Everyone feels sad or “blue” on occasion. It is also perfectly 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. But, for most people, these feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passing of time.
However, if a person’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.
Depressed individuals tend to feel helpless and hopeless and to blame themselves for having these feelings. People who are depressed may become overwhelmed and exhausted and may stop participating in their routine activities. They may withdraw from family and friends. Some may even have thoughts of death or suicide.
What causes depression?
There is no single answer to this question. 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.
Can depression be successfully treated?
Yes, it can. A person’s depression is highly treatable when he or she receives competent care. It is critical for people who suspect that they or a family member may be suffering from depression seek care from a licensed mental health professional who has training and experience in helping people recover from depression. Simply put, people with depression who do not seek help suffer needlessly. Unexpressed feelings and concerns accompanied by a sense of isolation can worsen a depression; therefore, the importance of getting appropriate help cannot be overemphasized.
How can psychotherapy help people recover from depression?
Several approaches to psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and psychodynamic, help depressed people recover. 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. Skilled therapists can work 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
A trained therapist can help depressed patients identify options for the future and set realistic goals that enable them to enhance their mental and emotional well-being. Therapists also help individuals identify how they have successfully dealt with similar feelings if they have been depressed in the past.
Identify negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression
For example, depressed individuals may tend to overgeneralize, that is, to think of circumstances in terms of “always” or “never.” They may also take events personally. A trained and competent therapist can help nurture a more positive outlook on life.
Explore other learned thoughts and behaviors that create problems and contribute to depression
For example, therapists can help depressed individuals understand and improve patterns of interacting with other people that contribute to their depression.
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Help people regain a sense of control and pleasure in life
Psychotherapy helps people see choices as well as gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into their lives.
Having one episode of depression greatly increases the risk of having another episode. There is some evidence that ongoing psychotherapy may lessen the chance of future episodes or reduce their intensity. Through therapy, people can learn skills to avoid unnecessary suffering from later bouts of depression.
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