Mentally healthy people wake up with energy in the mornings, ready to live life to the fullest. Meanwhile, people suffering from depression don’t even want to wake up. Does this sound like you?
- Do you feel “down” or hopeless?
- Having your hobbies become boring?
- Do you feel fatigued much of the time?
- Do you under- or over- eat?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are past failures and disappointments blocking you from taking control of your life?
Having a trusting and loving relationship with yourself is at the heart of your mental health. Depression can feel like losing this relationship, but not understanding when, why or how to get it back. Depression is a difficult and serious issue that may have a physical basis and may also be a symptom of other psychological distress.
“Maybe I am just sad and not really depressed?”
The experience of sadness is a common part of the human condition. It can be an adaptive emotional response to certain life events, such as breaking ties with a romantic partner. Long-term, pervasive and debilitating sadness, however, may just be a sign of untreated depression which lead to lower frustration tolerance, irritability, and learning and memory problems. When we are chronically, sad, stressed and not practicing self-care, our brain and body chemistry changes, reinforcing and exacerbating depressive symptoms, and accelerating the process of aging.
“Nothing can help me in this cruel and twisted world! I feel hopeless! I want the world to stop turning and let me get off!”
Despite your experience of sadness, defeat and doubt, something internal is allowing you make it from one day to the next. And you are not alone. In 2014, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year and many more were diagnosed with a type of situational depression called an adjustment disorder with depressed and/or anxious mood. This is a milder, though still unpleasant, form of depression that happens in response to personal stress such as job loss or relocation.
“Can I be cured from depression? Can I stop feeling hopeless? Can I stop thinking about ending my life?”
Absolutely! There are many reasons for hope! Depression has been linked to chemical imbalances in the nervous system that can be systematically targeted in treatment. Depression has also been linked to feeling alone and not understood. These feelings can be effectively processed in therapy, along with whatever has caused one to feel sad in the first place. People who have recovered from depression experience long-lasting changes in various cognitive functions, such as decision-making, planning, organizing and problem-solving. If you are depressed, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help.
“Why not treat with medication alone?”
There are various ways to bring about the biochemical balance that is missing in a person with major depression.
- Research shows that a triad of healthy diet, exercise, psychotherapy and medication is the strongest approach for healing moderately high levels of depression.
- There are many people for whom depression has clear biochemical foundations, and for them, medication can be a very useful aid in getting through the acute phase of an illness.
- There are others who need to remain on an antidepressant for longer periods of time.
If your depression is mild to moderate in intensity, you greatly benefit from psychotherapy even in the absence of medications. But even for those whose treatment includes medication, there is an old saying that ‘pills don’t teach skills.’
“I have taken the medication and nothing happened!”
Everyone is different, and different medications work better for different people. We now have genetic testing to ensure the best match for users and the right medication. Also remember that treatment for depression is effective especially when multiple plans of therapy are simultaneously employed. Depression responds well to a variety of active, focused interventions, particularly when they take place in the setting of a compassionate and supportive therapy relationship. The results of decades-long research on depression treatment are clear: those who receive both medications and psychotherapy treatment have much less relapse rates than those who only receive medications. Even when someone has a major depression that responds well to medication, psychotherapy is a useful tool that enables people to create and enhance brain’s adaptive neural pathways that bolster resilience and hardiness in the face of worst challenges. If you are being treated with medications, I will collaborate with your prescribing physician to ensure that together we provide you with optimal depression treatment.
What should I expect from depression treatment?
Seeking treatment takes strength and courage. Beginning isn’t easy. Although painful and difficult, however, depression can actually present an opportunity to learn and grow. I provide a warm, inviting environment to help you expand your horizons and develop new life skills. No matter how arduous this may seem, I will walk the path beside you, bolstering your strength and catching you when you falter.
I practice and blend cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-meditation exercises, and brief psychodynamic psychotherapy for the treatment of depression, depending on my client’s particular constellation of issues and goals. I also use EMDR therapy, as the research evidence clearly demonstrates that this treatment is effective in reducing depression. My approach works on simultaneously on biological, psychological and social levels. For example, I might help you find ways to begin to exercise and eat healthily, or might help to understand what your mood may be telling you about your world. We might work towards changing external circumstances, or our focus may be more internal. In general, in our work together we will:
- Use compassionate dialogue to safely figure out what your stressors are and how they impact you
- Explore what motivates you and what de-motivates you in fulfilling your true desires
- Identify meaningful ways you can improve your outlook on life
- Examine the coping skills you have and those you would like to develop
- Identify, reprocess and resolve the underlying brain-based and emotional setbacks that have fueled your depression
“Can interventions make my depression worse?”
Resilience to future hardships is the gift you reward yourself with through opening up to what has been painful in your past. In my experience, successful treatment of depression entails accessing and resolving what lies underneath the surface sadness. Understandably some clients worry that if they talk about their sadness it will stir things up and make them feel worse. To lower such worries and avoid a depressed mood, some just get busy with life and avoid feelings. Getting busy distracts from depression, but the opportunity to address uncomfortable emotions in therapy relationship revitalizes the emotional processing centers in the brain that activate healing on physical and mental levels. This reality is at the heart of being a human with emotional needs that deserve attention.
“Can I become addicted to therapy?”
Successful therapy has its beginning, middle, and end. People sometimes worry they will end up reliant on psychotherapy. My approach to depression treatment is to establish a warm and empowering relationship that relieves past wounds while it fosters skills and independence, so that you can approach your daily life with greater autonomy.
Call me to schedule a consultation if you or someone you love is depressed.