Depression is a serious mental illness that may feel overwhelming or isolating at times. However, given the proper care, even the most severe cases are treatable.
Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), depression is a mood disorder that affects over 264 million people around the world. It is a leading cause of disability, economic stress, and lowered quality of life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is no single cause of depression.
It may develop due to a combination of factors, such as chemical imbalances, genetics, stress, and/or traumatic life events such as grief or abuse. It may also manifest alongside or due to other medical conditions, such as anxiety disorder, cancer, or substance abuse.
Fortunately, depression is treatable. One commonly effective treatment option is behavior therapy.
Behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy (AKA “talk therapy”) where patients and therapists work together to address underlying personal issues and behavior patterns.
Therapists may specialize in several forms of behavior therapy, including:
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): A short-term form of therapy often used to treat mild to moderate depression. With IPT, patients focus on their relationships with others by improving social skills and developing problem-solving techniques to reduce stress and alleviate depressive symptoms.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Another short-term therapy method, CBT is often used to treat depression. CBT is centered on introspective goals and tackling negative thought patterns and behaviors to help alleviate symptoms of depression.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is a modified form of CBT that focuses on coping strategies and regulating emotions. This may be done through several methods, such as mindfulness, self-soothing, and improved communication skills.
If you’re interested in professional help, here’s what you need to know about therapy and what to expect once you start.
Signs of Depression
Just as there are different types of therapy, there are also different types of depression, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression.
That said, all forms of depression share symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Prolonged periods of low mood and energy
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Trouble sleeping or irregular sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Headaches, backaches, and other unexplained chronic pain
- Loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies
- Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family members
- Suicidal thoughts
- Acts of self-harm
How Does Therapy Help with Depression?
There are several ways to treat depression, but generally, they boil down to three methods: medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
Antidepressant medication can help manage symptoms. However, it typically isn’t a long-term solution as medication may become less effective over time or cause unwanted side effects.
Meanwhile, treatment plans that incorporate psychodynamic therapy have the potential to encourage healthy lifestyle changes and tackle negative behavioral patterns without the need for medication.
Mental health care professionals may also advise a combination of both medication and therapy to target the internal and external causes of depression.
Here are a few other ways therapy can help:
1. Talk openly about your feelings and thoughts in a safe environment
As an impartial third party, counselors and psychotherapists are not here to judge or shame you. Their goal is to provide a safe, confidential space to express yourself and be unapologetically vulnerable about your emotions. If you don’t think larger support groups are right for you, individual therapy is a way to still talk openly in an intimate and safe space.
2. Identify key life events and triggers that contribute to depression
There are some things in life we can’t confront on our own. With a therapist, you can learn how to identify triggers, discuss past trauma, or analyze life events that have unknowingly affected your mental health.
3. Identify unhealthy coping mechanisms
Not everyone realizes they need help until someone points it out. As mental health professionals, therapists are capable of identifying and addressing unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as negative thinking patterns, substance abuse, or disordered eating habits.
4. Develop skills to cope with symptoms in a healthy way
Everyone experiences depression differently. Likewise, everyone copes with it differently. Through therapy, you can discover what coping strategies work best for you in a secure, comfortable space.
5. Set realistic and achievable goals for a healthy future
Setting realistic goals is vital in managing depression. Your therapist can guide you towards recovery by focusing first on your daily life and ways to improve your current well-being. Gradually, you’ll be able to build a healthier, happier future.
Getting Therapy for Depression? Keep These Things in Mind
For therapy to be successful, there needs to be room for trial and error. You may encounter setbacks or revelations that are hard to accept. However, with a little time and patience, you may find that even the most difficult therapy sessions are effective.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind while attending therapy:
1. Finding the right therapist takes time
There is no “one size fits all” for therapy, much less for therapists. While seeking professional help, keep an open mind and be prepared to try again if a therapist isn’t right for you.
2. Once you’ve found the right therapist, the therapy itself will take time
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), many patients with depression see improvement within 10 to 15 sessions. However, depending on the individual and the severity of their illness, it may take longer before treatment shows consistent, positive results.
It’s important to remember that this is all part of the process, and there is nothing wrong with attending therapy for months or even years if that’s what you need.
3. You might have to make lifestyle changes (sleep, diet, exercise, etc.)
Both mild and severe depression can lead to other health problems, such as chronic pain or insomnia. To help alleviate these issues and improve your mental well-being, you may need to make some changes.
For example, your therapist may recommend daily exercise, changes to your diet, or self-care tips to improve your sleep and relationship with loved ones.
4. You might feel worse before you start to feel better
In the beginning, you may struggle with your self-esteem, fall into a depressive episode, or have a lot of doubts about therapy or your therapist.
However, as with other treatment plans, therapy has a learning curve. It may take a little time before you see positive results, but as you continue, therapy will gradually become more effective.
5. Go to all of your appointments, even if you don’t have anything to talk about
Your mental illness isn’t the epicenter of your life, though it may feel like it. By attending every session, you can take the opportunity to discuss other aspects of your life and learn how to see yourself without the lens of depression.
Get Support with Emote Online Therapy
Given the right kind of support, depression is a highly treatable and oftentimes temporary condition. Unfortunately, getting professional care can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Cut out months-long waitlists and get the help you need today by signing up for Emote’s affordable, easy-to-use online therapy services.
By working with our team of mental health care professionals, you can discover coping strategies, self-care techniques, and other mental health resources to help tackle your depression.
With Emote, you’re not alone.