- What is Depression?
Most people have felt sad at times. Feeling sad may be a normal reaction to life’s struggles. However, when feelings of intense sadness last for many days, weeks, or years and keep an individual from functioning normally, he/she may be experiencing something more than sadness, he/she may be experiencing depression. Though there are different types of depressive disorders, symptoms include: depressed mood; diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities; significant weight loss or weight gain; excessive sleeping or an inability to sleep; a sense of being slowed down or restlessness; loss of energy; irritability and extreme difficulty controlling one’s behaviors (if age 18 or younger); feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness; and recurring thoughts of death or suicide. For a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, many of the aforementioned symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period, represent a change from previous functioning, and cause significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.
- How can Depression be treated?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for depression. One of the core principles of CBT is the assumption that a person’s mood is directly related to his/her patterns of thinking. Those suffering from depression often say things to themselves that are unhelpful and/or untrue. With CBT, the individual and therapist work together to identify the individual’s negative automatic thoughts, evaluate the helpfulness and/or validity of the thoughts, and replace the thoughts with healthier ones so the individual can feel better, demonstrate more adaptive behaviors, and experience better consequences overall. If an individual is experiencing suicidal thoughts, those thoughts should be addressed first and a further assessment would be essential to determine whether further intervention is necessary. At the very least, the individual and therapist should work together to create a safety plan (e.g., ensuring the individual has adequate coping skills and an adequate support system at hand) to ensure the individual can remain safe.