The Meaning of Life Is the Art of Living Itself
– Erich Fromm
The word “depression” comes from Latin and means “pressing down,” a phrase that reflects how depression feels – as if an invisible force weighs you down.
The Many Faces of Depression
Though each person’s experience of depression is nuanced and unique, you may be able to identify with some common thoughts, feelings and sensations shared by people who have gone through various degrees of depression:
• I feel empty, like something is gone, but I don’t even know what it is.
• Everything feels “blah.”
• I don’t feel like doing anything, not even things I used to be excited about.
• I feel “sluggish.”
• I feel like I’m running on empty, and very little seem to worth the effort.
• All I feel like doing is lying on the couch and watching TV.
• All I seem to want is to sleep; it’s my escape.
• I have no appetite and sometimes I have to force myself to eat.
• I really don’t care what I eat, but I eat so much more than what’s “normal” for me.
• I can’t concentrate well on what I’m doing; my mind wanders off.
• It feels like everything and everyone irritates me.
• I feel like I’ve become a grumpy, angry or moody person.
• I feel like I’m a loser.
• I keep thinking about the way I’ve disappointed others and feel so guilty.
• I just prefer to be left alone.
• I like my friends, but I can’t quite enjoy their company and prefer to do my own thing.
• I don’t feel there is much to look forward to.
How Does Depression Differ From Occasional Sadness?
We all know what it’s like to feel sad or “down” sometimes. It is part of our human experience. Often, these feelings are evoked in reaction to a specific distressing experience or loss (even one that occurred years ago), such as the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one or a deep disappointment. Occasionally, we can also feel “blue” for no apparent reason.
Depression is more than a bout of the “blues,” and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression is often compared to being stuck in a hole. You may feel as though you’re alone in your hole, and people can’t reach you. Being in the hole distorts your perception and makes everything seem so much more dark, difficult and meaningless. While in the hole, you simply can’t see beyond the darkness; you can’t see nor feel joy, goodness or love around you. You feel trapped. Frustrated by your predicament, you gradually begin to feel more hopeless and helpless, which leads to your growing despair. You may lose motivation to keep trying and prefer to be by yourself, away from family and friends. Over time, being alone in the “hole” of depression for too long de-vitalizes the soul and could undermine your physical health.
Depression and Loss
Depression is a complex experience, and many things can contribute to its development. Most often, however, there is an experience of loss that underpins depression. The loss could be specific, (e.g., end of a relationship, loss of a job, pregnancy loss, death of a loved one) or it could be subtle and more difficult to pinpoint (e.g., a shattered dream of being a parent, a deep disappointment, loss of self-identity upon immigration, aging, feeling of failure). The loss associated with your depression could be related to a more recent experience in your life or a lingering “residue” associated with previous trauma and/or unresolved grief, such as death of a parent in childhood or an early history of child abuse and neglect.
Is Psychotherapy Effective For Depression Treatment?
Absolutely. When you’re depressed, it can feel as though you’ll never get your spirits lifted again. However, even the most severe depression is treatable. Unfortunately, many people feel that depression is a sign of weakness and that you should be able to overcome it one your own. Depression is not a weakness! There are times when every person could encounter overwhelming obstacles and distress that seem beyond his or her ability to cope. In these times, it can be important to seek help. There is a great deal of both clinical and empirical research that demonstrates that psychotherapy is an effective treatment for depression.
Just as depression does not affect any two people the same way, there is no “one size fits all” for depression treatment. As an experienced therapist I can offer you a safe place to explore and better understand the feelings, experiences and thoughts underlying your depression and then tailor the therapeutic process to alleviate your particular symptoms and aid in your healing process.
Psychotherapy can help you:
• Understand the greater context of your depression.
• Identify and make sense of past experiences that contribute to your depression.
• Overcome fears or insecurities.
• Overcome troubling thoughts and feelings, such as self-blame and low self-esteem.
• Better understand and resolve the inner emptiness you feel.
• Separate your true self from your low mood.
• Identify triggers that make you more vulnerable to depression.
• Improve communication with family and friends about your depression.
• Foster the internal resources needed to deal with loss and sadness.
Is Medication Useful for Depression Treatment?
Depression is not simply about a chemical imbalance in the brain; it’s a complex psycho-social-biological phenomena. Medication can lift some of the pressing weight of depression, but it cannot even begin to address – much less help to resolve – the psychological, family/relationship issues, losses or traumas that are often associated with depression. Therapy is more likely to help to not only alleviate depressive symptoms, but also provide you the support and guidance you need to work toward sustainable changes that can withstand emotional challenges in the future. Therefore, there is a very strong scientific evidence that the most effective treatment for moderate-severe depression is psychotherapy combined with appropriate anti-depressant medications. If you and I agree that you could benefit from medication, I can refer you to psychiatrist for an evaluation.
My Partner Refuses to Seek Treatment for Depression
Living with a depressed person can be very difficult and stressful. The pain of watching a loved one struggle with depression can bring up intense emotions, including helplessness, loss, frustration, anger, fear, guilt and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It may seem as though your partner is behind an invisible wall that keeps the two of you apart. When you find yourself living with a distant “stranger,” it’s only natural for you to want to bring back the familiar, loving, engaged person you know. Your partner’s depression may be wearing you down. In fact, people who live with a depressed partner could also become depressed themselves.
You, and perhaps others, might have already encouraged him or her to seek help. However, this suggestion is often difficult for those with depression to accept, because many depressed people tend to cope with their vulnerable state by denying or minimizing its adverse impact. Many expect themselves to “get over it” on their own or feel that the well-meaning advice is a form of criticism or an insinuation that they are a complete “failure.” Other depressed people might resist getting help as they try to avoid dealing with painful or even traumatic experiences associated with their depression.
Though your support and encouragement can play an important role in your partner’s recovery, it’s crucial that you are also mindful of and attendant to your needs, health and well-being. Seeking therapy for yourself is not an act of selfishness—it’s a necessity. Nurturing your emotional strength will allow you to provide the support your depressed partner needs. Remember, you can’t feed from an empty cup. Whether or not your partner ultimately does seek help, it is important that you do. Therapy can help you better process and clarify some of the overwhelming and complex feelings that you are experiencing. You can develop additional tools to address the challenges that are inherent in loving and being with someone who periodically slips into a depressed state.
Man’s task in life is to become what he potentially is. – Erich Fromm
You don’t have to struggle with the mental, emotional and physical pain of depression alone. If your depression is keeping you from living the life you want, it’s important that you seek help. If you are looking for therapy for depression in Los Angeles, please feel free to email me. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about depression treatment and my practice.