Depression is one of the psychological disorders that affects the most people. Many people are affected by it at some point in his or her life. Therefore, it is important to seek help immediately if you have depressive symptoms. A therapist can help you prevent or cure depression.

How do I know if I am depressed?

To diagnose psychological disorders, therapists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This manual describes the symptoms of a variety of disorders, including depression. According to the DSM, depression occurs when you suffer from at least one of the two core symptoms and at least five of the seven other symptoms for at least two weeks.

Core symptoms

  • a dejected mood (most of the day or all day)
  • a decreased interest in almost all activities (most of the day or all day)

Other symptoms

  • eating problems or (as a result) weight fluctuations
  • sleep problems
  • flattened emotions or just irritation and restlessness
  • fatigue or reduced energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness
  • suicidal thoughts

If your symptoms do not fully meet the description of depression, but some of these symptoms are present, then the diagnosis of ‘sub-clinical depression’ is often made. We then speak simply of ‘depressive symptoms’. If you are not sure whether you have depression or depressive symptoms, it is still (or perhaps most definitely) important to visit your doctor or a therapist. Early intervention helps to prevent the development of depression.

How does a therapist help?

A therapist will write a treatment plan based on your symptoms, your specific situation, and your wants and needs for the future. This treatment plan consists of conversations, in which cognitive behavioral therapy is used. In many cases, you will also be given very practical homework assignments. For example, you may be asked to keep a diary, do relaxation exercises, or undertake specific (social) activities.

If you feel comfortable with this, or if it is simply more practical, these conversations can easily take place online. Online therapy via Skype or FaceTime offers you the opportunity to talk to a therapist from the comfort of your home. It is, therefore, ideal if you prefer not to go to a practice, or if you live abroad, but want to follow therapy in your own language.

In many cases, eight to ten sessions are sufficient. If this is not the case, then a new approach can be chosen in consultation with the family doctor or another practitioner. For example, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, who may also prescribe medication.

What do I learn in therapy?

In cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to influence your emotions through thoughts and behaviors. For this, it is necessary to learn to see yourself and your environment from a different perspective. Depression is often not so much related to external factors, but to the way you look at them and deal with them. One person can lose his or her job and apply for a new job the next day in good spirits, while another falls into a depression because of it. In therapy, you learn how to deal with these kinds of setbacks or other ’triggers’, so that you can counteract depressive symptoms and prevent them altogether in the future.

Almost half of the people with depression or depressive symptoms recover within three months. In others it keeps coming back. We then speak of a recurring depression. By seeking psychological support, you keep as much control as possible over your symptoms and you increase the chance of dealing with them better or even recovering completely.

 

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