Today I’m going to be starting a short series on depression and yoga. This can sometimes be a hard topic to read or talk about, so if you feel the need to skip over any of these posts, I understand. Just know that help is out there and that you’re not alone. If your depression ever gets the best of you and you feel like taking your own life, please talk to someone who can help you. You can reach help at Suicide Prevention Lifeline or calling at 1-800-273-8255.
Depression is probably the most common mental health issue that individuals experience. I see it quite often in my office, and it looks different on everybody. Sometimes it’s simply feeling incomplete. Sometimes it’s not wanting to get out of bed in the mornings. Sometimes it’s as bad as wanting to end it all in a permanent way. Depression can be hard to define in this way because it is so unique, but I’m going to give defining it a shot.
There are many different types of depression, but the most common include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, and postpartum depression. According to Psychology Today, depression can be defined as “an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her” (2014).
To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, an individual must experience at least five of these symptoms for two weeks or more:
- depressed mood for significant part of the day
- loss of interests or pleasure
- significant change in weight or appetite
- insomnia or sleeping too much
- loss of energy
- feelings of guilt or feelings of low self worth
- difficulty concentrating
- thoughts of death or suicide (NCBI, n.d.).
**Please note these requirements are from the DSM-IV. The DSM V will be replacing this model starting October 1 of 2015. I am not sure of what changes (if any) were made to these diagnoses with the new DSM.**
Depression affects more than 19 million Americans every year. Unfortunately, only about half of the people experiencing this seek out treatment. The cause of depression is heavily debated, but some things may lend individuals to experiencing it more than others. Typically, individuals with changes in their neurotransmitters have a higher risk of becoming depressed – this can often be a genetic cause. These changes are often treated with a combination of anti-depressants and therapy. Women are twice as likely to experience depression than men, possibly because of hormonal imbalances in the body during menstruation or after having a baby (Mental Health America, n.d.). (Side note – I think I will do a whole post about postpartum depression because it really needs more awareness).
Here comes the tough part to swallow about depression – suicide. It’s hard to talk about and it hurts when someone you love attempts or completes suicide. But not talking about it is not going to make it go away, so here we go.
Suicide is #10 on the leading causes of death of the United States among all ages; there is one suicide for every 25 suicide attempts. Males often complete suicides more than females and account for 79% of all suicides in America, but females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make more attempts than men. Here’s the statistic that was a real kicker for me: it is estimated that a quarter million individuals are suicide survivors every single year in the United States (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education [SAVE], n.d.).
How is depression treated?
Well, depending on the severity, an anti-depressant is usually prescribed by a doctor. The most common anti-depressants are SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). SSRI’s work to block the serotonin in the brain to reduce depressive symptoms in individuals (Mayo Clinic, 2013). There are other types of anti-depressants, and you can research them here if you feel the need. The world of medicine for mental health is an interesting and controversial one, so I do not feel the need to dive in to that particular can of worms today. Just know that side effects are very common with anti-depressants, and do not always work on the first try. They also usually take several weeks for feelings of depression to go away, so if you’re just starting out on one – be patient. (I know this is way easier said than done when experiencing depression.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the same thing to individuals in my office. It does not work overnight but if you give it enough time to get in your system, it will and should help dramatically. If not, talk to you doctor again.
Some people feel that they are depressed but not on a level that needs medicine. To that I say, “Are you sure?” I’m not always an advocate for medicating our problems, but depression is a tricky thing and I can’t say what is and isn’t right for someone else. My suggestion is to always talk to your doctor first. They may just suggest counseling. Who knows? But don’t be afraid to seek help, voice your concerns about anti-depressants, and then go from there. If you don’t like what one doctor said, go to a second one. Just don’t give up.
Will therapy help my depression go away?
According to SAVE, “80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication” (n.d.). Personally, as a therapist, I have seen this statistic in sessions over time. Eventually, clients will start coming to me and tell me they feel better. I see the energy in their eyes. When this happens, it’s like a totally different person sitting in my presence than what they were before. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m here to tell you that it is possible.
There are a lot of different counselors out there that practice a bunch of different counseling theories. I do not really adhere to one specific theory all the time, but I try to find what is going to be best for my client in the present moment. This may include addressing negative self talk, providing psycho-educational information about how depression works, working through feelings of guilt and sadness, mindfulness techniques such as breathing or meditation, exploring depression through sand tray (I love sand tray), journaling, practicing healthy coping skills, and changing patterns of negative thinking.
I always, always, use scaling questions when working with individuals experiencing depression. One example of this could be “on a scale of 1-10, how depressed are you feeling today, 10 being the most?” Then, we explore how intense these feelings are. How long does the feeling last? Is it all day, or is it a fleeting moment? Does it happen every day? Is it all consuming? Where are you feeling it on your body? What does it feel like? etc, etc. I love exploring with clients where they are physically feeling something. It helps individuals learn to identify triggers, develop positive coping skills to keep these physical symptoms away, and move forward.
(Here is a great article about treating depression from Counseling Today).
I know this blog is about counseling and yoga, but I’ll get to the yoga part for depression next week, I promise. I do believe that yoga really does help keep depression away and increases individual’s self worth. I’ve experienced this myself for my lack of confidence with my body image issues. But I wanted to take time today to address what depression is and how it can be treated. I hope it helps somebody find the help they need or just gets people talking. Depression is scary and can feel incredibly lonely. I want you all to know that you are not alone. Please get help if you need it. If you have no idea where to get started for help, leave me a comment below or send me an email at email@example.com; I’m always willing to talk to you. Reach out if you need it. Together, we are warriors.
Happy OM’ing and namaste. ❤
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ssris). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825
Mental Health America. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression
NCBI. (n.d.). Appendix d – dsm-iv-tr mood disorders. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64063/
Psychology Today. (2014, November 24). Depressive disorders. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/depressive-disorders
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE). (n.d.). Suicide facts. Retrieved from http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6