Living with depression means living without hope. The days march forward, with no joy in sight, and the situation seems permanent and unchangeable. For a person living in this state, the idea of therapy may be meaningless, as these people find it hard to believe that they’ll ever get better, no matter what they might do and no matter how much they might want things to change. The mental illness works as a blindfold, blocking the person’s vision of a happier and healthier future.
Statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that one adult in 10 is living in the midst of a depressive episode like this. Since these people simply can’t see the inherent value in entering a treatment program, their families often must take control and encourage the person to participate. That conversation can be difficult, but it also can be intensely valuable, as those people who do get help may see their sadness resolve, and their families may be restored to health in the process.
Types of Depression
Most people who deal with depression struggle with the same cluster of symptoms. They might:
- Feel intense sadness
- Sleep too much or find it hard to sleep
- Eat too much or lose interest in food
- Struggle to concentrate or to remember information
- Stay home, rather than socializing with others
- Cry frequently
- Seem irritated, angry or impatient
There are different subtypes of depression, however, and some of the differences involve the severity of symptoms. Those who have an episode of major depression, for example, experience debilitating symptoms for weeks on end, while those who have dysthymia may have mild symptoms that last for years.
Depression can also vary due to onset. Some women develop depression when their babies are born, and they may struggle with sadness and an overwhelming urge to hurt their children or themselves. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that 10 to 15 percent of women deal with this form of depression. It’s serious, but it’s not the only type of depression women can endure, as both men and women can develop a seasonal form of depression in which they feel depressed during the low light conditions of the winter months, while experiencing a boost of happiness in the spring and summer.
These depression subtypes are important to understand, as the treatments provided might vary depending on the type of depression the person has, but they can also be important markers that can help families to spot depression. If the person seems relentlessly depressed for weeks and weeks without improving, major depression might be the cause. Someone who has depressive symptoms only in the winter might have a seasonal basis for the condition. Families can’t be expected to provide treatment, of course, but they might be happy to understand more about what’s really bothering the person they love.
Understanding the Triggers
Brain chemistry might have a role to play in some forms of depression. Women with postpartum depression, for example, are often dealing with an onslaught of very unfamiliar hormones when their babies are born, and this flood of chemistry might cause their brain cells to respond with depression. Similarly, people who have depression in the wintertime might have low levels of chemicals that are produced in response to light, so the winter months might make that deficiency harder to ignore.
Depression can also come about in response to a life change or a traumatic episode, as the brain can struggle to process memories and make sense of a shifting world. People who go through a divorce or the death of a spouse might feel as though their lives are just upside down, and this might make feelings of sadness and loss more pronounced. Living through a traumatic episode like a car accident or a physical assault might also make depression arise, as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance suggests that 40 percent of people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder in response to a terrible event also develop depression one to four months later.
Depression can also spring from the self-help techniques people use when they begin to feel sadness and loss, particularly if those DIY solutions involve drugs or alcohol. These sedating substances might seem to soothe sadness and worry, allowing people to sleep and feel at least a modicum of joy, but they can also inhibit the natural production and uptake of chemicals the brain uses to communicate happiness. In time, people might only feel remotely happy when they’re intoxicated, due to the chemical damage substances can bring about. Eventually, they might not even feel happy at all when they’re taking these substances, as the brain might become inured to the effects these substances can engender.
People with mild cases of depression can sometimes benefit from making a few changes in the way they handle day-to-day life. For example, it’s common for depressed people to spend the day in bed, thinking over the day and trying to sleep. They might keep their rooms dark and warm, blocking out all natural light and all sounds of nature, and they might resist all invitations to get out and see others. Breaking this habit is hard, and taking baby steps might be the best way to approach healing, but those who do get dressed each day and take even a short walk around the block may begin to feel just a little better.
Talking with a supportive friend or family member might also be helpful for someone who is depressed. Just speaking the words aloud, and hearing that others both understand and are supportive, can help the sense of isolation. Friends and family may not be capable of providing counseling, but they might be more than willing to provide love and understanding.
Emerging drug and alcohol problems might abate with a few simple amendments, such as:
- Removing all drugs from the home
- Dumping all alcohol down the sink
- Stocking the refrigerator with juices and water
- Keeping tasty snacks or gum on hand
Replacement products can give the hands and mouth something to do, so drugs and alcohol might not be so enticing. In a week or two, the cravings for those substances might begin to disappear.
While some people can get better with a few at-home modifications and a boost of willpower, most people will need the help of a treatment program. They may have addictions that have progressed to such a degree that they simply can’t get sober without intense assistance. They might also have such serious depression symptoms that ending their lives seems preferable to taking any kind of action at all. People like this aren’t likely to get better with at-home solutions, no matter how hard they might try to do so, making therapy a much better option.
A formal treatment program for depression might begin with a substance abuse screening, allowing providers to identify and assess any substance abuse issues that might be in play. Medical therapies can help people to get sober in a safe manner, and therapy might help to ensure that those addiction issues don’t recur in the future. Additional therapies can help to prevent future episodes of depression from taking place. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one such therapy that’s often provided to people who have depression, and according to a study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, this form of treatment is as effective or even more effective than medications or other forms of depression care.
In a CBT session, therapists ask clients to identify the thoughts, places or situations that tend to make their depression symptoms worse. Then, the client and the therapist come up with a series of tools clients can use in those moments, preventing depression from taking hold. Some clients might learn how to combat the negative thoughts that tend to take hold during depression, while others might learn to combat defeatist statements that float through their heads in moments of grief and loss.
People with depression might also benefit from family-based therapies, particularly if interpersonal conflicts within the home play a role in the emotions a person is feeling. These sessions aren’t combative, so there should be no yelling, cursing or conflict, and a counselor is always present to step in if things get a little too intense or out of control. In each session, the group learns a little more about what depression is, and each person has the opportunity to share and to grow. It could be vital for people who have depression, and the education could also help the family to understand the condition and how they can help.
At Black Bear Lodge, we provide comprehensive therapies for people who have both addictions and mental illnesses, and depression is one of the conditions we encounter most frequently. We’re adept at helping our clients to feel both safe and supported, so they’ll be ready to work and to heal. Addictions and depression can be targeted with the therapies we provide. If you’d like to get started, please call us.