Depression is more than just feeling really, really, really sad. Depression is also something that can come and go in your lifetime depending on certain human needs not being met. Think of depression as a cluster of symptoms affecting you all at once. Symptoms such as: fatigue, crying spells, lack of motivation, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and low self-esteem to name a few. If you’ve been experiencing this for more than 6 months, it may be time to seek some type of treatment.
So, what do you do about depression? As mentioned earlier, depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress happens when our basic human needs are not met. As part of my assessment process, I ask clients to complete a short questionnaire stating whether or not each need is met in their lives. Needs include:
Competence and Achievement
Emotional Connectedness (friendship and intimacy)
Sense of Meaning or Purpose
Take an inventory of the above needs and ask yourself where you stand for each. Are these needs met in your life? If not, what must change in order for that to happen? What perceived barriers are in the way of meeting these needs? What negative thoughts do I keep telling myself that keeps me stagnant?
Medication can be beneficial. However, keep in mind this will only help you manage the symptoms as long as you take the medication, and will not be the solution to the cause of depression. Unless you are confronting the cause of depression head on, the feelings are sure to come up again at some point. This is where therapy can be helpful.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one helpful way to decrease or eliminate symptoms of depression. Now, there are other forms of therapy, but CBT is the most beneficial when trying to identify any negative thinking patterns or associations that may be fueling the depression.
CBT allows us to figure out how to stop the ever so popular “all or nothing” thinking. For example, you make a mistake at work and your manager approaches you about the issue. The “all of nothing” cognitive distortion will have us thinking to ourselves, “I can’t do anything right. My manager hates me. I’m going to be fired.” (This is also an example of something called “catastrophizing”). Meanwhile, back in reality, your manager simply asks you to be more mindful next time and moves on.
So the next time you find yourself thinking in “all or nothing” terms, stop yourself and ask, “What is my evidence to support this thought?” and “Where is the middle ground?”
The last point I’ll make is this: You are not you’re depression. There is more to who you are than the symptoms you’re experiencing. Instead of seeing yourself as the problem, zoom out for a second and become a participant in addressing each symptom individually.
The above is only a fraction of what you may need to know about depression and how to cope with the symptoms. If you feel like you could benefit from therapy, please advocate for yourself and seek treatment.