Sometimes clients come into my office wanting a diagnosis of depression. They may feel that this diagnosis validates their low mood, which they then can take back to their significant others and to help give explanation for their experience. Although psychologists have guidelines to make such a diagnosis, I often hesitate before doing this, explaining to my clients my view on depression. For many people, depression can be placed on a continuum and most people move along this continuum throughout their life span—ranging from happy and content to major depression. Depending on your current life situation, the coping skills you learned throughout your life, traumatic life experiences in your childhood, and the amount of support you have in you life, you can move along this continuum in your lifetime, at times feeling happy or content and at other times feeling discouraged or depressed.
What is depression? Following is a list of symptoms for depression. These symptoms can be a normal part of life. However, the more symptoms you have, the longer you are living with them, and the stronger they are, the more severe the depression:
- Sleeping too much or too little;
- Feeling hopeless or helpless;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Major change in appetite;
- Hard on self and/or increase in negative thinking;
- Suicidal thoughts (seek help immediately if this occurs)
What should you do? How do you know when you should go on antidepressants? Are there alternatives? How do you know when you should seek therapy? Many of my clients who experienced some or many of the above symptoms were uncertain whether they should seek help, and thus, may have lived with depression longer than they should have. They often ask me whether they should go on antidepressants. Because I am not a physician, I always refer them back to their family doctor to discuss it, but we also review other ways of dealing with the depression, to see if they can manage the depression without antidepressants. We may also discuss homeopathy, which is a natural alternative to antidepressants. If clients are unable to progress in therapy due to difficulties with day-to-day coping, we reconsider the possibility of antidepressants, to help bring them to a level of functioning so that they can work on creating a foundation of coping skills.
When working with the depression in therapy, we first look at life situations that may contribute to the low feelings: Has there been trauma? Have you experienced any big life change? How do you process these situations? We also look at thoughts that contribute to the feelings: Are you hard on yourself? How does that leave you feeling? Many people have a strong critical voice that contributes to depressed feelings. Sometimes you may experience emotions that you find difficult (e.g. sadness, anger, hurt) and you try to avoid them. As you work through some of these difficult emotions, you get a better sense of what you want and need, and as a result you can act on these needs to feel better and be more in effective in your life. Therapy can help you explore your life so that you can feel like your life is progressing in the way that you desire. You don’t need to be clinically depressed or anxious to see a psychologist. You just need to want to explore your inner world so that you can live consciously.
Ready to see how counselling can help you? Contact us to book a session:
Adress: #224, 1919 Sirocco Drive SW, Calgary, AB
Ask your extended health benefits provider if you have coverage for treatment by a Registered Psychologist.