Everyone has ups and downs, and days when they are feeling blue. However, Depression is very different from having a bad day or two. There are many types and severities of depression. There is moderate pervasive depression, grief and bereavement, depression associated with a medical illness, and bi-polar disorder. There is situational depression (eg. unemployment or a relationship ending) and chemical depression (where there is often family history). People can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder that usually occurs during the winter, and postpartum depression, when they know they shouldn’t be feeling sad. There is major depression that can lead to suicide. Most all depressions are serious enough to require some level of treatment, whether it is holistic, psychotherapy, medication, or hospitalization.
Depression is often categorized by the extent to which it effects lifestyle. Most all people will experience hopelessness, sadness, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and some level of disinterest in enjoyable things (socializing, sexual relations, or hobbies). Not all people will experience a depression that is accompanied by frequent crying, so that should not be the criteria for seeking help. Being unable to function in one’s normal day (work/school) and complete tasks, or maintain social relationships are indicators that depression is severe. If it is accompanied by such despair that ending one’s life would be a relief to themselves or others, or there is an actual plan how to commit suicide, immediate and comprehensive action should be taken, which may include hospitalization.
Depression is not the body’s natural state and the profound changes to diet or circadian rhythms (sleep/wake patterns) can cause serious health issues. Withdrawal from family members can have lasting effects, especially to children who don’t understand. An inability to attend or focus on work or school can exacerbate symptoms and effect future wellbeing. Although some people will resist treatment they will resort to self-medicating through alcohol and substance. It might feel like a reliable friend that helps to forget, but alcohol and substance only worsen depression and clouds the ability to make healthy decisions, while leaving behind a newly acquired addiction.
Some depressions are responsive to lifestyle changes. A healthy diet, exercise, sunlight can all help alleviate symptoms. Natural supplements and herbs can be helpful as well. More debilitating depressions are probably best addressed with medication. Many people resist medication, because it unnatural or invasive. However, the benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages of living with depression. Today medications have fewer side effects; most don’t effect sex-drive, or weight changes, and are not addictive. People describe feeling ‘more normal,’ ‘less obsessive,’ more hopeful,’ and ‘thicker skinned’. People will still experience a full range of emotions, although the extremes are modified.
Psychotherapy helps people determine the level of depression they are experiencing and guide people toward healing. It can provide a safe place to vent feelings, separate feelings of anger or helplessness/frustration that have been turned in against the self, determine options, and provide overall support. Psychotherapy can unravel the path that the led to depression and show the way to healthier options. There is no reason today why people should suffer with depression when there are so many options available to them for help. If you are feeling depressed or you know someone who is you are not alone, take an action, reach out, get help, and take the first step on path of feeling better.
Leslie Fabian, LCSW-R, MSW
Couples Counseling and Individual Psychotherapy
Croton on Hudson & NYC
lesliefabianlcsw.com & FB: Leslie Fabian, LCSW-R