What is depression?

Depression is a common but treatable mental illness with a variety of emotional and physical symptoms that can interfere with your ability to function in day-to-day life.

Depression can vary in severity and duration, and symptoms may include:

  • Intense and chronic feelings of sadness, worthlessness and guilt that can develop into thoughts of self harm and/or suicide
  • Lack of interest and enjoyment in positive activities and relationships
  • Engagement in destructive self-soothing practices like substance abuse or eating disorder behaviors
  • Difficulty concentrating and making simple decisions that can lead to a lack of a sense of self, purpose, and direction
  • Observable changes to physical behavior like frequent restlessness, irritability, physical tics, or slowed movement and speech
  • Observable changes to appetite like overeating or excessive fasting, and changes to sleep patterns like insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)

What can cause depression?

Depression can arise in episodes related to a specific event, or develop over time as a result of the sufferer’s brain chemistry, family of origin, and living environment. There are a number of identified risk factors for depression including:

Brain Chemistry

Your unique neurochemical balance may predispose you to depressive moods and thought patterns. People with depression have trouble processing serotonin, and important neurochemical responsible for lifting our mood.‍

Family History

Depression can run in families, both genetically and behaviorally. You may inherit your family’s particular neurochemical profile, or observe and absorb their way of dealing with difficult feelings.‍

Environmental Factors

Continuous exposure to violence, neglect and abuse and economic factors like poverty or crushing debt can make some more vulnerable to developing a depressive mindset.‍

A jeopardized sense of self esteem or vulnerable connections to a community of support can also be predictive of depression.

How can a therapist help you cope with depression?

Some people who experience depression may be so accustomed to their lowered mood that they assume it’s just part of their personality and don’t seek help. If you think of yourself as just “a sad person,” or blame yourself for not being able to be as happy as others with your day-to-day experience, talk to a therapist about how you’re feeling. They can help you investigate the source of your depressed mood, and empower you to get the help you need. According to the APA, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders with over 80% of sufferers responding well to treatment. Almost all patients who seek help gain some relief from their symptoms.

Depression varies in duration and severity, and your therapist will develop a treatment plan that takes account of these factors. For formal diagnosis symptoms must be present for at least two weeks, but all of us may be subject to feelings of depression that deserve treatment even without putting a label on it. A therapist can talk through your feelings of depression with you, help you find more validating and constructive ways of dealing with your symptoms, and suggest behavioral remedies to combat mild depression. If your depression is more severe they can provide support as you pursue medication with a psychiatrist, and assist you in measuring your progress as you come up with new ideas for your therapy together.

Ready to overcome the barriers holding you back?