Video: The Science of Depression
Depression symptoms: Everything is so difficult
- Why don’t I enjoy life anymore? I love being in Austin, but I can’t seem to enjoy it.
- Why can’t I get enough sleep? I’m just tired and my body hurts.
- I’m so angry and sad? Why can’t I be happy?
- I don’t feel like living anymore. I don’t want to drag everybody around me down.
- Why is everything so hard?
Austin is one of the most sought after cities to live in because it’s beautiful, lots of friendly people, a great economy, and plenty to do. But those great things mean that being depressed in Austin can feel extra isolating.
Depression is like living under a dark cloud that just won’t go away. Eventually, even the motivation to try to feel better seems to disappear; people even say that it’s tough to do things they know would help. Because of the progression of depression, it is helpful to get started in counseling sooner than later so that it doesn’t get too much momentum. But even if things have felt bleak for quite some time, taking action now will help you reclaim your life.
Not all depression is considered Major/Chronic Depression. Depression can also just be a symptom of experiences like grief and trauma. Left untreated, major depression may set in, but treatment is still extremely effective. And depression isn’t always so severe that people cannot get out of bed. Sometimes, people feel a little down and simply need help getting started on helpful behaviors.
Physical Symptoms: What your body feels and does
- Eating too much, frequently craving carbohydrates like sugar, bread, pasta and cereal
- Eating too little, or even forgetting to eat
- Sleeping too little or not at all (Insomnia)
- Sleeping too much (Hypersomnia)
- Headaches, stomach aches and general pain in the body, particularly in back, shoulders, and neck
- Poor posture, often slouching
Cognitive Symptoms: What your mind thinks, feels and does
- Pervasive sadness
- Irritability and lashing out
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Low motivation to do what one knows would help
- Loss of enjoyment in activities one used to enjoy
- Withdrawal from friends and family (Isolation)
- Anxiety and worry
Depression can leave you feeling alone and hopeless, but there is help
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States; it impacts over 16 million adults over the age of 18 each year. Insomnia, hypersomnia, appetite changes, irritability, and anxiety are other troublesome symptoms that may co-occur with depression. I know how badly you want relief from at least one of these. There is help, and we will figure out what is right for you and your unique personality. Don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city like Austin; instead, take advantage of the counseling experts like Gate Healing, PLLC and get started on feeling better.
Common fears associated with depression
The three most common fears that I see in regards to depression are:
- Depression will never go away
- I’m going to drag the people I care about down into depression with me
- Nobody wants to be around somebody who is depressed
Don’t fall for these thoughts . . . believe it or not, they are simply a result of the biochemical soup that causes depression, and they become habits. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine are the main neurotransmitters people hear about with depression. They are powerful, but they can be managed with talk therapy. Keep reading for other ideas that help get things back in balance. Medication is not always needed. As a matter of fact, most depression is managed without meds!
As physically painful as depression is, the thoughts that go along with it can be even more painful. The mind seems to ruminate on self-loathing, guilt, regret, anger, and even suicide. Using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to manage depression is not about digging into the painful thoughts, but rather to simply see them for what they are, then move to different, healthier thoughts. With practice, this does get easier and easier.
To treat your depression, I’ll work with you to:
- Cultivate a mindfulness practice that helps you beat depression
- Overcome the lethargy and lack of motivation that often comes with depression
- Identify specific skills that change the biochemistry of depression
You’ll learn the science of depression and how to prevent or minimize it. You’ll also learn how your thoughts can either reinforce, manage, or even prevent depression.
Common tools for fighting depression in Austin
Before jumping to medications, you can look at other well-researched and consistently proven methods for combating depression (you’re never wrong to talk to your doctor/psychiatrist about medication though). Consistency and follow-through are important for these tools to work well. We will customize these tools, and others, to your unique personality and situation:
- Counseling – Depression counseling helps you recognize the symptoms and build skills that help you feel better
- Exercise – At the gym, or any of the beautiful parks in Austin, like Zilker Park
- Meditation – We have taught meditation for 20 years and have worked with highly regarded spiritual and meditation teachers like Ram Dass
- Eating healthy – Austin has no shortage of healthy food places. You don’t have to shop at Central Market or Wholefoods to eat healthily! Let us show you how
- Proper hydration – Water helps the electricity flow more smoothly. It prevents dehydration that slows brain function
- Hobbies – Whether this is a musical instrument, building model cars or exercise, engaging in things you enjoy is important to feeling better
- Socializing – You don’t have to suddenly be a social butterfly with plans every night of the week. However, be sure that you are not completely isolating yourself. We all need different amounts of socializing and I’ll help you figure out how much is right for you
Do I have bipolar depression if my mood fluctuates?
Probably not. Normal mood fluctuations are a common experience for all of us. Bipolar disorder is more extreme ups (manic phases) and downs (depressive phases) that causes significant impairment in daily life. Milder versions, like Bipolar II, have what are called ‘hypomanic’ phases, where the manic phases aren’t as drastic but are still more intense than normal mood shifts. If you aren’t sure, get in touch so we can talk about it.
Does depression cause people to use drugs and alcohol?
The pain that depression causes is a common reason that people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, but it doesn’t directly ’cause’ the using behaviors. People self-medicate when they feel like they cannot tolerate the pain they are experiencing and are desperate for even a temporary break from it. The trouble is, drugs and alcohol can be addictive, and the effects on the brain frequently make the depression even worse, which causes more cravings for the chemicals. A better approach is counseling, exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, and sometimes proper medication that is prescribed by a psychiatrist. These drugs are specifically tailored to help depression without causing it to get worse in between doses.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are varied. Sometimes there is a genetic link to an imbalance in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, other times it can be related to major life events like trauma, grief, injury and major stress. Regardless of the root cause of depression, there is help.
Can depression be cured?
Depression is manageable. It is not a disease that needs to be ‘cured’ like cancer or an infection. As I mentioned above, exercise, healthy nutrition, hydration, meditation, and medication are all extremely helpful in managing depression. Even massage therapy has great benefits for people living with depression. The more you engage in these activities, and the more consistently you do them, the better the results. Counseling and other non-medical methods are 2-3 times more effective than medication alone.
How long does depression last?
Depression can be a temporary symptom (i.e. not a diagnosis) of something like grief or stress, or a diagnosable condition like Major Depression or Bipolar Disorder. Diagnosable depression can be episodic (brief episodes of depression) or chronic.
National Institute of Mental Health – Publication about specifics of depression
NIMH – Overview of depression facts
National Alliance on Mental Health – Useful information regarding symptoms, treatment and support of depression
University of Texas – Austin – Counseling and Mental Health Center information about depression and treating it
National Suicide Prevention LifeLine Live Chat – 1-800-273-8255 is the 24/7 hotline
(512) 472-HELP – 24/7 Texas Crisis Line
Learn about dealing with depression: Depression Articles
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.