What is Depression?
Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a mood disorder that is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-V). It ranges in severity from mild to severe and frequently co-occurs with substance-related concerns, anorexia, bulimia, and borderline personality disorder. According to the DSM-V someone might be diagnosed with depression if they have experienced five (or more) of the following symptoms during the same two week period and it represents a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
In order to be diagnosed with MDD the symptoms must cause a marked impairment in normal functioning and are not attributable to substances or another medical condition.
Although clinical depression is serious and deserves treatment and attention, depressive symptoms are not to be taken lightly. If you find yourself feeling stuck experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above it might be helpful to reach out to a local licensed counselor and/or psychiatrist.
Depression vs. Sadness
Depression is different from sadness in that sadness is a feeling that is typical given an event such as losing a parent, going through a divorce, or losing your job. Sadness can be very intense but typically lessens in severity with time. When experiencing sadness it may be possible to experience brief moments of happiness through humor or positive situations. However, depression is persistent and does not typically go away with time or through positive interactions. Depression is a state that encompasses more than just a typical feeling of sadness and typically accompanies other physiological and psychological symptoms.
For most, effective forms of treatment for depression are medications and psychotherapy. Usually a combination of both counseling and medications is the most effective form of treatment for depression. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might be able to find substantial help through counseling without the treatment of medications.
In severe cases where counseling and medication does not help to relieve depression, a psychiatrist may suggest alternative forms of treatment such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Only a psychiatrist can make a recommendation for TMS or ECT. Both forms of treatment are reserved for severe and recurrent depression that is not responsive to counseling or medications.
How I Treat Depression
A large part of my method for treating depression involves using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). When using CBT we will focus on negative thought patterns and beliefs that seem to keep you stuck. Once we have identified those beliefs and thought patterns (which is not as easy as you might think) then we will work to change them into more healthy and positive thoughts and beliefs, which is known as cognitive restructuring.
While attempting to identify negative beliefs that you may have about yourself we may examine family history, childhood relationships, current friendships, and/or current relationships where negative beliefs may have begun to form due to an unhealthy attachment or relationship style.
Then comes the hard work. Identifying those negative thoughts and beliefs you may have about yourself can be tough, but holding and dealing with the feelings attached to those thoughts and beliefs is even more difficult. It is not easy to sit with your pain, but it is incredibly rewarding when done in a safe place.
Another component to my therapy style is setting up and encouraging a healthy diet and exercise. Some research has shown that exercise is just as effective as medication in treating some forms of depression. So placing an emphasis on diet and exercise is very important. Exercise may be as easy as taking a walk around the block, but getting out and eating right is invaluable in dealing with depression.
Counseling is a proven form of treatment for depression. If you need help dealing with your depression, schedule an appointment. If you have questions, feel free to contact me!
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