Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depression is a mental health condition that afflicts individuals at every stage and walk of life. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness and hopelessness, low self-esteem or self-worth, appetite and sleep disturbances (either increased or decreased), and general loss of enjoyment in previously pleasurable activities. Depression can develop slowly or hit rapidly and can persist or recur over time.
Depression can have staggering effects on an individual’s life, leading to loss of work, withdrawal from family and friends, and even increased risk of suicide. Depression can also have harmful effects on an individual’s physical health as the motivation and energy for self-care diminishes. People who suffer from depression often cope by shutting down or withdrawing from others. They are prone to cope using drugs or alcohol and are at risk for developing addictions.
Although depression is a very serious mental illness, the good news is that there are a number of very effective treatments for depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to have excellent short and long term efficacy in treating depression, as well as other forms of counseling. Also, physicians can prescribe medications that improve the symptoms of depression.
Major Depression Treatment
Successful treatment for Major Depressive Disorder is an integrated approach. Currently, there are five major areas of treatment to reduce symptoms of depression and sustain recovery.
1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is the first line of treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. This method of psychosocial treatment with a clinical psychologist (counselor) helps individuals learn to identify their automatic thoughts and understand unconscious core beliefs they hold about themselves and the world. With the help of a counselor, individuals are able to understand and change the maladaptive ways they interpret and interact with the world and themselves.
2. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT is a form of counseling that is also scientifically supported and is used by our psychologists at Foundations for treatment of Major Depression. IPT targets social relationships. Events surrounding interpersonal relationships do not cause depression. But depression occurs within an interpersonal context and affects relationships and the roles of people within those relationships. By addressing interpersonal issues, interpersonal therapy for depression puts emphasis on the way symptoms are related to a person’s relationships, including family and peers.
3. Nutrition: foods and substances have a major influence on how we manage our mood and negative feelings. Food choice such as sugars and fatty foods negatively influence mood. Further, dietary patterns such as frequency and quantity of meals also has a major influence on mood. Additionally, poor dietary habits can negatively influence one’s self-image. Substances such as nicotine, alcohol, opiates, and other drugs foster a form of withdrawing from emotional issues. Substances used to cope with depression exacerbate self-neglect and greatly destabilizes one’s mood. Counselors will work with individuals to support them in making healthy choices that will aid in recovery from recurring depression.
4. Behavioral Activity: our counselors apply the behavioral side of CBT to help individuals develop meaningful life changes and integrate activities such as exercise, meditation, and relaxation into their routine. Such activities greatly reduce symptoms of depression. However, they are difficult habits to foster. Such activities often require the assistance of a counselor to help create a structure to successfully integrate into their routine.
5. Medication: our counselors coordinate with physicians as needed to alleviate distressing levels of depression. Medication can effectively reduce symptoms when they are unmanageable and offers an effective means when other forms of treatment are unsuccessful or during periods when symptoms are simply too distressing to treat through psychosocial means.
Grief & Loss
Grief is a normal experience that every person must face in life. It is a fundamental and necessary journey with the potential to build deeper meaning in life and a greater understanding of ourselves as individuals. This journey is as unique as each individual facing a loss, death, or end of relationship. The role of a counselor in grieving is to safely guide individuals through this experience, providing a place to express painful feelings, honor their loss, and make a meaningful and healthy transition.
Grieving a loss can be difficult. As we encounter painful emotions, we easily become overwhelmed and shut down. This leads us to avoid our grief, which can make us grow numb and depressed. It prevents us from moving forward with our lives and can damage relationships as we withdrawal or push loved ones away. If we find ourselves moving in this direction, we can recognize it is time to seek counsel.