Few people understand these four hidden facts about depression.
Clinical depression is a very frustrating and demoralizing experience. It’s made worse by not understanding it. Depression treatment is effective when both therapist and client understand the nature of the beast. Surprisingly, the four features of clinical depression listed below are not understood by most people. Even more shocking is that many therapists do not grasp one or more of these key aspects of clinical depression:
- Clinical depression has several symptoms. The feeling of sadness is only one of several characteristics of depression. There is hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, loss of concentration, short-term memory loss, and the list goes on.
- Clinical depression is a set of physical and emotional changes to the body and the brain. These changes are physical regardless of what caused the depression. In other words, even if the depression is a reaction to a big disappointment, with no medical cause, it becomes physiological.
- These changes to the brain create a new normal mood that makes you feel stuck in the mud. You can spend the day having fun, but your mood will quickly return to the new set point: sadness or a cynical “whatever” attitude.
- Depression has levels of severity that can be difficult to detect and treat. On the one hand, you don’t have to be a doctor to know that a suicidal person who can’t get out of bed is severely depressed. On the other hand, a great deal of expertise is required to accurately diagnose the lower levels of clinical depression
Many professional therapists and doctors do not understand these four hidden facts about depression. They often do not recognize the milder levels of clinical depression. Over the years, I have had clients come to me from psychiatrists, family doctors, and other therapists. I’ve been struck by how often so-called “mild” (which is anything but mild) clinical depression flies under the radar among medical and mental health professionals. You can’t get effective depression treatment if the therapist doesn’t even see it!
The lower levels of clinical depression can have serious impact: loss of pleasure, a sense that life has become perpetually drab, a sense that making good decisions don’t matter anymore. Many, many people have experienced this as a result of disruptions to their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Women and men experiencing this continue to function at home and in their job, but they feel dead inside. When this is ignored it can lead to substance abuse, affairs, divorce, and other life-changing events. There’s a desperation deep inside that wonders, “Why can’t I feel more alive?” When one person in a relationship is depressed it often leads to emotional distance and/or increased conflict. There have been many times when I have started working with a couple for relationship therapy, only to discover that one person is clinically depressed.
When depression involves suicide risk the stakes are even higher for deciding on depression treatment. Even split-second thoughts about wanting to die can be a signal, a serious depression tipping its hand. Frequent thoughts about death may not mean that you intend to kill yourself, but they ALWAYS indicate that this is the time to reach out a therapist or a physician. Frequent thoughts about death can be like a warning light on the dashboard of your car. The dashboard warning light says, “Hey, there’s no oil in your engine and no water in your radiator…it might be a good idea to stop driving as usual and take some positive action.”
Your brain can be like a friend—if you let it.
Someone once said that depression is like a friend, nudging you to make changes. I prefer to think of it this way. When you are clinically depressed, the unhappy brain is tapping you on the shoulder. It’s whispering in your ear, “It’s time to make some real changes in your life.” The depression doesn’t always tell you what those changes need to be and so the right kind of depression treatment becomes very important indeed.
Surprisingly, there are hidden positives in depression—if you are willing to see them. The positive side to the misery of depression is two-fold. First, it tells you something needs to change…ASAP. Second, the misery itself can be a powerful motivator for change. The sadness, the effects on people you love, and the dysfunction itself can all help you to say to yourself, “I can’t stand this anymore; I’m going to do whatever it takes to become happy again!” This can be a powerful engine for depression treatment.
Depression can become the signpost that points you toward therapy and major life changes. Therapy can result is a greater, more resilient happiness.
All of this points to the urgent need to have a few assessment sessions with an expert who can help you map out the landscape of what is currently happening to you and inside you. Is what you experience a kind languishing that is not yet depression, or are you already in the stuck zone where the body and brain has a new, low set point.
A careful assessment of depression is of crucial for depression treatment to be effective.
There are several real benefits to the first few sessions of therapy for depression. They include:
- Answering key questions about your situation (Assessment)
- Are there specific ways that depression is holding you back?
- Are the people around you suffering because you are not getting depression treatment?
- What does a clear path of hope for you look like?
- Positioning your attitude for the fastest recovery
- Gaining courage to move forward and to accept your present situation so that you can change it
- Working through your fears and hesitations about depression treatment or medication
- Developing a “Whatever it takes!” attitude that allows you to build momentum
- Getting knowledge and perspective
- Making an informed decision about the best strategy for you and your unique situation
- Feeling empowered by steps and tools that can get you started from day 1
Are you wondering if you might be depressed? Do you know that you are depressed, but don’t know what to do about it? Do you have questions about what depression treatment involves?
Contact me if you would like to see what depression treatment might look like in your situation. You can use the form below to send me an email.