What is Depression?
Clinical depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses and affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults during the course of a year. Symptoms can range from sadness and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed to changes in appetite, feelings of purposelessness, and difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or focusing. Depression can even include possible somatic (bodily) reactions, such as physical pain, extreme fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues.
How is depression different from sadness?
The word depression gets thrown around a lot in our contemporary culture. We frequently hear phrases like “that movie was depressing” or “I get depressed when I hear that song.” Casual phrases like these can make it hard to distinguish between the emotion of sadness and the experience of clinical depression. So what makes depression different from sadness? The answer is more than a simple matter of measuring the intensity of feelings of sadness. A combination of factors, including the duration and context of the symptoms and the impact of the experience on the individual’s ability to function in their day-to-day life, need to be considered when discussing clinical depression. If you are still unsure about what you or a loved one may be experiencing is depression, reach out to us at Matone Counseling and we can help you out.
What are the symptoms of depression?
As with all mental health issues, an individual’s experience of depression is unique to them. However, there are some common experiences for those with clinical depression. Below are some common examples of symptoms:
● Extreme fatigue
● Loss of interest
● Changes in appetite
● Unexplained aches and pains
What does depression look and feel like?
Listing off symptoms is one thing, but what does someone suffering from depression actually experience? Your subjective experience of depression may feel incredibly difficult to describe, leading to a feeling of distance between you and those with who you once felt close. This isolation can feel crushing and indescribable. Sadness, the first thing that often comes to mind for many people when they think of depression and can be part of your experience, it is not always the case. Many people experience depression as a feeling of numbness or emptiness as if they are incapable of experiencing anything, positive or negative. After a time, many people crave simply feeling anything. This can lead to behaviors such as self harm and substance use.
What are the risk factors for developing depression?
The causes of depression are varied and complex, but there are several factors that can put individuals at a higher risk of developing depression. These include:
● Personal or family history of depression
● Traumatic experiences, both during childhood and adulthood
● Certain physical illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
● Little or no social support during times of stress
● Major life events such as job loss or pregnancy/childbirth.
When should I seek out treatment?
As mentioned above, depression is different from day-to-day sadness. However, it can often be difficult to tell. If you are contemplating whether or not you need to seek professional help, it may be useful to ask yourself these questions.
● Has my depression affected my relationships, work, or schooling?
● Have I been experiencing this for more than a couple of weeks?
● Do I feel “stuck” in life with no sense of purpose or meaning?
● Does something feel off about how you have been feeling and acting?
● Is it causing me to have thoughts of suicide?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, seeking the help of a licensed professional therapist may be incredibly helpful. Opening yourself up to the experience of therapy can be daunting, or you may feel pressure to “tough it out” and “dealing with it” on your own. However, the experience of therapy has been shown to be an incredibly powerful tool to help people overcome many different mental illnesses, including depression.
What does treatment look like?
Seeking treatment can be an incredibly hard thing to do, especially for those who are experiencing depression. Making that first step and contacting us to schedule your first appointment can seem like an insurmountable task, but we are here to make the process as welcoming as possible. While each therapist has their own style of counseling, the first thing your therapist will likely do is listen to your story in order to gain a deeper understanding of your experience. First and foremost, your therapist will listen to and validate your feelings. This in and of itself can be profoundly therapeutic. After this first step, you and your therapist will collaborate on your goals for treatment and the best path forward. Each course of treatment in therapy is unique because each client is unique. There are also numerous different approaches your therapist may take during your sessions, including CBT, DBT, and psychodynamic, just to name a few. In reality, most therapists use a variety of styles and pull from various types of therapies to suit your needs and goals. You and your therapist may also discuss whether or not medication could have a role in your treatment, though this conversation will also include your doctor or psychiatrist.
For more information call Matone Counseling & Testing at 704-503-8196, or register for an online consultation.
By Kevin Ross
Kevin is a staff writer and clinical intern pursuing his Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He is particularly interested in helping those with a history of trauma, as well as the distinct mental health issues faced by men.