Depression is one of the most common mental health issues a person can have. It affects millions of Americans each year, and not everyone seeks treatment for it. There are many different types of depression. Some are chronic, which means it can last for months or years. In this chronic types of depression, it’s pretty obvious that a person has ups and downs, good days and bad days. The person might be feeling more numb, or “empty,” than sad. Some types of depression are short-term, such as if the depression is related to a specific event or transition in a person’s life. Maybe your daughter has just recently gone to college, and it isn’t turning out how she expected. Maybe she’s not calling home as much, not socializing with friends anymore, and her grades are dropping. Depression during any kind of transition is common, and it can be managed with the right support.
Here are some of the signs of depression:
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, stuck, “What’s the point?”
- Loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
- Appetite or weight changes
- Sleep changes. Insomnia or sleeping all the time
- Agitation, feeling restless, or feeling slowed down
- Loss of energy, fatigue, easily exhausted
- Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Concentration problems, indecisiveness, lack of focus
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If five or more of these signs persist for two weeks or more, that is a sign that a person has clinical depression.
Notice these signs affect a person both mentally and physically. Depression can really affect a person’s whole life. Just think about how not sleeping, or not eating can affect your immune system and overall health. You might have a child who’s getting sick more. If your child is sleeping more, or eating more, that affects their physical health, too. Are they putting on weight? Are they at risk for diabetes? An important thing to remember is depression is treatable. Your child can get through this.
How is Depression Treated?
Depression is best treated with psychotherapy. This usually ends up being a weekly or biweekly commitment, depending on how severe a person’s symptoms are. It is important to meet with a therapist to assess what kind of depression a person has, and how profoundly it is impacting one’s life.
The vast majority of people who seek treatment see improvement. It is worth it to seek help.
Some people with depression also benefit from taking medication. Medications can be prescribed by a psychiatrist or a primary physician. It is usually best to seek therapy first before jumping into taking medications. Medication is not always necessary to manage depression. However, sometimes the best treatment approach is a combination of therapy and medications.
The most common approaches to treat depression are rooted cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based therapies.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has to do with challenging negative thought patterns and noticing how thoughts and behaviors can impact how you’re feeling.
- CBT identifies a person’s most common negative thoughts, and negative core beliefs, which are extreme negative thoughts that are much more difficult to challenge. For example, someone might have the negative core belief that they aren’t good enough, and will never be good enough.
- CBT teaches people how to use more positive language in their minds and when they are talking with others.
- CBT encourages a person to practice more positive behaviors when they are feeling depressed, or to prevent feeling depressed in the first place. Positive behaviors can be going for a walk, spending time with friends, journaling, or any other activity that a person might enjoy.
- Mindfulness-based therapies have to do with paying attention to your thoughts and feelings as they arise, living in the present moment, and working toward a balance of acceptance and change.
- Mindfulness teaches people to let go of judgment of themselves and the situations that they are in. People with depression are often very harsh critics of themselves and tend to see negativity in situations.
- Mindfulness is a basic form of meditation. Someone with depression might be constantly worrying about the future or ruminating about past mistakes. Meditation helps you to focus on your breathing and stay in the moment.
- Mindfulness encourages people to go at their own pace in recovering from depression. As long as a person is still moving and still trying, it doesn’t matter how fast they go.
- The most common medications used to treat depression are called SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Serotonin helps people feel happy and have an overall sense of well-being.
- There are a lot of brands of SSRI’s out there, and they work well, and are generally very safe. They are prescribed by a medical doctor, not by a psychologist or a licensed mental health professional.
- The brain of someone who has depression might not be producing as much serotonin as someone without depression. SSRI’s help close this gap by making serotonin more available in the brain. This isn’t going to cause a super dramatic difference, or a “high,” but it can help ease some of the symptoms of depression.
- Remember, medications rarely completely resolve depression. Think of medications as more of a supplement to therapy, something to help you get through an especially difficult time. They don’t have to be used long-term. You’re therapist and psychiatrist, or primary doctor can help you figure out if medication is a good option for you.
Let’s Explore What’s Next
If you think you or someone that you care about might be struggling with depression, please know that help is available. Explore What’s Next is a private practice that offers psychotherapy and support for individuals, families, and groups. Call us 716.308.6683, or send an email. We have the information and expertise to help. You can contact Explore What’s Next by looking at our website Contact Page.
If you want to learn more about the different kinds of depression, please refer to this website:
This photo was by the very talented Jose A.Thompson
This article was written by the very talented writer and therapist
Christine Frank, LMSW
Trauma, Depression, Anxiety, Eating/Weight issues, Tweens, Teens, Young Adults
Christine understands what it’s like when you’re trying your hardest and an invisible hand is holding you back. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, or stupid, or unworthy of good things—it just means you could use some help. It helps to connect with someone who knows that your stories are worth listening to. Christine will hear your story. She’s a great listener.
Christine is easy-going, friendly, empathetic, non-judgmental. She’s funny and real in a down to earth way. She loves working with pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults to help them move through those difficult life transitions where a person can feel lost.
With Christine’s guidance and encouragement you can take the first step to a happier, healthier life.
716.430.4611 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, Christine, Thank you for this amazingly comprehensive overview of what depression is and what we can do to treat it! You pack a lot of information into a neat package.