‘Last week I again failed to accomplish anything, was just tired and run down!’

An orchid does not lose its fragrance just because no one smells it.

‘Since the breakup with his girlfriend my son lies about depressed and complains that he is unable to study!’

‘Everything is pointless, empty and grey; the best thing would be to end it all.’

Each of these statements suggests a phase in a human life that tells of dejection, heaviness, fatigue, pessimism and perceived futility – thus a state of depression.

The concept of depression is used, on the one hand, to account for unproductive phases or to explain negative sensations, and on the other hand, also to describe severe mental suffering. In fact, these symptoms are so common that they seem to have transformed depression into an endemic illness: In the estimates of the World Health Organization around one fifth of the human population is so seriously affected at least once in their lifetime as to warrant psychotherapeutic intervention on their behalf. Depression can occur in children, adolescents and adults. It can last for a shorter or longer period and can totally paralyze a person mentally, physically and emotionally. It may be a temporary hiatus of upset as well as evoke a far-reaching mental ailment. In extreme cases life is perceived as so endlessly grey, stressful and pointless that suicidal thoughts can creep in.

If I could at least feel sad!

We all know the hours in which we feel despondent, low-spirited and sad. The longer we have worked on ourselves, the better we will know which thoughts are able to help us at such moments to regain a cheerful mood and a more optimistic perception. Indeed, most of us have suffered losses, which need to be mourned. Feelings of grief, despair and pain are indeed unpleasant and dampening, but nevertheless quite natural – so that they are not symptoms of depression in the real sense.

Real depression can be compared to a persistently grey, heavy, constricting straitjacket; a condition which renders thoughts as well as the mind heavily burdened so that those affected feel tired, listless, weak, joyless and trapped. They are pessimistic and see everything as gloomy, cannot concentrate and are slow in thought and action. Decisions are endlessly difficult and the memory function is also impaired. ‘When I have my Alzheimer's days ...’ is how a housewife describes her depressive states.

During the depressive state, the energy levels are in a state of exhaustion, the thoughts circle in the same darkly brooding orbits, the emotional world is devoid of freshness and the present is unable to be experienced properly. An absence of a zest for living as well as the loss of a natural feeling of happiness is typical of this state. Often annoying physical symptoms such as, for example, pains, insomnia, restlessness, cravings or loss of appetite also tend to accompany this emotional low.

Many of those stricken by depression feel guilty and ashamed

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