Depression can be a very scary experience, and it is a challenging thing to cope with because of how insidious it can be. One of the trickiest things about depression is that it convinces you that the negative thoughts and feelings you are having are 100% true. For the depressed person, a negative thought or feeling can grow into a strongly held belief, and consequently influence an entire worldview. In clinical language, this is a cognitive distortion; we see things differently from how they really are. The problem is, those perceptions of yourself and of the world around you create very real emotions. One of the most common beliefs that develop during a depressive episode is that how you are feeling in that moment will never change.
While sometimes depression can be triggered by a sad or discouraging life event, that might not always be the case. Something I often hear is “I’m embarrassed to feel this way, I have so much in my life, so much I should be grateful for”, “ So many people have it worse than me”, “Nothing really happened to justify this depression”. Depression can simply be the result of your body’s chemistry, which is often combined with habitual ways of thinking that help to keep a person feeling stuck and make it extremely difficult to see or act on practical solutions. If you have been depressed you have probably heard a slew of advice/suggestions but thought “that wont’ work for me”.
One of the big pitfalls of depression is it can be very isolating. Those suffering from depression tend to cut themselves off from potential support, and sometimes even the people trying to help a depressed person start to feel tired of the negative thinking that they cant seem to help you to change. So, as a result, relationships suffer.
Therapy for depression can act in several ways. First, and most importantly, experiencing a non-judgmental response to depression by your therapist can model a healthy and positive way to think about one’s self . You are not your depression, there is so much more to you than how you are feeling right now. Therapy helps to change patterns of self critical thinking, which can alleviate a significant amount of pain that an individual is experiencing and create a platform for positive motivation. Treatment can also be effective in bringing awareness to and correcting the cognitive distortions (faulty thinking and beliefs) that have taken hold. Consistent encouragement and support helps to build a foundation for the actions required for an individual to feel more powerful that their depression.