Category Archive: Depression

How Psychotherapy Helps People Recover From Depression

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 a job, a death in the family, or a 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 illnesses such as heart disease or cancer may be accompanied by depression. For many individuals, however, depression signals first and foremost that certain mental and emotional aspects of 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 therapists such as licensed psychologists can work with depressed individuals to:

  • Identify negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression. For example, depressed individuals may tend to overgeneralize, that is, to think of circumstances in terms of “always” or “never.” They may also take events personally. A trained and competent therapist can help nurture a more positive outlook on life.
  • Explore other learned thoughts and behaviors that create problems and contribute to depression. For example, therapists can help depressed individuals understand and improve patterns of interacting with other people that contribute to their depression.
  • Help people regain a sense of control and pleasure in life. Psychotherapy helps people see choices as well as gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into their lives. 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 therapy, people can learn skills to avoid unnecessary suffering from later bouts of depression.

In what other ways do therapists 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 for 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 therapy 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.

Depression can seriously impair a person’s ability to function in everyday situations. But the prospects for recovery for depressed individuals who seek appropriate professional care are very good. By working with qualified and experienced therapists, those suffering from depression can help regain control of their lives.

This article reprinted with permission from the American Psychological Association

 

Untreated Depression & Quality of Life

The holidays are over and winter is here.  While many people enjoyed the holidays and look forward to winter activities, for those who experience depression, this time of year can be particularly difficult.  Shorter days with less sunlight and cold temperatures can feel especially dark, dreary and hopeless for someone who is depressed.  The multiple manifestations of depression can include physical, emotional, cognitive, and motivational symptoms.  For example, some people experience sleep disruption, changes in appetite, fatigue, and loss of sexual desire.  Individuals with depression may also experience crying spells, loss of pleasure, loss of gratification, and loss of attachment to others.  Feeling sad, anxious, or irritable is often accompanied by negative self evaluation, decreased concentration, indecisiveness, and loss of motivation.  In severe states of depression, the avoidant, escapist and withdrawal wishes may include thoughts of suicide.Dr. Aaron Beck coined the phrase, “Cognitive Triad of Depression” which presents as the negative view of oneself, the world, and one’s future to describe the negative self-talk, negative expectations, and feelings of hopelessness experienced by someone with untreated depression.  If you or someone you love or care about is experiencing untreated depression, the quality of your relationship may be reduced by the inability to experience pleasurable events or interactions.  In addition, there may be adverse impacts to relationships associated with the chronic nature of someone’s dejected mood state, such as increased arguments, dependency, and social isolation.  Children and adolescents with depression may present with increased physical complaints, while aggressive and disruptive behavior in adolescent males has been associated with depression, making it difficult to recognize.

Considering the tremendous loss of quality of life, along with the life-threatening aspect of untreated depression that is accompanied by suicidal wishes, depression screening may be a necessary first step for you or your loved one.  Depression is a highly treatable disorder with positive treatment outcomes using research supported therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or, in combination with medication management, for certain individuals.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is a talk therapy which is focused on the interplay among one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  For more information concerning depression screening or to seek treatment, you may contact us at 610-873-4748 or your primary care physician to obtain a referral.

Eileen Lightner , Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lightner call 610-873-4748.

 

SAMHSA, Ad Council and Inspire USA Foundation Launch National Suicide Prevention Campaign for Teens

SAMHSA, Ad Council and Inspire USA Foundation Launch National Suicide Prevention Campaign for Teens

Dealing With the Back-to-School Blues?

Parents have a lot on their plate: mortgage payments, healthcare, caring for elderly parents, raising kids, just to name a few. As the new school year approaches, they face additional stressors—paying for back-to-school supplies, clothes and possibly tuition. Many parents may also be worried about their children starting a new school, changing school districts, facing a more rigorous academic year or dealing with difficult social situations. Often the fear of the unknown—classmates, teachers, the school building—is the most stressful for family members, whether it’s the children hopping on the school bus or their parents who have to wave goodbye.

“The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins. Working with your children to build resilience and manage their emotions can be beneficial for the psychological health of the whole family.”
Fortunately, children are extremely capable of coping with change and parents can help them in the process by providing a setting that fosters resilience and encourages them to share and express their feelings about returning to school.

APA offers the following back-to-school tips:

1. Practice the first day of school routine: Getting into a sleep routine before the first week of school will aide in easing the shock of waking up early. Organizing things at home—backpack, binder, lunchbox or cafeteria money—will help make the first morning go smoothly. Having healthy, yet kid-friendly lunches will help keep them energized throughout the day. Also, walking through the building and visiting your child’s locker and classroom will help ease anxiety of the unknown.

2. Get to know your neighbors: If your child is starting a new school, walk around your block and get to know the neighborhood children. Try and set up a play date, or, for an older child, find out where neighborhood kids might go to safely hang out, like the community pool, recreation center or park.

3. Talk to your child: Asking your children about their fears or worries about going back to school will help them share their burden. Inquire as to what they liked about their previous school or grade and see how those positives can be incorporated into their new experience.

4. Empathize with your children: Change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you will be there to help them in the process. Nerves are normal, but highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. It is important to encourage your children to face their fears instead of falling in to the trap of encouraging avoidance.

5. Get involved and ask for help: Knowledge of the school and the community will better equip you to understand your child’s surroundings and the transition he or she is undergoing. Meeting members of your community and school will foster support for both you and your child. If you feel the stress of the school year is too much for you and your child to handle on your own, seeking expert advice from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, will help you better manage and cope.

Special thanks to Dr. Mary Alvord for her help with this article
Source: American Psychological Association

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