Treatment for Depression

Treatment for depression can involve several different treatment options.  Depression is a mood disorder defined by the following symptoms lasting daily for two or more weeks:

  • Depressed mood
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Loss of pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death

Depression leads to impairments in social, educational, occupational, or relational functioning as people report increased isolation, withdrawal, problems completing tasks, failing or difficulty fulfilling obligations.

Depression can be triggered by a number of issues whether life stressors, life transitions, postpartum, losses, trauma, health problems etc. Depression can look like a number of other issues such as medical problems, grief, substance use, or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, which is why it is important to have a skilled psychologist appropriately diagnose and provide treatment for depression. There are a number of therapies that have been well researched and have shown to be effective in treating depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The theory behind cognitive behavioral therapy for depression focuses on two components: cognitive and behavioral theory.

Behavioral theory views depression resulting from decreases sense of pleasure and decreased sense of accomplishment (mastery) in life. As such, therapy focuses on reconnecting with and/ or identifying activities creating pleasure for the individual and activities that are consistent with the person’s values. Also, therapy focuses on increasing activities that provide the person with a sense of accomplishment. This occurs through daily monitoring and rating both on mastery and pleasure initially the activities the person engages in and then focusing on modifying and scheduling activities creating higher pleasure and mastery. Once rated often individuals find that they are actually accomplishing a lot on a daily basis and instead it is the thinking about their activities that is inaccurate. This is where the cognitive component of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression assists.

Cognitive theory views depression resulting from ones thoughts about themselves, others, and the world. These unhelpful thoughts impact how a person feels and how they behave. Therapy focuses on first identifying these surface thoughts and then moving into identifying the more unconscious thought patterns that negatively impact ones feelings and behaviors. Once the thoughts are identified they are categorized and labeled into certain types of thought patterns called cognitive distortions that commonly occur in individuals that are experiencing depression.

Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking that tend to be unrealistic and irrational. For example, one cognitive distortion is called “All or nothing thinking” where a person is thinking in “black and white” terms and having a hard time finding shades of grey. The person displays extremes in their thinking and has difficulty with more balanced thinking. An example of all or nothing thinking is “I always mess up” or “everything bad always happens to me.” Once identified and labeled the unhelpful thoughts are challenged and modified to more realistic and accurate thoughts. For example, “I always mess up” may be modified to “there are times when I make mistakes” as this thought may be more accurate and true for the person.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression typically occurs weekly for 12 to 16 sessions. It is important to find a treatment provider trained in the treatment approach. Medications for depression can be beneficial in combination with therapy for depression that is more severe in nature.

If you think you are experiencing signs or symptoms of depression, contact Dr. Watson today to discuss.  Dr. Watson has treated patients suffering for depression from a range of backgrounds and severities and will speak to you about treatment options.  She can be reached directly at (404) 954-2713.