20% of adults in the US will have at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. Depression, often called the “common cold” of mental disorders, is the most widespread and most easily treated mood disorder, yet it is usually misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. Unfortunately, if ignored, a single episode of depression can lead to a life-long struggle with recurring bouts. Although everyone feels “down” occasionally, a Major Depressive Episode dominates the life of the sufferer and often interferes with day-to-day living. Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, sleep disturbances, weight loss or gain, decreased energy and fatigue, and a general feeling of sadness are some of the most common characteristics of depression, but “atypical” depression may be characterized by excessive anger or irritability, agitation and worry, even physical symptoms like back pain or muscle soreness. In extreme cases, you may feel suicidal or even plan and carry out a suicide attempt. Some depressions are triggered by external problems: losing a job or a partner, financial issues, and so on. In these cases, normal emotional reactions to stress become exaggerated, continuing longer than they should. Other episodes of depression seem to be more purely biological in nature-you may become despondent or gloomy when there are no special problems in your day-to-day life.
In extreme cases – when you are so suicidal that you have just made an attempt or cannot control your impulses to kill yourself – hospitalization may be necessary for depression. However, most of the time that’s not necessary or helpful and outpatient therapy works very well to combat most depressive episodes. We use a combination of techniques to transform depression, depending on the individual’s special needs and make-up. These techniques include:
• cognitive-behavioral therapy designed to help counteract the low self-esteem and negative thinking that often comes with depression
• solution-focused techniques to get at the real-life issues that either trigger depression or, conversely, are actually caused by depression (e.g., poor job performance, relationship problems)
• psychodynamic techniques to uncover painful or self-defeating patterns that may have originated in childhood
• referrals for medication evaluation: antidepressant medication is another “first-line” treatment for depressive episodes; we have medication specialists we work with routinely, or we can work in conjunction with another professional of your own choosing
• recommendations for holistic approaches combining body work, herbal remedies, exercise, and so on