Q: Why do I feel so depressed if my work, relationships and family life seem to be going just fine?
A: The causes of depression vary. For some, a depressed episode can be triggered by a difficult loss or transition. For others, depression is rooted in certain past experiences, ways of thinking and beliefs one may have about themselves and the world.
Q: Will I always feel this way?
A: This is a question no one can answer because it requires us to see into the future. What I can say, is that my experience as a therapist has shown me that overwhelmingly, people do and can “recover” from their depression.
Q: How do I know if I’m depressed or just feeling sad about something?
A: This is an important distinction to make. Everyone experiences basic sadness and even strong feelings of sadness around significant losses. Depression often doesn’t feel “connected” to a specific event. Depression is often longer lasting and accompanied by an inability to “see the big picture” or remember that your life is good in many ways even though you are feeling bad temporarily.
Q: Why do I feel so lethargic and achey?
A: One way of looking at this is that the body expresses our moods. When you are feeling hopeful and excited about life, you tend to have more energy. When you are feeling sad or depressed, your energy level drops off. Depression can also cause physical symptoms like body aches, stomachaches, headaches, joint pain and low back pain. It’s important to first meet with your doctor to rule out any physical illness before determining that your body pain is part of your depression.
Q: If a family member has/had depression, am I destined to suffer the same way?
A: Not necessarily. Depression can have some basis in brain chemistry and some basis in learned ways of coping with life stressors. If you were raised by parents or caregivers that were depressed and therefore less emotionally available to attend to you in your early years, this could impact your feelings of security and feeling comforted in hard times and maybe even lead to your own depressed feelings. Different people have different ways of coping with stress and loss. Some tend toward depression and others seem to get more anxious and frenetic. Most of us are capable of both states given certain circumstances.
Q: What else can help me with my depression?
A: It is widely recognized that eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help many people feel less depressed. It’s difficult to motivate to take care of yourself in these ways when you are feeling so bad. You might consider enlisting the help of friends and family to meet you for a walk or at the gym or to provide some encouragement and support for eating well. Some people have found some relief in music, acupuncture, yoga, bodywork (massage, acupressure, reflexology) talking with trusted friends and family, reading, and meditation.
Q: Do I have to take medication if I have depression?
A: Anti-depressants are one resource that some people choose to help them with their depression. The choice to take any medication should be a careful one. Talk with your therapist about this option and see a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation. I believe that it is important that you, your therapist and the psychiatrist work closely together to see that you are getting the full benefits from the treatment.