Did you know an estimated 18.8 million adult Americans will suffer from depression during any year-long period? Of these millions of adults, many don’t even recognize that they have this condition and that it can be effectively treated. When coupled with a severe misunderstanding of what depression really is, it’s often that depressed individuals suffer in silence. Use this question and answer sheet to help better understand depression and how psychotherapy can help someone recover.
What’s the difference between depression and sadness?
There is a common misconception that depression is just a large amount of sadness, but this isn’t true. It’s normal to feel sad on occasion, and not every major life occurrence will leave you with this disorder. Intense sadness and depression are in fact not one and the same, though the former can be a symptom of the latter.
When someone is depressed, many different factors must be present in order for this diagnosis to be given. A depressed person is someone who is either extremely numb, sad or inconsolable for a period of two weeks or more, and this kind of extreme emotion effects how they live their daily lives. Depression also tends to lead to feelings of hopelessness, self-deprecation, and suicidal thoughts.
It’s also easy for a depressed person to feel overwhelmed. Simple tasks like eating and bathing can be too much for them, causing them to function at the barest minimum level. All of these comorbid symptoms often lead to withdrawal from family, friends, and society.
What causes depression?
There are typically two forms of depression: biological and situational. Situational depression forms when a traumatic event happens in a person’s life and they don’t know how to cope. When someone’s sadness goes without help for an extended period of time, this can lead to depression. This form of depression typically wouldn’t have sprung up unless there was a situational catalyst, however.
Biological depression comes from factors such as a chemical imbalance or a serious illness. This kind of depression can be much harder to treat and handle because the depressed person has another comorbid illness or has a wholly untreatable chemical level problem.
In either situation, depressed individuals are often put into circumstances which they have little to no control over. This kind of environment causes a cycle – they can’t control the situation, and the depression causes them to lose even more control, spinning them into a web of despair.
Is there an effective treatment for depression?
Yes. Depression can be effectively treated when competent care is provided. Through counseling, therapy, and even family intervention and communication, depression symptoms can be lessened or even completely removed in some cases.
Psychotherapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment for depression. Psychotherapists can include psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, and other types of therapists. These kinds of psychotherapists can use a myriad of methods that may be tailored to a patient in order to alleviate their symptoms.
One thing to note is that there is still a stigma attached to seeking help for depression, even in our advanced and typically medically open-minded society. A common problem is that signs and symptoms of depression are associated with weakness and feel better – they are often told to “get over themselves” or to “just be happy instead.”
The reality is that this isn’t something doable for someone with depression. Those with depression often don’t understand the root of the problem, and thus can’t solve it on their own. This is where psychotherapy comes in – understanding and getting in control of a problem is how to effectively take your life back.
How does psychotherapy treat depression?
First, understand that psychotherapy is handled in many different ways. Just a few forms of psychotherapy include cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic and interpersonal. There are also a lot of different facets of depression that need to be treated, from psychological to situational attributes.
Just some benefits of seeing a therapist include
- Discovering the root cause of depression.
- Understanding or solving the problem causing the depression.
- Identification of options available to treat depression.
- Acceptance of yourself.
- A therapist can point out negative or harmful thought processes that lead to depression.
- Positivity in times of strife.
- Exploration of why you think the way you do.
- A competent therapist can help you regain a sense of control again.
When you are depressed once in your life, the likelihood of having another depressive episode increases astronomically. Evidence points to psychotherapy being involved with the treatment of the first episode can lead to there never being another episode. This is because psychotherapy isn’t just about fixing one problem – it’s about discovering tools to make your own life better.
Psychotherapists also help depressed individuals discover a support system. This system can be composed of friends or family, who can also be helped by a psychotherapist to better understand any behaviors they have that attributed to the situation.
It’s also sometimes difficult for family members to take care of or handle a depressed person, especially in cases where the reason for their family member’s depression is also affecting them as well. Psychotherapists, especially family therapists, can talk to whole families about their dynamic and how to make the situation healthier for everyone involved.
What about medications for depression?
Medications do of course exist for treating depression, and these prescription drugs can be very helpful for some who need help regaining a chemical balance in their body. Depending on your specific situation and therapist, they might ask you to take medication, work with a balance of medication and therapy, or recommend avoiding medication entirely.
In most cases, a blend of both psychotherapy and medication can offer the best result to patients.