By Douglas Newton, LMFT
Over the past several years, stigma around seeking help for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues has decreased. And yet. Partly because of the way depression leads many to self-criticize, many often think that depression is a stain, a black mark against their character, something wrong with them.
It is time to disentangle depression from this idea of moral failure. It is time to stop imagining that depression is synonymous with a person’s character.
What are the general symptoms of depression?
If you experience depression, you have symptoms that occur with that experience. These can include sadness, stress, anxiety, sleep issues, negative self-talk, low motivation, feelings of hopelessness and failure to take pleasure in everyday activities, or anhedonia. For severe depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts can also occur.
These symptoms help clinicians like me understand your experience. No one chooses to experience depression. And confusion around where it comes from can lead to self-criticism, self-blame, shame and isolation. These factors can make depression worse, and shut someone down emotionally, which can exacerbate depression.
Thankfully there are many approaches to help people who experience depression find relief.
What will people think of me if they know I am depressed? What are some stigmas of depression?
Many public figures, most recently Senator John Fetterman, have decided to disclose that they are dealing with depression. According to this article in the New York Times (gift article that doesn’t require subscription), “Social scientists say there is demonstrable evidence that the public is growing more accepting of people with depression.” Relatedly, more people recognize the usefulness of seeking help when they experience anxiety, depression or other issues.
What if depression is just who I am?
When you are experiencing depression, it can feel like your entire experience. It can eclipse your sense of self, or even come to feel like your identity. Disentangling your self-concept from depression is one fundamental step in therapy to help recognize depression as mental illness rather than identity. Therapy helps you distinguish between depression and your identity.
You are not alone
Millions of people experience depression, with onset resulting from a wide range of interrelated factors. People from all walks of life experience depression and many of them find a fresh approach to their lives through therapy. While your experience with depression is unique to you, the symptoms are not, and there are many ways to help.
It takes courage and humility to recognize you need help and then make the call. Therapy is private, confidential, informed and professional, creating a safe place to address and treat your depression
SF Stress therapists have deep experience treating depression
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are among the effective, evidence-based treatments therapists use. Research shows that therapy helps people diminish the severity and frequency of their symptoms related to depression.
Getting help to treat your depression is an act of self respect. It is a decision to take care of yourself, and an assertion that you matter. For many people with depression, seeking help can be undermined by depression itself. Making that call can help.
National Institutes of Mental Health on Depression
American Psychiatric Association on Depression
World Health Organization on Depression