The Relationship Expert
Licensed Psychologist in Arroyo Grande & Los Osos
Depression is more than merely feeling sad. People who are depressed cannot just “shake it off.”
Symptoms of Depression
The following are symptoms of depression when experienced for two weeks or longer:
- Predominantly depressed mood
- Anhedonia, or a lack of interest in things you once found pleasurable
- Significant increase or decrease in appetite
- Significant increase or decrease in weight
- Low energy, fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feelings of helplessness
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Crying spells
- Withdrawing or isolating socially
- Persistent thoughts of death or suicide
- Significant increase or decrease in sleep
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation: feeling sped up, slowed down, or experiencing unintentional motions
Depression usually comes on gradually. There can be many different reasons. It can begin with a devastating or traumatic event. It can also occur in connection with having a physical illness. Often, depression and anxiety are intertwined. It can last as short as two weeks, or if untreated, as long as a lifetime.
Once someone is depressed for a significant length of time, it is extremely difficult to pull out of that state of mind. That’s because they have experienced a drop in the level of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in the brain. After that, it is rare for someone to be able to see any improvements in their mood or thinking without help. It’s a sensation like being stuck in quicksand. The more you try to escape, the further you are pulled back down. And with each push to break free, you are sapped of energy to fight to get up again.
Sigmund Freud said depression is anger turned inwards. There is a great deal of truth in that. In addition to anger, researchers have found that discounting any number of emotions that are valid can lead to depression. In essence, one “depresses” unwanted emotions down within themselves, like repeatedly pushing a beach ball under water. It isn’t just exhausting. It’s an impossible predicament because these very thoughts and emotions pop up multiple times a day, every day.
How to Alleviate Depression
Research shows that medication and therapy, administered together, can alleviate depression much more quickly than either one alone. When working with clients who are depressed, I use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and an approach with two components:
A person’s very neurochemistry is affected by depression. Medication is one way clients can experience positive physiological changes. Those who have struggled with depression also noticed significant improvements when they started to exercise, get regular sleep, switched to a healthy diet, and drank enough water.
2. The Mind (thoughts and emotions)
Depression strikes not only emotions, but thoughts, as well. A depressed person’s perception on life becomes narrow and negative. Their thoughts actually perpetuate the depression, prolonging it and making it worse.
It’s tricky to examine your own emotions. They are like water when you try to get a hold of them. Before you even realize it, in a split second, your thoughts can tell you something about yourself that may or may not be true. Either way, those thoughts, in turn, impact your emotions and your behavior.
I work with clients to identify and then balance irrational thoughts to create a more self-affirming way of thinking. Clients can improve their thought processes by engaging in fulfilling relationships, being connected to a social network, and reducing stress in their lives.