Experiencing sadness to varying degrees is a normal part of our human experience. Sad feelings may be a result of any number of life challenges or situations. If circumstances change, we may begin to move out of those sad places. Or, new attitudes or ways to cope with a situation may emerge that help us to feel like ourselves again.
However, sometimes circumstances do not change and we may feel unable to cope, or to cope in healthy ways. Feelings of sadness may persist and cause behavioral patterns of withdrawal, lack of motivation, changes in our eating and sleeping patterns, and a pervasive lack of enjoying the usual activities that once brought us satisfaction. We may notice tendencies to see ourselves and our life more pessimistically and notice more negative thinking patterns. For some individuals, greater irritability or anger is more pervasive than sadness and increased tearfulness.
In extreme situations, feelings of despair may turn into passing thoughts that life is no longer worth living, or specific thoughts of suicide.
It is time to get professional help if, after a few weeks, one's mood just doesn't improve, and immediate help if suicidal thoughts arise. Professional help means, not just a compassionate listener, but someone to help guide you towards new thinking patterns, new coping tools and to assist you in emotional healing and steady progress towards re-engaging in life.
(Please note: In serious cases of suicidal intent, it is always imperative that one go immediately to the emergency room of your local hospital.)
Situational depression may occur as a result of challenging life circumstances arising that overwhelm our ability to cope. Learning new coping skills and strategies can help restore emotional normalcy. Developing new perspectives and gaining tools for emotional management, can positively contribute towards regaining one's enthusiasm for life and moving out of situational depression.
Depression that occurs, not as a result of any obvious situation, or that continues long after a problematic situation arises or has been resolved, may indicate changes in one's biochemistry. Some individuals are biologically predisposed to depression more than others and may have a greater tendency toward developing depression when challenging situations do arise or even for no apparent reason. Sometimes early childhood traumas can predispose one to depression. Biological depression can also be a result of hormonal changes and fluctuations that occur from a woman's menstrual cycle or after childbirth, known as Postpartum Depression. Certain medications have been known to contribute towards experiencing depression.
MY TREATMENT APPROACH
I understand how debilitating depressive symptoms can be. Often, persons with depression may experience reactions from others, or even may tell themselves, that they should just get over it! This is not only harmful advice, as it places unnecessary and inappropriate blame on the individual experiencing depression, but it keeps someone from pursuing help when help is available. In my experience, people can recover from depression. While, in some circumstances, persons may be prescribed anti-depressants by their doctor, medications aren't always required, particulary for situational depression. However, even when medications are prescribed, research shows that medications in conjunction with psychotherapy contributes to the most successful outcomes. In my work, I use cognitive-behavioral therapy, coupled with body-centered mindfulness approaches, to help individuals--
Develop realistic and hopeful narratives about themselves and their lives,
Gain hands on tools for managing and improving depressive emotional states,
Shift out of states of withdrawal and poor motivation into living one's life more fully and with greater enjoyment.
AMY WINTERS, LCSW
PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR ADULTS