It’s unfortunate that a major stigma still surrounds those with mental health conditions. While many people suffering from severe depression do seek and get the professional help they need, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health nearly half of all Americans diagnosed with major depression don’t receive the treatment they require. In other words, more than 7 million Americans suffering from depression aren’t receiving adequate treatment.
As if the above figures aren’t staggering enough, studies conducted by labor organizations have calculated that depression results in more than $19 billion in lost income each year due to sick leave and other work absences alone.
The costs society pays for depression are almost unimaginable, not to mention the emotional costs paid by those individuals who don’t receive the help they need.
Effectively Treating Depression
More often than not, psychotherapy, a healthy diet, and exercise are the preferred treatments for those suffering mild to moderate depression, while a large percentage of people with severe depression are likely to need anti-depressant medications in conjunction with therapy and exercise.
Psychotherapy allows individuals to identify, isolate, and work through the underlying beliefs, feelings and behaviors that can cause depression. While psychotherapy can take some time to be truly effective, it does not come with the side effects common to a number of medications.
That being said, the side effects associated with many anti-depressants can often be avoided when people start with low dosages. And, while it may take some trial and error to find the most effective medication, perseverance with this process can make a significant difference in the mental and physical health of anyone who needs antidepressants.
For the severely depressed, the right antidepressant can be a boon that helps them attain the energy and motivation necessary to attend counseling and psychotherapy sessions, start eating better, get the exercise they need, and learn the tools that can help them beat depression.
Genetics and brain deficiencies are often at the root of severe depression. When this is the case, efficacious anti-depressants can help people correct any brain imbalances and enable them to move forward with other forms of treatment. It may take courage to talk with your doctor, but keep your mind focused on your goal of an improved mood and tell your physician about your symptoms.
When it comes to counseling and psychotherapy, licensed mental health professionals help people recognize, understand, and overcome the thoughts and feelings that trigger depression. While difficulty coping with specific problems and events can contribute to various forms of depression, underlying beliefs acquired much earlier in life are often at the root of many types of depression.
Depression counseling and therapy not only helps people cope with specific situations, problems, and the symptoms of depression, it helps individuals gain a better understanding of themselves and discover new ways of interacting with the world around them so they feel more empowered and self-confident.
Common goals of therapy include cultivating exercise habits, as exercise has been found to be especially effective in treating depression. Scientific research done on weightlifting shows it significantly helps chronic fatigue, which can be a symptom of depression.
Another important goal of counseling and therapy is to develop the resources and skills to form a support network and/or join various groups, such as a hiking group, local meet-up groups, and so on.
Finally more and more research is showing the crucial importance of nutrition for improving mood.
Even for those who find they can’t live with the side effects of anti-depressants, talk therapy, group therapy, healthy eating, and regular exercise can make a world of difference. Research has shown time and time again that maintaining a healthy daily and regular exercise can help people achieve goals and feel productive at the end of the day.
Is One Treatment Approach Better Than Another?
Just as we are all unique individuals, no one form of treatment and no one form of psychotherapy is equally suited to treating everyone suffering from depression.
If you decide to seek professional counseling or psychotherapy, you’ll need to find a therapist to work with who is a good fit for your unique personality and needs. While people with depression generally do better with a proactive therapist who teaches positive coping skills and helps them get moving toward measurable goals, some people benefit from a highly sensitive therapist who listens well.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy may be best if the depression you’re struggling with is the result of unresolved childhood conflicts. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you change the way you perceive specific circumstances or events and, as a result, change how you feel and react to situations that seem beyond your control.
While many people prefer individual counseling or therapy when working through their depression, individuals suffering from depression can often benefit from group therapy, couples counseling, and family therapy as well.
Couples and family therapy can be effective if your depression is affecting your relationships. If you’re in a relationship and have been struggling with depression for some time, it is likely that your relationship has suffered as well. It is not uncommon for couples and families to seek out therapy due to behavioral changes and communication difficulties caused by one partner’s depression. Working together, either in couples counseling or family therapy, can help the partner struggling with depression more effectively cope and overcome the issues they’re facing, as well as strengthen the bonds of his or her relationship.
Likewise, many people state that their depression began in childhood and, given this, group counseling and therapy for teens and young adults can also be extremely beneficial. The earlier you get treatment the better, before patterns become deeply entrenched.
Group therapy allows people suffering from depression to share their experiences with others who are struggling with the same issues. The realization that one isn’t alone, and the strength that can come from working through problems with the support of peers, can be extremely beneficial in coping with depression. Best of all, a group is an opportunity to make friends that can make all the difference in the world.
Even if group therapy is not available, involvement in a church group or a special interest group, such as going hiking or dancing each week, can work wonders. Hiking and dancing are great ways to make friends and get the exercise that can bust your mood. There are even online chat rooms that can help people connect with others, feel more accepted, and effectively cope with their depression.
And, as mentioned above, it is especially important to eat a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables, protein, and specific supplements such as Omega 3s, and to exercise regularly.
Every psychotherapist has their preferred treatment approaches, and you and your therapist will have to discuss the treatment options available in order for you to determine the approach that suits you best.
If you’re looking for a therapist to work with, be a smart consumer. Use the Internet to learn about a number of therapists and pick three that are skilled in treating depression. A brief phone consultation can help you determine who feels like a good fit. Contact your insurance plan and make sure you understand your benefits. Many insurance companies have network providers that will be much more cost effective.
Much More Than Just A Quick Fix
Just to be clear, antidepressants can be a crucial part of the treatment plan for anyone suffering from moderate or severe depression.
If you are feeling suicidal, experiencing trouble getting out of bed for days in a row, lack motivation, have pessimistic thoughts, and lack interest in your usual activities, you may be dealing with chemical deficiencies in your brain that require some form of medication to treat. Most primary care physicians now prescribe antidepressants and we have come a long way in the quality of medications available.
Many people hold erroneous thoughts about antidepressants, but research shows that a combination of medications, exercise, and talk therapy is the treatment of choice for those with severe depression. A percentage of people really need antidepressants. If you’re among them, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to reach out to your doctor.
That being said, you don’t want to rely solely on medications. You should strive to combine antidepressants with regular exercise and some sort of professional counseling or psychotherapy.
While antidepressants can offer real relief, the goal of psychotherapy is to address the root causes of depression and work to bring about positive, lasting change. Though the benefits of psychotherapy may take longer to realize, effective psychotherapy combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise provides individuals positive, long-term, and life-changing results for those who can afford it.
In fact, when it comes to overcoming depression, there is likely no better investment that an individual or society as a whole can make in our pursuit of happiness. So, search for a therapist in your area and pick someone who is experienced in treating depression.
And, if something comes up in the course of therapy that bothers you, speak up to your therapist. You don’t want to be sitting on negative feelings toward your therapist. A healthy therapist will listen to what you have to say and help you understand what might be driving your reaction.