Life just doesn’t have the meaning it used to. It’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, to go to work, even to participate in activities you used to love. You find yourself feeling very sad or angry sometimes, and you don’t know why. Even if everything appears to be going fine to the outside observer, you just don’t feel like yourself anymore. You may even be entertaining thoughts of suicide, even if you have no active desire to take your own life. You live under a dark shadow, and you feel hopeless, worthless, and profoundly exhausted.  

If this resonates with you, it’s possible that you have depression. It may feel like there’s no hope, but even severe depression is treatable; in fact, depression is one of the most widely studied and most treatable mental disorders. There are many different treatment options for you, including depression therapy at our counseling center in Palatine, IL.

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is an incredibly common mental illness that affects millions of Americans each year. It negatively impacts the way you feel, think, and behave. When you’re depressed, you may feel sad, angry, and disinterested in activities you once enjoyed. Depression comes with a variety of emotional and physical issues that can impact daily functioning.

Depressive symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Anger and irritability
  • Appetite changes; either eating too much or too little
  • Sleep changes; either sleeping too much or too little
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and self-loathing
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is not the same thing as sadness. Sadness is a normal part of the human experience when faced with loss. Whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or a breakup, it is normal to be sad when you are grieving a loss. People sometimes describe themselves as “depressed” when they are experiencing sadness.

 

 

However, being sad is not the same thing as being depressed. Grief shares some of the same symptoms of depression, in that both tend to make you want to withdraw and to feel intensely sad. However, there are some significant differences:

  • When grieving, the pain comes in waves, often mixed in with happy memories. When depressed, both pleasure and mood are decreased for a minimum of two weeks.
  • Grief does not generally have an impact on self-esteem. Depression impacts self-worth and can make you feel completely worthless and self-loathing.
  • Some people experience depression as a result of a situation that initially causes grief. For example, the loss of a loved one can initially inspire grief which then becomes depression over time. When you are depressed and grieving, your distress over your loss will last much longer than the normal grieving process. They may overlap, but depression and grief are different. Learning the distinction can help you make sure you get the help you need.

  • Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S.
  • Around the world, more than 300 million people have depression.
  • Depression impacts people of every country, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Depression is associated with certain physical health problems. For example, it is correlated with cardiovascular disease.
  • More than 8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. suffer from depression.

It’s wise to consult with a physician if you are experiencing symptoms of depression because there are other medical conditions that can lead to depression. If there is no medical reason for your depressive symptoms, it’s time to visit a therapist. At New Transitions Counseling Center, we can provide depression screening. In general, depression can be diagnosed by discussing your symptoms and learning a bit more about your current life circumstances. We may also have you perform a battery of screening tests to diagnose you, suck as the Beck Depression Inventory, the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale, or the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

The causes of depression are not entirely understood yet. It is likely that it is caused by a variety of sources. It is likely that depression is caused by a combination of the following sources:

  • Genetics: Depression seems to run in families.
  • Biological: Changes in brain chemistry, as well as hormonal changes in the body, may cause depression.
  • Environmental: Environmental factors, such as social isolation, employment issues, and trauma, can trigger depression.

Depression is twice as likely to be diagnosed in women, but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact men as well. It is theorized that many more men have depressive symptoms, but do not come forward for help. Part of this may be because men are socialized not to express their feelings and they may consider seeking professional help for their mental health issues as “weak” or “feminine.” Additionally, depressive symptoms often manifest differently in men than women, so men may not be aware that what they are experiencing is depression. For example, men are more likely to experience symptoms like irritability and irrational anger as opposed to feeling extremely sad or crying excessively.

As is a typical approach to treating mental illness, it’s best to use several different interventions when it comes to depression.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle changes are indispensable to treating depression, and are often the first line of defense against symptoms. By making certain adjustments to your routine and habits, you may find that they both help ease your depressive symptoms and keep them at bay when you’re not feeling depressed. Here are the main lifestyle factors you should consider:

  • Exercise: There is research that suggests that exercise can be equally as effective for treating depression as therapy. Exercise naturally elevates your serotonin levels and release endorphins into our bloodstream, acting as a mood elevator the way that antidepressants do. Even something as simple as taking a walk every day can help with depressive symptoms. Aim to get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise at least three times a week, preferably more.
  • Nutrition: You are probably aware that nutrition is important for your physical health, but it also has an impact on your mental health. Blood sugar levels are connected to mood, so keep yours steady throughout the day and your mood stable by eating small, nutrient-dense meals. Many people with depression turn to comfort food in times of stress, reaching for simple carbohydrates and sugars. However, these are generally accompanied by a sugar crash shortly afterwards, which brings with it low energy and mood.

 

 

  • Sleep: Many people with depression experience insomnia, which only worsens their symptoms. Sleep plays an important role in mood, and therefore, it is important to prioritize it. Getting enough sleep at night may make a big difference in your depressive symptoms. Most people need at least seven hours of sleep a night, so aim between seven and nine hours.
  • Social Support: Isolation is one of the main risk factors for depression. Therefore, a strong social network can make a big difference in helping with depressive symptoms. While depression can make it difficult to reach out to loved ones, keeping in regular contact with them is worth the effort. Additionally, consider joining a class or social group to expand your social circle. Volunteering is another great way to meet new people and do something that will make you feel good about helping others.
  • Relaxation and Stress Reduction: The modern world is stressful, and you may feel pressure to always be productive. Relaxation may be something you never prioritize, but it is important for your mental health because stress can have a profound impact on your depression. Reduce sources of your stress in your life, such as unsupportive people and an overwhelming workload. Additionally, look for sources of relaxation, whether you use breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, or another hobby or activity.

Medication and Other Treatments

If your depressive symptoms have a profound impact on your daily functioning, medication may be necessary. Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for many people, but they do come with certain side effects. It is up to the individual and their doctor whether these side effects are worth it. In order to be prescribed antidepressants, you need to see a physician or a psychiatrist. If you come to New Transitions Counseling Center for therapy and feel that you might need antidepressants, we can refer you to a qualified psychiatrist.

Additionally, some people with depression benefit from alternative treatments in conjunction with others. For example, some report that acupuncture, supplements, and herbal treatments help them with their depression. You can talk with your therapist about whether or not these treatments may prove advantageous for you.

Therapy

Therapy has proven to be an extremely effective treatment for depression. However, because of the stigma around both mental illness and therapy, many people do not seek it out of shame. At New Transitions Counseling Center, we understand why you may hesitate to seek therapy for your depression, but we want to reassure you that we have helped many individuals with their symptoms. The first step is to try one session, and while it takes a lot of courage, it is worth it in the end. Read on to learn a bit more about what to expect from depression therapy.

Depression Therapy

It is typical for depression therapy to use a combination of therapeutic techniques, but the three most common are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. At New Transitions Counseling Center, we use CBT to treat a variety of mental health conditions, but we may incorporate other approaches in as well. CBT centers around providing patients with the tools they need to address negative thought patterns and behaviors in order to improve mood and cope with other depressive symptoms (learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy by reading our blog here).

 

 

Depression therapy is tailored to the needs of the individual in therapy. However, there are certain central themes that you can expect to tackle with your therapist.

  • Healthy boundaries: When you’re depressed, even the smallest daily responsibilities can bring overwhelming stress. If you feel like you can’t reduce these responsibilities or turn down requests for additional ones, it can worsen depression. You therapist will work with you in order to help you learn how to establish healthy boundaries, both in relationships and at work, as a way to reduce stress. Therapy can be a way to explore and identify what boundaries are important for you to inforce for your care.
  • Relationships: Your social support circle is important for depression treatment, so therapy is often centered around exploring your relationship patterns, how you can build better relationships, and how you can improve your current relationships.
  • Coping with problems: When you’re depressed, life’s problems can see all the more daunting and impossible to deal with. A trusted therapist can help you by finding positive ways to handle the challenges and difficulties that come your way.

Group v. Individual Depression Therapy

At New Transitions Counseling Center, we offer both group and individual therapy. Most people think of therapy on an individual level, but it can actually be helpful to try group therapy for depression. Traditionally, both group and individual therapy lasts about an hour. During individual therapy, you are forming a strong bond with one individual, which may make it easier to divulge more sensitive information, and means that you will get more one-on-one attention on your issues.

However, group therapy has its benefits as well. Listening to people who have similar experiences to you can be extremely validating, easing the feelings of isolation and low self-esteem that come with depression. Additionally, hearing different points of view on how depression affects the different group members can provide you with some helpful coping mechanisms. This also expands your social network, giving more people to reach out to in times of distress.  

If you need help with your depressive symptoms, there is hope. At New Transitions Counseling Center in Palatine, we have helped many people cope with depression and go on to live healthy, happy lives. If you are in need of help, contact us today to schedule an appointment with a therapist.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

American Psychiatric Association

National Institute of Mental Health