Therapy For Depression
“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Are you feeling sad, hopeless, isolated and not like your usual self?
If you’re struggling with depression, you may simply notice that you’re not feeling like yourself, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what feels different or wrong… You may be feeling numb or checked out.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Over 16 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
If you’re feeling depressed these thoughts may (often) enter your mind:
- What’s wrong with me?
- Why do I feel like this? Not like myself?
- Why don’t I want to do anything anymore?
- Was life this hard before? Why is everything so overwhelming?
- How can I get my energy back?
- I can’t stop crying, which makes me not want to be around anyone.
- I am worthless and can’t seem to do anything (right).
- Nothing I try helps me feel better, and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- It’s all so overwhelming and exhausting!
- I feel so numb and checked out.
“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”
Depression includes not only a sad mood but also numerous cognitive, behavioral, physical and emotional symptoms:
Cognitive symptoms include self-criticism, hopelessness, difficulty with attention and concentration, overall negativity, and at times suicidal thoughts.
Behavioral changes include withdrawal from other people, not doing activities that were previously enjoyable or pleasurable, and having difficulty “getting started” with activities in general.
Physical symptoms include insomnia, sleeping more (or less) than usual, feeling tired/lethargic a lot of the time, eating more or less than usual, and changes in weight.
Emotional symptoms that often accompany depression include feelings of sadness, irritability, anger, guilt, shame and nervousness.
Symptoms of Depression
Here are some of the most common signs of depression:
- Difficulty making decisions. When you are depressed, it can be very hard to make even the simplest decisions without feeling overwhelmed. Little things that you don’t normally think about become hard — like deciding whether to have eggs or cereal for breakfast.
- Unexplained physical problems. Things like chronic pain and constant stomach aches with no physical cause can be a sign of depression.
- Irritability. Agitation and irritable mood are common signs of depression, especially in children and teens.
- Persistent feelings of sadness. An ongoing crushing feeling of sadness that doesn’t go away after two weeks could be a sign of depression. Everyone feels sad from time-to-time. However, with depression, the feeling of sadness prevents you from doing things that you normally do, like going to work or being social. You don’t feel like yourself. You might feel it’s because you “feel down in the dumps,’ or you might feel drawn to binge eat a quart of ice cream in an attempt to feel better. Those are some signs that you may be struggling with depression.
- Social isolation. Depression can cause you to become isolated from friends and family. Engaging with others feels overwhelming. People with depression may appear distant or isolated.
- A crippled sense of self-worth/self-esteem. Depression causes self-worth to plummet. You may be questioning if you’re good enough, worthy, capable, etc.
- Exhaustion. When you are depressed, even minor exertion can cause extreme fatigue. Depression can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning or complete basic daily tasks.
- Lack of interest in enjoyable activities. With depression, you no longer care about doing the activities you used to really enjoy. Maybe you used to love yoga or hiking, but now you feel disinterested and overwhelmed at the idea of doing what you used to enjoy.
- Significant weight gain or loss. Have you recently lost a lot of weight? Maybe you no longer enjoy eating. A lack of appetite is a common symptom of depression, which can result in weight loss. Alternatively, depression can cause some people to overeat, or binge eat, as an attempt to self-soothe and numb out/feel better, resulting in weight gain.
- Restlessness, irritability or agitation. Depression sometimes causes agitation/irritability and restlessness. If you’re feeling depressed, you might feel tightly wound up or fidgety. These sensations can make it difficult to fall/stay sleep or relax.
- Sluggishness. Psychomotor retardation is one sign of depression. This can cause you to move slower than you normally do. It might take longer to perform your usual tasks. Psychomotor retardation can also affect your speech, causing you to speak slower as well.
Why Do People Develop Depression?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single answer to this question. Researchers have found that several different factors can cause, or contribute to, depression. It’s not always clear which possible cause of depression affects any given person. In some people, several different factors may lead to this mood disorder.
While understanding the possible causes of depression can help, it’s best for individuals to speak with an experienced therapist in order to help discover the cause(s) of their mood disorders. A personalized approach is vital for depression.
Traumatic or Stressful Situations
The most obvious causes of depression are negative life events. These traumas can include the death of a loved one, divorce, betrayal by loved ones, facing a serious or chronic illness, or having financial troubles.
Sometimes the depression comes on directly after an event occurs, such as with the death of a loved one. Other times, people suffer from depression years (or even decades) after a traumatic event occurred, such as experiencing abuse in childhood. These causes may be less evident at first, and could be triggered by events down the road.
People can experience depression in reaction to chronic stressors in life as well, such as experiencing chronic health issues themselves or in a loved one.
Some physical health issues can cause depression, especially when left untreated. For example, depression is a symptom of several autoimmune diseases, thyroid issues, or can be a result of hormonal changes during or following pregnancy. It can also be part of some broader mental health issues, such as eating disorders or substance abuse.
Certain medications (or interactions of different meds), or drugs/alcohol abuse can cause depression as well. Some studies have found that corticosteroids and specific anti-virals can increase a person’s risk of developing depression. Certain mental health (psychotropic) medications can also worsen symptoms, which is why mental health professionals typically observe closely when clients start new treatments.
People with family histories of depression often wonder, “Is depression genetic?” They worry that because their parent suffered from the disorder, they are bound to as well. The research on the inheritance of depression remains unclear.
People who have a first-degree family member (biological sibling or a parent) with depression are between 2-3 x more likely to develop the disorder than those who do not have such a connection. However, many people have first relative family connections and never develop depression, and some people have no genetic family history and still develop depression. It is possible that the relationship could be more about (shared) lifestyle factors than genes per se.
All moods, positive and negative, come down to the biochemistry in our brains. It is estimated that people experience billions of chemical reactions in their body each day.
At times, something in a person’s life causes these reactions to become imbalanced, which can create a cascade of symptoms of depression. Other times, the imbalance begins with no known cause. This means that for some people, depression can come on without experiencing any obvious “personal problems,” traumas, underlying conditions, or medications.
Learn Coping Skills With Depression Therapy
During the course of therapy, you’ll learn skills to manage your depression. You will learn to disengage from negative thoughts and treat them as information, rather than absolute truths, so they have less influence over your behavior. Depression is often associated with seeing things from a dark perspective. When we feel worthless, useless, or unlovable, we pay attention to cues that confirm those feelings to the detriment of all other possible cues. This skewed perspective often reinforces feelings of sadness and prolongs the depression. Recognizing these blind spots (where our perspective is darker than reality calls for) is a big step toward living a healthier life and feeling happier.
As part of depression therapy, you will learn coping skills to help you withstand your triggers. You will also learn how to become mindful of how situations and others affect your mood and emotions and what you can do about it.
If you struggle with depression, I want you to know that you are not alone and that there are people who can help. It is NOT your fault, nor is it a sign of weakness! No one chooses to feel depressed.
Many of my clients find relief in realizing that their struggle does not own them and that there are many options available to regain hope and start feeling better.