What is depression?
Depression, which affects people of all ages, income, race, and cultures, is a disturbance of mood and is characterized by a loss of interest or pleasure in normal everyday activities. People who are depressed may feel "down in the dumps" for weeks, months, or even years at a time.
Depression should not be confused with the passing feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction that everyone experiences from time to time. When these feelings continue for more than a few weeks, however, depression may be the cause.
Depression is an illness not unlike diabetes or heart disease, and its very nature (including feelings of hopelessness) can keep someone from seeking help. Family and friends should encourage someone who is depressed to pursue evaluation and treatment by a mental health professional.
What are some symptoms of depression?
Depression is experienced by nearly 8 million Americans in any one-month period. In 1990, major depression alone cost an estimated $23 billion in lost work days.
Can depression be treated?
Depressive illnesses are highly responsive to treatment. In fact, 80 percent of people with depression report feeling better within a few weeks of starting treatment.
Both psychotherapy and medication may be needed to treat depression. Although medication may help to control it, individuals must learn to recognize their own patterns of depression and develop more effective ways to cope with them. Treatment success depends on factors such as the type of depression, its severity, how long it has been going on, and how an individual responds to treatment. Left untreated, depression can become chronic and even worsen.
Do children experience depression?
Children and adolescents suffer from depression and while their symptoms may be difficult to separate from normal childhood behaviors, they are nonetheless significant: sleeping and eating disturbances, gloomy moods, irritability, lack of interest in school and other activities, and sudden changes in routine or friends. The key to recognizing depression is that the changes in the child's behavior continue for a period of several weeks.
How does depression differ from occasional sadness?
Everyone feels sad or 'blue' on occasion. Most people grieve over upsetting life experiences such as a major illness, loss of job, a death in the family or divorce. These feelings of grief tend to become less intense on their own as time goes on.
Depression occurs when feelings of extreme sadness or despair last for at least two weeks or longer and when they interfere with activities of daily living -- such as working, or even eating and sleeping. Depressed individuals tend to feel helpless and hopeless and to blame themselves for having these feelings. Some may have thoughts of death or suicide.
People who are depressed may become overwhelmed and exhausted and stop participating in certain everyday activities altogether. They may withdraw from family and friends.
What causes depression?
Changes in the body's chemistry influence mood and thought processes, and biological factors contribute to some cases of depression. In addition, chronic and serious illness such as heart disease or cancer may be accompanied by depression. With many individuals, however, depression signals first and foremost that certain mental and emotional aspects of a person's life are out of balance.
Significant transitions and major life stressors such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job can help bring about depression. Other more subtle factors that lead to a loss of identity or self-esteem may also contribute. The causes of depression are not always immediately apparent, so the disorder requires careful evaluation and diagnosis by a trained mental health care professional.
Sometimes the circumstances involved in depression are ones over which an individual has little or no control. At other times, however, depression occurs when people are unable to see that they actually have choices and can bring about change in their lives.
Can depression be treated successfully?
Absolutely. Depression is highly treatable when an individual receives competent care. Psychologists are among the licensed and highly trained mental health providers with years of experience studying depression and helping patients recover from it.
There is still some stigma, or reluctance, associated with seeking help for emotional and mental problems, including depression. Unfortunately, feelings of depression often are viewed as a sign of weakness rather than as a signal that something is out of balance. The fact is that people with depression can not simply 'snap out of it' and feel better spontaneously.
Persons with depression who do not seek help suffer needlessly. Unexpressed feelings and concerns accompanied by a sense of isolation can worsen a depression. The importance of obtaining quality professional health care can not be overemphasized.
How does psychotherapy help people recover from depression?
There are several approaches to psychotherapy -- including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic and other kinds of 'talk therapy' -- that help depressed individuals recover. Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes. Skilled psychotherapists can work with depressed individuals to:
Having one episode of depression greatly increases the risk of having another episode. There is some evidence that ongoing psychotherapy may lessen the chance of future episodes or reduce their intensity. Through psychotherapy, people can learn skills to avoid unnecessary suffering from later bouts of depression.
In what other ways do psychotherapists help depressed individuals and their loved ones?
The support and involvement of family and friends can play a crucial role in helping someone who is depressed. Individuals in the 'support system' can help by encouraging a depressed loved one to stick with treatment and to practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills he or she is learning through psychotherapy.
Living with a depressed person can be very difficult and stressful on family members and friends. The pain of watching a loved one suffer from depression can bring about feelings of helplessness and loss. Family or marital psychotherapy may be beneficial in bringing together all the individuals affected by depression and helping them learn effective ways to cope together. This type of psychotherapy can also provide a good opportunity for individuals who have never experienced depression themselves to learn more about it and to identify constructive ways of supporting a loved one who is suffering from depression.
Are medications useful for treating depression?
Medications can be very helpful for reducing the symptoms of depression in some people, particularly for cases of moderate to severe depression. Some health care providers treating depression may favor using a combination of psychotherapy and medications. Given the side effects, any use of medication requires close monitoring by the physician who prescribes the drugs.
Some depressed individuals may prefer psychotherapy to the use of medications, especially if their depression is not severe. By conducting a thorough assessment, a licensed and trained mental health professional can help make recommendations about an effective course of treatment for an individual's depression.
How can hypnotherapy help?
There are special mind-body hypnotherapeutic techniques, visualization procedures, stress reduction and self-esteem processes, procedures for turning negative thinking into positive behaviors, and much, much more. Regression therapy is sometimes valuable as are the procedures of Personal Power (Neuro-Linguistic Programming - NLP).
Dr. Field is an internationally acclaimed expert in NLP. She has spent numerous years studying cutting-edge technologies for helping others change their lives and empowering individuals to unleash their inner abilities in order to turn their problems into power over themselves. She has helped people around the globe.
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