An important aspect to understanding #depression is the function of sleep and dreaming. We naturally dream for about two hours each night, even though we may not be aware of the dreams when we awaken. Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep (about 25% of the sleep cycle) and it allows the metaphorical acting out of unexpressed, emotionally arousing thoughts. The remaining 75% of the sleep cycle (slow wave sleep) boosts the energy levels in the brain. Dreaming allows emotional arousal to be discharged, and frees up the brain’s resources ready for the following day.
However, when you are depressed this process is out of balance. Slow wave sleep is reduced, as periods of REM sleep increase dramatically. The constant rumination and introspection that characterizes depression creates high levels of emotional arousal, which takes much more time to discharge by dreaming, and this exhausts the brain. People who have been depressed tell me they feel exhausted on waking and lack the motivation to get up and get moving. The mornings are often the hardest part of the day.
When you spend all your time worrying and ruminating, your levels of emotional arousal are extremely high. Thinking like this, using your emotional brain, inhibits your thinking brain so you are unable to think rationally or objectively about your experiences. Have you ever tried to rationalise with a depressed person? It is virtually impossible to get them to see beyond their emotional thinking – everything is seen in extremes: black or white; right or wrong; good or bad; all or nothing. They are unable to see any shades of grey from this very constrained viewpoint. I explain this to my clients as negative #self-hypnosis. Just as we can use our imaginations to help us in a positive way using #hypnotherapy, we spontaneously and unintentionally use negative self-hypnosis to keep us stuck in unhelpful states of mind. Do you constantly find yourself analysing the negative aspects of your life? Do you catastrophise things making everything that happens seem overwhelming? Do you always jump to conclusions? Do you worry all the time about what other people think about you? If so, then you are already an expert in spontaneous and unintentional negative self-hypnosis!
It is also helpful to consider the insights provided by the Human Givens approach to depression, which states that when you are getting your needs met in a balanced way it is impossible to have any form of mental illness. As well as having physical needs that you are driven to satisfy such as hunger, thirst and sex, you also have natural emotional needs. When these emotional needs or ‘human givens’ are not met, you experience considerable mental distress — most commonly anxiety and/or depression.
To be emotionally healthy you need:
- to feel safe and secure
- to regularly give and receive love and attention
- to feel a sense of influence or control over your life
- to feel part of a wider community
- to enjoy friendship, love and fun with significant people
- to feel a sense of status – have a role in life – sense of achievement
- to feel stretched but not stressed to alleviate boredom and enhance self esteem
Depression happens when you negatively ruminate on what is lacking in your life. What do you need to make your life easier, more enjoyable, or give it meaning?
In Part 4 of this blog you can read about some of the things I do to help people start to feel better and help you to recognize some of the unhelpful thinking styles you may use when you are depressed. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help.
If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:
Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90
Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90
Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html