As a Certified Hypnotherapist, currently in training for a Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma and a HypnoBirthing specialist, the subject of depression arises frequently. In the UK and in western society generally, we live in unparalleled luxury, and yet rates of depression have risen by over 1000% since 1945; women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with common depression, and take twice as long to recover from it. As a practitioner of health and wellness, it is a subject matter that I am drawn to understand more about and promote useful and practical tools to empower women to move forward and feel more hopeful again.
The Basic Needs
One of the commonly shared views about the reasons people feel depressed, is because they have a chemical imbalance and the body is not producing enough serotonin.
The Human Givens approach to psychotherapy gives us another alternative as to why depression occurs; this theory demonstrates that depleted serotonin levels are a by-product of depression as opposed to the cause. This therapeutic approach identifies that each individual has 9 core basic needs and that in order for us to thrive, these needs have to be met in a positive and consistent basis. The needs are:
To give and receive attention
To feel a sense of status
To feel Secure
To give and receive Intimacy
To feel connected to the wider community
To nurture the Mind/Body Connection
To have a goal/purpose
To have an outlet for creativity
To have a sense of control
So vital are these needs, that should one or more fail to be met on a regular basis, our own internal compass either draws us towards negative patterns of behaviour, which act as a substitute for dealing with the lack of positive orientation. Or, we are left feeling anxious and stressed about life, leading us into depression.
The Cycle of Depression
The common thread that weaves all people who suffer with depression together is worry. When a person worries about things, they dream more, as this is nature’s way of helping us to process our anxious thoughts. However, excessive dreaming means less of the lovely, deep sleep, that leaves us feeling rested and more importantly, inhibits the production of serotonin and it’s these elements combined that prevent individuals from being able to wake up feeling rested, alert and positively ready for the day ahead.
Therefore, continuous worry and rumination means that even a 14 hour ‘sleep’, the end result can mean a person wakes up feeling shattered, despondent and demotivated. This leads once more to worries about how to climb the metaphorical mountain that stands ahead of them because of the lack of energy they feel, perpetuating the cycle once again.
Depression Post Labour
According to the Pandas Foundation women can develop post natal depression for a number of different reasons and usually a combination – see the Pandas website for more information. These factors combined with how many of the basic needs are negated for new mums in order for them to focus on the wellbeing of the new baby, create the perfect storm for depression. Additional feelings of guilt and shame that mothers can feel about not finding things as easy as they think they should be, alongside not being able to share those feelings of doubt with those closest and it becomes even more clear, why this can be such a difficult period for many women. Moreover, should the mother have also had the misfortune of difficult or traumatic experience during labour these feelings can be multiplied even more so.
So How Can Hypnobirthing Help?
In the first instance, hypnobirthing is designed to promote calm and comfortable birthing for healthy mothers carrying healthy babies. The main cornerstone of all hypnobirthing programs, is to teach mothers how to remain calm and relaxed, this is achieved through the teaching of breathing techniques, how to use visualisation positively and utilizing self-hypnosis. These are a powerful and incredibly potent toolbox of skills that help women to reduce the feelings of anxiety they maybe feeling through their pregnancy, during birth and beyond.
Furthermore, when we look to the Basic Needs, we understand taking this time to tune into the body and quieten the mind of its constant negative self-talk, is key when we look to meet the need of nurturing the mind/body connection. The body’s chemical response to anxiety and fear, whether real or perceived, is to produce adrenaline, which primes the body for action perpetuating further the heightened state of anxiety. The other end of the continuum is to feel relaxed and calm, allowing the body to produce endorphins and serotonin – which is why reducing the state of anxiety and learning how to calm the body and the mind down quickly is such a vital part of treating depression holistically and effectively.
One of the other key elements to the newest hypnobirthing programs is learning how to take charge of one’s thoughts; teaching women how to interrupt negative thoughts and replace these with more positive patterns. If it were as easy as that surely everyone would be doing it right? Bringing awareness to the fact that we are not our thoughts and certainly not everything we think about is necessarily true, prior to depression taking hold, is another crucial area we can shine a light on, that can assist women in preventing the onset of depression. Whilst it is true, learning to interrupt negative thought patterns isn’t as easy as saying, ‘well I just don’t believe that anymore’. It is a technique, that like any new skill, often needs to be taught and most certainly needs to be practiced before it becomes second nature. In just the same way as we learnt to ride a bike or drive a car, once this practice is honed, I believe it becomes an invaluable life skill for mothers.
In conclusion although, hypnobirthing will certainly not prevent every mother who chooses to have a hypnobirth for her child from developing postnatal depression, or depression later on in life. It is true that it provides with an invaluable tools that should leave mothers feeling empowered about their ability to deal with the many stressful situations that may occur both during and after birth. These skills combined with ensuring that that each of our basic needs is met, provide a powerful, holistic and sustainable approach to treating depression in the 21st century.
To find your nearest Human Givens psychotherapist please visit www.hgi.org.uk
For more information on post natal depression please visit http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk