’s natural circadian rhythm of dawn-dusk/10pm to 7am.

4. Regular movement: vary your activities during the day, get up from your desk and move around at least once every hour. Try using different ways of working e.g. standing desk, vary type of chair.

Happiness!  Are you being too hard on yourself?

We are bombarded with information on happiness, but unfortunately this mostly has the effect of making us feel even more inadequate that we have not achieved this elusive zenith of enlightenment!  And one of the major signs of recurrent, chronic, sub-clinical depression is not feeling happy!

Luckily many people find that once they recognise the links between mood and beliefs (as we looked at above) affecting emotional well-being and happiness and the effect that body health (chemistry) has on mood (emotion) they can start to make changes.

These changes include the physical and biochemical ones mentioned in the previous section.  And you can also make changes to the way you react to your own mental and emotional thoughts and moods:

Are you treating yourself harshly and being judgemental towards yourself? Treating yourself with kindness and ceasing to judge yourself harshly are cornerstones of finding peace in a frantic world. Ask yourself the following questions:

     1.     Do I criticise myself for having irrational or inappropriate emotions?

     2.     Do I tell myself that I shouldn't be feeling the way I'm feeling?

     3.     Do I believe some of my thoughts are abnormal or bad and I shouldn’t think that way?

     4.     Do I make judgements about whether my thoughts are good or bad?

     5.     Do I tell myself that I shouldn't be thinking the way I do?

     6.     Do I think some of my emotions are bad or inappropriate and I shouldn't feel like that?

     7.     When I have distressing thoughts or images, do I judge myself as good or bad, depending upon what the thought or image is about?

     8.     Do I disapprove of myself when I have irrational ideas?

If you endorsed strongly more than one or two of these questions, you may be being too hard on yourself. Could you begin treating yourself with more compassion?

The trick with this questionnaire is to understand that you're being too harsh on yourself without seeing this fact as a criticism. See your responses as a sign of awareness, rather than a sign of success or failure.

Improving Your Mental and Emotional Health

In the same way that we seek help from professionals with our diet and nutrition (nutritionist, naturopath) and with our physical strength and posture (personal trainers, physiotherapists, osteopaths), we sometimes need additional help with our mental and emotional health and well being.  

As a start, I highly recommend you read Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.  Mark Williams is Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford and co-developer of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with John Teasdale (MRC research scientist in the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University) and Zindel Segal (Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Mood Disorders at the University of Toronto).

The book not only contains a huge amount of information on emotional and mental health, but also includes the eight week course on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which is now used with great success by mental health professionals both privately and within the UK National Health Service (NHS).  


1. Peper E, Lin I. Increase or Decrease Depression: How Body Postures Influence Your Energy Level. Biofeedback: (40) 125-130.

2. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

If you require additional support, I offer a clinic-based or distant/Skype-based course based on the MBCT eight week course.  Please contact me for more information: