THE THERAPY ROOM: How to help someone with depression

Posted on 15 August 2018 by LeslieM

There is help for individuals and families to recognize and cope with depression, including major depression or dysthymia, and manic depression or bipolar disorder. We must provide better knowledge to those who suffer with depression in order to get proper help and to prevent any suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), depression is a serious and treatable medical condition that affects almost 18 million Americans a year. Everyone gets sad, but depression and sadness are different. When an individual is sad, depressed or irritable for at least two weeks, it can be a sign of clinical depression. Depression does not discriminate and it causes suffering not only to an individual but to that individual’s family, co-workers and friends. There is good news and that is depression is treatable and relief can be experienced within weeks or months.

Many factors cause depression and include a chemical imbalance of mood regulation in the brain, genetics, substance abuse, illness and life events. Whatever the cause, depression needs treatment. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), one half of people with depression get treatment, but only one third of people with depression get treatment that helps. We need to understand depression, what good treatment looks like and how to monitor the treatment so it works.

Depression can be hard to recognize because every person is unique and has different feelings. Some feel sad; some are quiet and others become withdrawn and anti-social. Many of my patients have told me during a psychotherapy session that they feel anxious, lonely, full of fear and empty.

Symptoms for depression:

Persistently sad, empty or irritable mood

Reduced interest and pleasure in doing things

Tired, trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much

Lack of appetite or overeating

Medically unexplained aches and pains

Abusing drugs or alcohol

Wanting to hurt self or thoughts of suicide

Symptoms for bipolar disorder or manic depression:

(when not in a depressive state):

Increased energy with decreased need for sleep without feeling tired

Severe and sudden changes in mood

Increased talking

Impulsive behavior

Difficulty concentrating

The initial step to help someone with depression is a clinical evaluation. A licensed clinician will be able to differentiate normal episodes of sadness from depression. The clinician will recommend a physical examination by a healthcare provider to rule out thyroid conditions, hormonal imbalances and viral infections that can cause symptoms of depression. A psychosocial evaluation is also important to detail a patient’s depression and discuss any alcohol or drug use, any suicidal thoughts, family history of depression and home/school/work life.

Finding the right clinician to help you or a loved one with depression can be challenging. Be selective. A clinician should be available to answer questions and provide care. As a licensed clinical psychotherapist, I offer complimentary, brief phone or office consultations to discuss such matters. Please visit my website www.drjuliabreur.com for contact information.

Dr. Julia Breur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private clinical psychotherapy practice in Boca Raton. Further information available at www.drjuliabreur.com.

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