Understanding your depression

Feeling guilty about being depressed ‘for no good reason’ is a very common way in which depression reinforces itself. Use this framework to understand your own depression better.

Being more understanding

Not understanding why you are depressed can lead to unhelpful, depression-inducing explanations and self-bullying attempts to ‘snap out of it’. Understanding more about how depression works is an important way to challenge these unhelpful attitudes and stop being so hard on yourself. Even a relatively small trigger can set off the self-reinforcing spiral of depression. This self-reinforcing spiral effect also makes it impossible to just ‘snap out of’ depression.

Self compassion

You also can’t help the things that may have made you vulnerable to depression. Each person has their own unique profile of biological, psychological and social factors which may have made them vulnerable.

This helps to explain why a triggering event like a relationship break-up may lead to depression for one person but not for another.

Understanding your own vulnerability factors and triggers can help you take a more self-compassionate attitude about your depression. And a more self-compassionate and caring approach is vital as the foundation for all other strategies for overcoming depression in the long term.


Framework for understanding your depression

A clear understanding of your depression provides the basis for planning appropriate strategies to tackle it. Use this framework to assess how and why depression is affecting you, as the basis for planning which strategies will be most effective for you:

  1. How is depression affecting your daily life and functioning in the present?
  2. What specific events or experiences, if any, may have triggered the depression?
  3. What factors might have made you generally vulnerable to depression?
  4. Which strategies would offer most effective immediate relief from depression?
  5. What longer term strategies would help you resist depression in the future?

Easier with help

‘Framework for understanding depression’ gives more details and examples of how to use this framework. However, it can be quite difficult to gain a sense of perspective about these vulnerability factors and triggers on your own. Support from a counsellor or therapist can make this task easier.

Learning about yourself and others

A useful way to understand more about how depression works is to apply this framework to the student stories on this site (see ‘Learning from others’). This might also give you some ideas for how to understand your own experience better.

Writing your own story

Writing about your own depression experience is a very effective way to bring together this learning. Writing about traumatic experiences has been shown to have a powerful therapeutic effect, facilitating more resilience in coping with the associated emotions. See the ‘Writing’ page for more details.

Next: Identifying depressed thinking

Take Action

My depression summary


What is depression?
Why me, why now?
Debating depression