Is Depression Counseling Right For Me?
Depression at a Glance:
The only “normal” people are the ones whom you don’t know very well. If you’ve found yourself constantly in the company of flawlessly high-functioning, chipper life-enthusiasts, it can make you feel like the oddball—especially if your strenuous morning accomplishments include: putting on pants and braving the sunlight…
But, you are most definitely not “abnormal”: The World Health Organization identifies depression as “the leading cause of disability worldwide”, with 350 million individuals affected globally.
How do I know if I have Depression?
You’ve been feeling blue for stretches of days. Recently, it’s evolved into you avoiding responsibilities by sleeping more than animals that hibernate. You skip work or school, dodge phone calls from friends, and feel utterly exhausted instead of rejuvenated after your marathon sleep.
You have a surface-perfect life: a loving husband/wife, well-adjusted kids, solid job, affordable mortgage, two purebred dogs with ridiculously clever names, and an environmentally friendly minivan: but you’re not happy. And, it doesn’t make sense—because nothing is conspicuously wrong—but you actually feel miserably guilty for feeling miserable. More precisely still: you feel as though you’re caught up on a hamster wheel, careening at a breakneck pace, suffering from complete burnout, and with no foreseeable end in sight until the kids are well out of college…
Depression has many causes. Sometimes depression can be triggered by a major life event (such as a breakup, losing your job, making a recent move, after giving birth, or receiving a diagnosis of cancer) or a past trauma (physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, a near-death experience, or the loss of a loved one). Other times, depression strikes seemingly without cause and hits you hard on the physiological level—our genes can influence in complex ways whether or not we will develop depression.
Despite the cause of your depression, one constant holds true: depression, although similar in expression to sadness, is more enduring.
Sadness fades; but unhappiness becomes reclassified as depression when clinical symptoms monopolize day-to-day functioning for at least two weeks. Warning signs of depression may include:
- Pervasive feelings of despair (“I don’t know how I can go on like this”), futility (“What’s the purpose in jumping through these hoops, day in and day out?”), inadequacy (“I’m not good enough”), emptiness (“Nothing seems to make me happy anymore”), loneliness (“I feel my most alone when I’m in a crowd”), or hopelessness (“I don’t see things ever changing or getting better”)
- Anhedonia: when the things that you once enjoyed no longer give you pleasure—you’ve lost interest in things you love: photography, gardening, football, skiing… You have no desire to pick up a camera or a trowel, let alone a ski pole, and your sex drive has dwindled down to zero
- Sleep disturbances: persistent fatigue (you attempt to dampen painful emotions by sleeping all the time—but you feel like the walking dead during your waking hours) or insomnia (you lie in bed at night and your mind is buzzing. You toss and turn but can never seem to shut your mind off for long enough to fall asleep)
- Appetite disturbances: nausea & difficulty eating (the sight of food has become physically revolting and your friends keep you asking if you’ve lost weight) or binge-eating (you can get a moment’s temporary reprieve from your sadness when you eat an entire Medium-sized pizza—so that happens… at least a few times every week)
- Anxiety, irritability, or restlessness
- You experience physical ailments (including muscular cramps, headaches, etc.) without an identifiable medical cause that leave your doctors puzzled
- Self-harm: to cope with extreme emotions, you may begin to cut, burn, or hit yourself as a coping mechanism (people participate in self-harm for a number of reasons: to feel less numb, to exert control over an out-of-control situation, to punish themselves for perceived inadequacies, etc.)
- Suicidal ideation: as your depression becomes increasingly unmanageable, you may begin to contemplate your own death as a means of escaping your situation and your emotions. Not everyone who contemplates suicide will attempt it; however, if this applies to you, we urge you to get help immediately: Depression is temporary and treatable—but suicide is permanent!
What types of depression are there? What conditions are correlated with depression?
Depression has many variants, including Major Depressive Disorder (in which the symptoms listed above last for longer than 2 weeks) and Persistent Depressive Disorder (in which the symptoms listed above persist for longer than 2 years). In addition, depression may take the following forms:
- Bipolar Disorder: you experience bouts of depression that are punctuated by episodes of mania, in which you feel energized, euphoric, invincible, productive, and as though your thoughts are playing on rapid-fire through your head
- Depression with Psychosis: although depression is also common in individuals with schizophrenia, psychotic depression occurs when an individual with depression experiences simultaneous hallucinations or delusions; unlike schizophrenia, most people with psychotic depression retain an awareness that they are hallucinating
- Postpartum (peripartum) Depression: you become depressed in the weeks after giving birth, as your hormonal levels begin to bottom-out and you struggle to fight sleep-deprivation
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: when symptoms of severe depression appear every month during the week before your period starts and resolve shortly after you begin menstruating
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): occurs when you experience depression annually, with the change of the seasons. Most commonly, people with SAD feel blue in the fall and winter, when sunlight is at a minimum. But SAD may also occur in the spring and summer for certain individuals
Furthermore, depression also occurs more commonly in individuals with other psychiatric conditions, including: substance abuse, eating disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety, and PTSD—to name a few.
How Can Depression Therapy & Counseling Help My Condition?
Fortunately, although complex in nature, depression is a highly manageable condition. You therapist will:
- Ensure your safety, particularly if you think you might be at immediate risk of harming yourself or someone else
- Help you identify the source of your depression and connect you with the best treatment options possible. Your therapist may recommend:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: to help you identify “stuck” thought patterns (see thoughts associated with despair, futility, inadequacy, emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness above) and behaviors that may be contributing to your depression, replacing those defective habits with well-oiled coping mechanisms
- Group therapy sessions: to allow you to connect with other individuals who are experiencing circumstances or emotions similar to your own
- Couples or family counseling: to resolve problematic relationship or parenting issues that may be exacerbating your condition
- Specialized treatments to address a particular condition (such as postpartum depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, etc.)
- Alternative therapies (such as mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapeutic yoga, equine therapy, or expressive arts as therapy) to allow you to explore unconventional and innovative forms of symptom-relief
- Help you regain control in the midst of chaotic situations and achieve a deeper level of satisfaction with your life