For anyone who has never experienced depression, it can be hard to understand the crushing sadness and overwhelming desire to crawl into a hole and never come out. As overwhelming as depression is, you aren’t alone. Depression is very common, affecting as many as 25% of women and as many as 12% of men at some point in their lives. The good news is that depression can be treated.
The first step to treating depression is getting an accurate diagnosis. The fact is, many conditions, such as bipolar disorder, are often misdiagnosed as depression. If you think you may be depressed, you may undergo a series of tests to determine whether it’s depression or something else. You may even have blood tests done to make sure your symptoms aren’t due to a medical condition.
Once you have been diagnosed with depression, treatment can help you get back to yourself. Treatment for depression may include psychotherapy and/or some type of medication, depending on the severity of your symptoms and your preferences. In many cases, a combination of the two treatment methods may be most effective. Medication can help ease symptoms, while therapy can help change the underlying negative thought patterns and behaviors causing the symptoms.
Many people are reluctant to take antidepressants or other medication for various reasons, including side effects, fear of addiction, or fear that it won’t work. Not every person responds to medications in the same way. You may have to try a couple of different medications before you find the right one. Be sure to speak up and let your doctor know immediately of any side effects you may experience.
There are about as many types of psychotherapy as there are depression medications. No matter what type of therapy you undergo, or whether you take medication, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success.
Many people have trouble opening up to someone they don’t know. Just remember that your therapist is there to help you get better. That said, it’s important to find someone you can be comfortable with. If something about your therapist makes you uncomfortable, you may need to consider finding someone else. My recommendation is to talk to them first about what you are concerned about. I, for example, encourage my own clients to tell me what is working and not working for them. For some people a super active (talkative) therapist giving all sorts of ideas helps. For some people, they want more time to talk than the therapist is giving them. Although I, as a therapist, am trained to gauge this, it is super helpful when a client tells me their preference. Think about this: If you go to get a massage, the masseuse isn’t going to know if you like a deep or soft massage unless you tell them. Sitting there and putting yourself through a deep tissue massage when that isn’t what you want makes no sense. Either does sitting in a therapy session and not mentioning to a therapist that you want more feedback. If they can’t give that to you, consider changing therapists.
When you have an infection, your doctor may give you a prescription and all you have to do is take as directed. When you struggle with depression, you have to take a much more active role in your recovery. You need to approach therapy with a willingness to follow through on recommendations, even when it’s difficult, you aren’t in the mood, or you have trouble getting motivated.
If you have concerns regarding your therapy or your medication, be sure to talk to your therapist about them. The more active you are in your treatment, the more successful you will be.