We all know what it feels like to be sad. Sadness is an essential human emotion, and although not particularly pleasant, it’s one that eventually passes (until the next time). But when that feeling of sadness lingers, when it clings to us, when it begins to impact our lives and our daily activities, it’s more likely depression.
Depression, also referred to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, goes beyond sadness. Depression includes feelings of deep sadness and despair, an emotional darkness that lasts more than a few days, more days than not. Clinical depression is debilitating.
Unfortunately, people struggling with depression don’t always seek out professional services for a number of reasons. They may not recognize that what they’re feeling is clinical depression or that there is help available. They may feel self-conscious or have feelings of shame about reaching out. Or they may not have the energy to reach out for support, specifically because symptoms of depression include extreme fatigue, loss of motivation, and apathy (a sense of not caring).
If you’ve ever suffered from depression or know someone who has, or if you’re currently struggling with depression, it’s important to know that help is, in fact, available and that there is no shame in reaching out for support. Millions of people suffer from depression, which is not a sign of weakness. But how, you might be wondering, can a psychologist or mental health professional actually help with depressive disorders?
First and foremost, they can help you understand that you’re not alone and that you don’t have to suffer in silence. They may begin by talking to you about your diagnosis. If the word “diagnosis” is at all off-putting or intimidating, just think of it as a way to help you understand what you’re experiencing and help you understand your symptoms. Often, people find relief in knowing that what they’re feeling and experiencing has a name and is treatable.
While clinical depression may affect people in different ways, common symptoms include:
- Prolonged sadness or feelings of emptiness
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Anger and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Appetite changes
- Chronic pain, headaches, or stomachaches
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Thoughts of death or suicide
A psychologist can also help you understand what might have led to your depression, which can be validating. While there is no one cause of depression, generally, it’s the result of a combination of factors. Genetics, for example, may play a role, as having a family history of depression or mental illness may make one more vulnerable. Psychological factors, such as having another mental health issue or diagnosis, also contribute to depression. Medical conditions may lead to or trigger depression. Life events and environmental factors contribute significantly to depression.
When depression results from traumatic experiences, incredibly painful life events (either from the past or in the present), or life transitions and stressors, working with a psychologist can be a very important part of the healing process. It’s important to have a safe space to talk about and process the emotions related to these kinds of events, and psychologists are trained professionals whose job it is to create that safe space. Your psychologist (or other mental health professionals), will offer support, guidance, and resources as you work through painful memories or circumstances. It’s this process that leads to emotional healing and helps you to move on.
Frequently, in fact almost always, people with clinical depression struggle with negative thought patterns. A psychologist can help you identify those negative thought patterns, the distorted ways you might be thinking about things that only make your depression worse. Self-defeating thoughts and behaviors are something we all experience, but it can be difficult to spot them in ourselves. A mental health professional offers that objective yet still compassionate voice that can be the thing we need to help us change.
Psychologists can help you understand your strengths, work with you on decreasing feelings of shame or worthlessness, and support you in developing a greater sense of self-compassion. This may include exercises in resiliency, working towards improving your self-esteem, and helping you build healthy coping and self-care skills. Such work will have a positive impact not only at the moment but will help you navigate stressful events in the future as well.
One of the most important considerations in working with a psychologist or other mental health professional is your own comfort level with that individual. It is not only ok but essential to look for someone who feels like a good fit. That doesn’t mean the work itself is comfortable; therapy is still hard work. But in order to get the most out of the therapeutic experience, vulnerability is required, and in order for us to be vulnerable, we need to feel safe. Not every therapist or psychologist is going to be the right fit for you, and that’s ok. Talk with a few by phone before a first appointment and go from there.
In addition to personality, it’s important to note as well that psychologists and mental health professionals have different styles and different approaches to the therapy process itself. There is no one “right” way. Some utilize very specific treatment methods, but most are somewhat eclectic. When looking for a psychologist, it might be helpful to ask if they have a specific treatment approach or model that they favor. Your psychologist should work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that is most appropriate for your specific needs and therapeutic goals.
Lastly, psychologists often serve as an advocate in helping you connect with additional resources. For instance, they may recommend group therapy in addition to your individual work with them. They may encourage you to see your primary care physician to address any medical issues, or they may refer you to a doctor or psychiatrist for a medication evaluation. Your psychologist will work to provide as many resources as possible to help you overcome your depression.
Anyone who has ever suffered from major depression, or had a loved one who’s suffered from major depression, understands the toll it takes emotionally, physically, and socially. Clinical depression impacts all areas of one’s life. It’s crucial to understand that help is available and that with appropriate professional support, depression is treatable. Working with a psychologist or therapist plays a critical part in overcoming depression. Contact Simi Psychological Group today to connect with our team of experienced psychologists in Thousand Oaks. Let our licensed expert help you get back on track and improve your mental health. You are not alone, so please call (805) 842-1994 to start today.