Understanding and Healing Depression

Depression can make you feel painfully sad. It can also make you so numb that nothing seems to matter. Too often it’s misunderstood. Explaining it to friends and relatives can be very difficult, and this can lead to isolation—which makes it worse.

Psychotherapy has been shown to be quite effective in treating depression. One of the ways that it does this is by providing a confidential place where the depression can be understood and new ways of living can be explored.

My approach to treating depression is based on the individual’s unique situation, but here are some elements that are often key:

  • Explore the depression with empathy and understanding rather than judgement.
    • Depression is not a sign of failure or a cause for shame, and breaking that cycle of judgement is a very important step.
  • Identify any unresolved losses and disappointments that may contribute to the depression.
    • For instance, you may have lost someone you were close to but never processed the feelings or mourned the loss. Even if it was a long time ago it may be having an effect.
  • Try to understand any unconscious purpose the depression may be serving.
    • For instance, are you punishing yourself for either not succeeding or for succeeding more than others around you?
  • Understand what underlying issues the depression could be alerting you to.
    • For instance, has your growth as a person has been blocked and needs your attention?
  • Acknowledge whether self-attack, or anger turned against yourself may be making you feel bad.
    • If it’s taboo to be angry in your family, your job, or your culture, you may be turning the anger on yourself so as not to get in trouble.
  • Question thought patterns that may contribute to your depression.
    • Do you usually see the glass as half empty? If so, why? What purpose has this served? Let’s find a better way.
  • Explore the role that relationships have played in your depression.
    • Was being distraught the only time you were given attention, leading you to feel that you needed to feel bad to be loved?
  • Take action. Once you have some understanding of what’s happening beneath the surface it’s important to identify activities that will help to alleviate the depression. If these steps are hard to take, that’s useful information for us about what to work on.
    • For example, if you feel that you should be perfect at everything you do, it will be important to re-frame your priorities: taking steps will be more helpful than waiting to achieve perfection.

You can read more about my thoughts on depression in this Huffington Post Blog: Depression, Expectations and the Felt Sense of Inadequacy.