Gaining insights into depression

Many people said that they had not always understood how their own thinking and circumstances contributed to their depression. It was usually only after many years that people gained insight into their depression in the ways that they describe below. What is clear is that gaining insight took much time and consideration. Counselling and therapy in particular often helped people become more aware.

Some people we talked to felt that, as they recovered, they moved from 'not knowing' to becoming more aware of themselves and their place in the world. This has been called 'cluing in' (Schreiber 1996). People became 'clued in' in all manner of ways, and this 'cluing in' actually helped them to be more positive about themselves.

As part of this process, people often realised that the messages they picked up as children could be contributing to their suffering, and such messages needed to be challenged. For instance, to start recovering, one older man had to undo the message he received from his parents that joyfulness was somehow wrong. Some became more aware that their families were limited or even quite wrong. For instance, one woman came to see how her family had failed her, rather than she herself being a failure in the family.

One man in his early 30s learned that he was not so weird and different from everyone in the world as he had thought in his teens. Among other things, as part of his recovery, another man came to the conclusion that the world was not going to tell him what was important in life, so he had to work it out himself. A woman described her depression as a necessary part of breaking down the rigid way that she had approached life.

The other insight people were gaining was about recovery - that they could not only move beyond the limits of depression (e.g. negative thinking, low confidence), but they could start seeing life differently (e.g. enjoying life, developing better relationships). With long-term therapy, one woman (who had had dysthymia and bouts of severe depression all her life) feels she is now stepping out of the 'prison of depression' into the unknown. Although the prospect is scary, she wants to get more out of life beyond her familiar depression.

People also often talked about how important it has been for them to take responsibility for sorting themselves out. Medication and other people could only be helpful tools. Taking responsibility was related to the notion of being your own expert, as discussed elsewhere on this website (see 'Help with depression: General Practice' and see Expert Patient Programme).

Last reveiwed September 2017.

Last updated October 2010.


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