It’s not unusual for people to get the blues occasionally; feeling overwhelmed, unusually tired, or perhaps simply lacking the enthusiasm to do much more than simply going through the motions of everyday life. However, at some point, some people cross the line between the blues and depression. Here are a few indicators that it’s time to get therapy for depression.
What is depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at home or at work.
Depression symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for an extended period
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Unusual changes in appetite that are not related to a physical illness
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much over time
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue for an extended period
- Increase in purposeless physical activity such as hand-wringing)
- Slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Again, several of the above can simply be a fleeting moodiness; symptoms of depression are severe and last of a longer period of time.
When it’s time to seek therapy for depression
Since symptoms are sometimes hard to discern if it’s truly depression or not there are some indicators that flag it’s time to seek help:
- Feeling out of sorts, not yourself
- Abusing food, drug, or alcohol in order to cope
- Sadness due to catastrophic loss
- Traumatic event
- Inability to maintain your normal lifestyle
Let’s look at each of these more closely.
Feeling out of sorts, not yourself, or not “normal”
Extreme and extended sadness, anger or hopelessness may be signs of depression that can improve with the right treatment. If you’re eating or sleeping more or less than usual, pulling away from any kind of interaction with others, or simply feeling “lost” means it’s time to talk to a mental health professional. These symptoms may seem benign but need to be addressed before serious problems develop that impact your quality of life. If these feelings escalate to the point that you have thoughts of death or suicide, reach out for help right away.
Abusing food or substances in order to cope
Many of us have been guilty of eating or drinking too much, or even making a choice at the wrong moment, but if you find yourself consistently abusing alcohol, drugs or food, or even using sex as a coping mechanism, this could be a sign that you need therapy for depression. These addictive, compulsive behaviors often have negative consequences that are a result of depression.
Sadness due to catastrophic loss
Death, divorce, terminal illness, job loss…. all of these are considered “catastrophic losses” and can trigger long-term depression. Grief can be brought on by many different circumstances and while grieving is a normal human emotion, long-term, overwhelming or even paralyzing grief is a sign that you may be struggling from depression and need to seek help.
In addition to the event listed above, other traumatic events can lead to depression, including being the victim of violence, being in a car accident, being the victim of abuse or neglect or even witnessing such instances can trigger long-term depression.
Inability to maintain your usual lifestyle
Many people find that painful emotions and experiences keep them from getting out, having fun, meeting new people or even maintaining the social life they’ve always had. This is a red flag that something is amiss in your life and you should seek therapy for possible depression.
How depression therapy can help you
Talk therapy can be an extremely effective treatment. This kind of therapy gives you skills and insight to feel better and help prevent depression from coming back. Three of the more common methods used in depression treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Often, a blended approach is used at the discretion of the trained therapist. Some types of therapy teach you practical techniques on how to reframe negative thinking and use behavioral skills in combating depression. Therapy can also help you work through the root of your depression, helping you understand why you feel a certain way, what your triggers are for depression, and what you can do to stay healthy.
Therapy for depression is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and most mental health professionals will use an individualized approach to help a patient. If you feel your or a loved one may suffer from depression, don’t hesitate to reach out and speak with a professional who can help you get your life back on track.