Have you ever felt “down in the dumps” and not been able to identify the source of discontent? This is a feeling most experience on rare occasions; however, it can become a chronic and debilitating feeling for individuals who struggle with depression. Depressed individuals tend to feel helpless and hopeless and blame themselves for having these feelings. It is normal to grieve over upsetting life experiences, such as a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job, or a divorce; however, when an individual’s feelings of sadness last for two weeks or longer and if they interfere with daily life activities, something more serious than “feeling blue” may be going on. Individuals who are depressed may become overwhelmed and exhausted and may stop participating in their routine activities. Often times, those who are depressed withdraw from family and friends and isolate themselves. Some individuals may even get to the point where they experience thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression is the most common mental disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17 million adult Americans suffer from depression during any one-year period. People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Some of the signs and symptoms according to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, include the following:
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
- Pessimism, indifference
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
What causes depression? Some depression is caused by changes in the body’s chemistry that influence mood and thought processes. Biological factors can also cause depression. In other cases, depression is a sign that certain mental and emotional aspects of a person’s life are out of balance. For example, significant life transitions and life stresses, such as the death of a loved one, can bring about a depressive episode.
Several approaches to psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and psychodynamic, help depressed people recover and experience life to its fullest.
Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes; therapy also helps people see choices and gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into their lives. Through therapy, people can learn skills to avoid unnecessary suffering from later episodes of depression.
Walker Wellness Clinic works with depressed individuals to pinpoint the life problems that contribute to their depression and help them understand which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve, identify negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression, explore other learned thoughts and behaviors that create problems and contribute to depression, and help individuals regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
Source: American Psychological Association. “Depression: How Psychotherapy and Other Treatments Can Help People Recover.”