Depression is a common mental health condition that has affected at least 29% of Americans at some point in their lives. As a result, mental health treatments for depression have become an essential part of coping with different types of depressive disorders.
Learn more about depression symptoms, risk factors, and practical solutions to managing the effects of depression in your own life. And as always, we encourage you to schedule a session with one of our experienced providers in order to better understand and manage your symptoms.
What Is Depression?
Depression is really a broad term for a class of related clinical conditions known as depressive disorders. Depressive disorders are characterized by a sad, bleak, or “depressive” mental state. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Low energy
- Increased appetite
- Reduced appetite
- Hyposexual behavior
- feeling numb
- Poor concentration and focus
Depression is something that presents itself individually and specifically in each person. It’s important to understand that each person’s presentation is different, even if they have the same depressive disorder.
Common Causes of Depression
While clinicians and mental health researchers are unsure of the direct cause of depression, most evidence indicates that it’s a dysregulation of serotonin within the brain. That is, the brain does not allow serotonin to process in the neural gaps with enough time and it’s taken up too quickly.
Other common causes of depression can be rooted in genetics and biology. Individuals with relatives who have experienced depression are more likely to develop it. Biological conditions, such as thyroid disorders, low iron levels, and other chronic conditions can put one at higher risk.
What Are Some Practical Coping Mechanisms for Daily Life?
Some of the most practical coping strategies for depression are those that are tailored to the individual. Because depression is so individualistic in its symptoms and severity, clients are often advised to create a behavior activation schedule that consists of activities that are values-aligned.
Behavior activation is an evidence-based intervention that focuses on engagement in movement (exercise, hobbies, time with friends, etc.) as a way to elevate mood, re-engage in life, and re-establish meaningful patterns. By adding in values-aligned behaviors that incorporate things that someone holds in high regard, and things that make them feel good about themselves, that individual will have a significantly higher chance of recovering from depression.
What Are the Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Depression?
CBT is one of the most popular treatments for depression due to the high level of success many find in its strategies and interventions. CBT is useful for depression in that it equips an individual with the ability to gain insight and build resilience over their thinking pattern, and as a result, the individual is able to change/influence their behavior patterns as well.
CBT posits that by bringing awareness to their thought patterns, one can change their behavior to be healthier and more adaptive, meaning that any behavior-related triggers of depression can be removed. The practice of thought identification is also rooted in mindfulness, therefore CBT also teaches someone to be present within their mind and to “notice what they’re noticing.”
Helpful Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are absolutely essential in helping regulate experienced emotions during a depressive episode. One of the best mindfulness techniques is called reactive non-attachment.
This posits that an individual can notice and observe their thoughts like clouds floating by in the sky. While performing this exercise, try to:
- Avoid attaching any meaning to the clouds (your thoughts). Don’t judge them in any way.
- Just watch. Simply observe and be curious about them.
- Do you notice any patterns or trends in what you are observing?
Other relaxation techniques that can help reframe negative thoughts using mindfulness involve visualizing yourself taking a deep breath in and “inhaling” the negative thoughts and feelings, holding your breath for 5 seconds, and visualizing your exhale as “exhaling” the negativity.
How to Build a Supportive Network
One of the best ways, apart from mental health services, to combat depression symptoms is to build a supportive network. Identify just one or two people that you trust to open up to and begin by asking them if they’d feel comfortable if you shared more about your mental health journey.
A support network doesn’t necessarily mean that each member has to know everything (although it’s okay if they do!) but creating a system of pre-determined trust within this social network increases vulnerability and intentionality within those relationships.
For example, if they notice you’re skipping out on plans they might be more likely to check in on you in helpful and intentional ways regarding your depression. You can create routines with these people (think behavior activation!) which can help you build trust within relationships, as well.