One condition I see most often is depression. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the sadness you are feeling is simply a passing feeling related to an upsetting event, or something deeper. If you have been experiencing sadness or a “blue feeling” for two weeks or longer, it might be something deeper, especially if the sadness has begun to interfere with daily life.
If you are suffering from depression, you may also feel helpless and blame yourself for feeling this way. I have had many clients come to me and tell me that they feel like it’s their fault that they can’t climb out of the deep hole they’re in, and I always remind them that what they are feeling is not their fault. Depression is often caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the body, or other biological issues, but a depressive episode may also be brought on by a stressful event in one’s life, such as the death of a loved one. The good news is that depression can be successfully treated, so even if you feel hopeless, there is and always will be hope. In my practice, I use cognitive behavioral psychotherapy to help my clients recover from, as well as understand, their depression. One aspect of this approach is recognizing distortions in one’s thinking and replacing these thoughts with more realistic ones. This is extremely important when it comes to depression because people tend to think that they are doing badly in all aspects of life, when really they aren’t.
If you think that someone you know might be suffering from depression or have noticed them withdrawing from their family and friends, it’s important to check in with them and offer your support and love in an understanding and compassionate way. If someone is suffering from depressive symptoms but is reluctant to talk to a psychologist, family therapy might be a good option as well. This can allow everyone affected by the depression to understand the condition and learn ways to cope and support each other.
When extreme, depression can contribute to hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. Hopelessness, in itself, is a cognitive distortion that can be challenged effectively with persistence and compassion. More about this in the next blog, which will focus on the pervasive and most serious problem of suicide.