Depression is a serious and widespread mental health condition that affects hundreds of millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions and stigmas surrounding this illness, which can make it difficult for those struggling with depression to seek help and find effective treatment.
Without proper treatment, symptoms of depression may get worse, leading to long-term health issues and cascading into a number of different problems. The good news is that depression has also proven to be highly treatable, at least in most cases. Depression counseling can help people with this disorder determine the root causes of the problem and learn to cope with the symptoms effectively, improving their quality of life.
Common misconceptions about depression
Depression is a complex and multifactorial mental health disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, accompanied by a range of physical and cognitive symptoms.
From a scientific perspective, depression is imperfectly understood. It is often linked with biological factors like chemical imbalances, but it’s also linked with stressful life events, medication, and even genetic predisposition.
Usually, depression is diagnosed following a consultation. Licensed therapists can diagnose depression after talking to a person who experiences its symptoms, and there are also professional depression screening tests that can help people understand whether or not they should visit a therapist.
Unfortunately, there are still so many counterproductive myths about depression. The first is probably that it is only a rare disease — in fact, up to 5% of the global population suffers from it — 1 in 20 people.
Another common myth is that people with depression can just “stop being so sad” and, for example, enjoy fun activities instead. The truth is that depression affects brain chemistry so a person with depression might be unable to feel joy in situations they’ve used to consider engaging, fun, or exciting. Another myth linked to this is that depression isn’t serious; in fact, there’s strong scientific evidence showing that depression is a serious condition with long-term, serious effects.
Last but not least, one of the most dangerous misconceptions about depression is that it’s a sign of emotional weakness. For instance, people who stick with outdated gender stereotypes may claim that men cannot develop depression.
The truth is that depression affects everyone. Moreover, numerous researchers show that men are more likely to commit suicide because of depression than women. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression as early as possible so that you can get the necessary professional help.
How to treat depression
Another myth is that medication is the only treatment for depression. While medication can be an important part of this treatment, there are also other important and complementary approaches.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for depression, but there are some things that work well in most cases. In practice, treatment for depression usually involves a combination of self-help (a healthy diet and exercise are always good), talking therapies, and medicines. Here, we’ll focus mostly on talking therapies. You should never take any medication without being specifically instructed, and as mentioned, self-help in the form of a healthy diet and exercise should not be neglected.
Talk therapy has proven to be effective when treating different kinds of depressive disorders. Through conversations, a therapist can help you identify the root causes of the problem and address them, replacing your unhelpful thinking patterns and changing unwanted behaviors.
Here are the most common types of therapy used to treat depression.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT is the most common and very effective type of therapy used to treat many kinds of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. The main idea behind CBT is that unwanted emotions and behaviors are caused by thinking patterns.
The goal of CBT is to identify and challenge these thoughts. This way, it becomes possible to ease the symptoms by addressing the underlying causes.
Dialectical behavior therapy
This type of therapy stems from CBT, but it also has its own distinctive features. DBT also aims to identify unhelpful thoughts that lead to unwanted behaviors, and it also helps clients cope with their negative emotions through validation.
Both CBT and DBT are problem-focused, targeting specific symptoms. The CBT treatment relies heavily on journaling and worksheets, while DBT may also use meditation and various mindfulness practices.
This is probably the oldest type of therapy because it’s deeply rooted in Freud’s psychoanalysis. The psychoanalytic theory explains unwanted behaviors and emotions through unresolved unconscious conflicts. For example, depression may develop because of childhood trauma.
Psychodynamic therapy doesn’t target specific symptoms but rather aims to help clients become more aware of all of their hidden conflicts and learn to cope with negative emotions. Given that this type of therapy requires a client to process past experiences and memories, it takes more time than CBT.
This type of therapy focuses on people’s social roles. When a person with depression doesn’t receive proper social support, the symptoms may get worse, and that’s where interpersonal therapy can be helpful.
Similarly to CBT and DBT, interpersonal therapy focuses on specific problems. Usually, it’s used to address various relationship problems. The treatment process may involve roleplay exercises that can help clients improve their communication skills in different social situations.
How to get started with depression therapy
As you can see, there are many types of therapy that can help people overcome depression, and only a licensed therapist can come up with an individual treatment plan that will work in each particular case. But the important takeaway here is that there are plenty of treatment options, and there’s always something that can work for everyone.
Traditional therapy requires a client to sit in the same room with a therapist. Therefore, you have to commute to their office, and it can take a lot of time. Fortunately, online therapy platforms offer a more convenient option, although this is still a relatively young field and it’s yet unclear if this approach offers as many benefits.
All you have to do is create an account and answer a few questions about your symptoms. After this, you’ll be matched with a licensed therapist from your state in just an hour. No matter how tight your work schedule is, you can get the necessary help from the comfort of your home.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Depression is highly treatable, and there are many professionals ready to help you. You deserve to live a healthier, fulfilling life.