Depression is the single most common issue that brings people to psychotherapy. It is also the most common mental health disorder diagnosed in the US at any given time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, affecting over 16 million people. How can a condition so common make people feel so isolated? In part, it is because of the stigma associated with mental health issues and the belief that many people have that depression is not a real illness, that feeling sad is a choice, or that you can just “snap out of it”. These beliefs could not be farther from the truth.
Depression is a real illness
Depression is real and so are the symptoms. Although depression can look and feel different for everyone, symptoms of depression include: feeling empty or sad, experiencing low energy or fatigue, feeling more irritable or “short-fused”, having no interest in activities that used to be fun and pleasurable, tendency to spend a lot of time alone, changes in sleep and eating habits, and in some cases, thoughts of death or contemplating suicide. Depression affects how the brain works- it makes thinking clearly and problem-solving very hard, like you are living under a fog. It makes interacting with other people feel like a burden. It makes you feel hopeless about the future and see life as dull and colorless. You may try to get out of the house, but you soon regret it and start to feel overwhelmed. No matter how much rest you get, all you want to do is stay in bed. For some people, some momentary comfort can be found in food, but for others, their appetite just vanishes. You may spend most of the time thinking about a mistake you made or a life event that you wish you could change. You blame yourself and feel ashamed or worthless. You try to go to work, take care of the house or kids, but every day seems like a marathon and all you want to do is cry or be left alone.
Do I really have depression?
Not all depression is the same. Research has found that depression is more common in women than men because of biological, hormonal and some psychosocial and cultural factors such as unemployment and childbearing. It is estimated that up to 15% of women experience post-postpartum depression.
Men also experience depression, but their primary symptoms may be different. For example, men are more likely to have trouble sleeping, to feel tired all the time, to have little interest in activities, and to become more irritable. More men than women turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed as a way to self-medicate, to lessen the impact of the symptoms. Men are also more likely to increase the number of hours they spend at work or in activities that serve as distractions.
Feeling blue during the winter months, when there is less sunlight and fewer social activities, is also very common but differs from depression in one very important way: you tend to get better with the change of season. Wondering if you have the winter blues? Read more here.
Grief is a natural response to loss. Though the symptoms may very similar to depression in some cases, it is easier to identify the “source” of the sadness. Perhaps you lost someone you loved, a pet, or maybe you lost your job. Some grief reactions can also happen when you move away to a new town and experience the loss of friendships or when a relationship ends. Grief is complex, can get worse during the holidays, and, much like depression, looks different for different people.
Will the depression ever go away? Do I need medication?
Yes, depression can be treated successfully. Yes, some people benefit from taking medication to help them get better. However, many people get better without medication and go on to live full lives. For those who benefit from medication, it is important to remember that medication alone will not work. With the help of a skilled therapist who has experience in depression treatment, you can learn to break the pattern of negative thinking, self-doubt, self-blame, and learn skills to build hope and prevent relapse, so that you can eventually stop taking medications if and how you and your doctor agree it is safe to do so.
Does’t talking about it make it worse?
There are many types of treatment for depression and what works for one person, may not work for the next. At Thrivemind we believe that with compassion, empathy, and a collaborative relationship we can foster within you the strength and skills to heal from depression. Talking about your experiences, exploring your thoughts with guidance and support, and learning skills for breaking the cycles of negative thoughts and self-judgement are key to healing.
How does therapy for depression work?
It can be uncomfortable and even intimidating to talk to a therapist about how you are feeling. Especially if you typically see yourself as a strong, self-sufficient, and independent person. The first thing you need to remember is that there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with needing a little help either. Because depression affects the brain and how it works, it makes it more difficult for you to think clearly about your problems and fight back on your own. You may be able to recognize the issues that are causing you to feel depressed and even know “what to do”, but when it comes time to do it, you feel stuck and overwhelmed. Or maybe you don’t really know where the sadness is coming from and feel helpless. No matter how difficult it is, we can help you get connected with your own feelings, uncover underlying sources of suffering and pain, process painful emotions, and start rebuilding a full and vibrant life.
Though the smallest effort, like making a phone call, can feel like an impossible mountain to climb right now, if you are ready to find relief call us ay 910-939-0836 or click below.