Depression is an insidious disease. It comes on slowly and doesn’t exhibit outright symptoms right away. Depression creates a negative feedback loop; as the symptoms of depression start to show, you may start to withdraw from social settings, your appetite may decrease (or increase), and your sleep is affected, either by sleeping too much or too little. The energy you previously had to do the things you loved decreases, and it becomes difficult to do the things you know you should do to feel better. Once you are depressed, you no longer have the energy to help yourself get out of your depressed state, and so the cycle continues.
Psychotherapy paired with medication has been clinically-proven as the top care for major depression, panic disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I go above and beyond with my clients to provide top care and to ensure a holistic treatment plan is created with their individual goals in mind. One part of psychotherapy that I focus on is working together to increase your self-esteem and establishing healthy boundaries.
Medication is effective, efficient, and requires low effort, but is not for everyone. Unfortunately, medication will not cure the underlying cause of many people’s depression, but rather only treats the symptoms. When the medication stops, so does the treatment. Medication does not provide immediate relief and can take four to six weeks to help you feel improvement. It also can often have side effects for many people, most commonly stomachaches and headaches in the short term.
On top of psychotherapy and/or medication, I also prescribe behavior activation to aid with depression. Behavior activation produces the fastest results with the fewest side effects. Clients who properly follow a behavior activation prescription can start to see results in as little as seven days.
Behavior activation is a combination of increased physical activity and socialization. I highly recommend taking group fitness classes because of the schedule they provide and the opportunity for positive social engagement. With continuity of attending group fitness classes, you can build a positive social network in a non-work, non-familial environment.
Prescribing exercise is not as common as prescribing medication, but it has profound effects, proven through scientific studies, on giving long-lasting and immediate relief from depression and anxiety. Adding exercise into your life can seem daunting or exhausting if you’ve been inactive for a while. Depression can increase the feelings of having no energy. This is why I suggest taking fitness classes. There are various levels of fitness classes and most instructors will be happy to tailor something to your ability.
Because there are set times for classes, you’ll be able to find classes that work with your schedule, and it will take away the added anxiety of figuring out what to do when you go to the gym. On top of that, there is an added benefit of increasing your socialization, especially in a positive, healthy environment.
When you exercise, your heart beats faster and your blood vessels are cleaned out. Additionally, stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine are released. Endorphins are received in the brain, which act as natural painkillers and produce euphoria similar to the effect of opioids. Altogether, this can lead to better sleep and a reduction of stress. Other benefits of exercise include increasing feelings of happiness, increasing self-confidence, and overall health and life longevity. (Read more about the benefits of exercise here.)
We need to be active and social to survive. Our bodies and minds are connected and tied to our biology. Modern society’s evolution has not taken into account our biological need for physical activity and socialization.
Humans have evolved in a specific way that we cannot sit still all day. Our primal ancestors needed to be active to survive; being sedentary was a sign that something was wrong. Only recently have humans been forced to sit for eight+ hours a day to survive. Now, because we’ve been inactive all day our bodies don’t want to sleep at night. Sleep is a naturally occurring state that our bodies and minds need to enter to fully restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. In basic terms, proper sleep helps us feel balanced emotionally and mentally healthy.
Socially, it appears that we are more connected than ever, however, our bodies and minds do not understand having virtual friends. Virtual connections are not an adequate substitute for in-person interactions with a person or small group that we feel connected to. Posting to our 800 friends or followers online is not the same as having in-person deeply-connecting interactions. In today’s world, it’s very easy to isolate in our society while still seeming to be connected. In fact, we might not even notice how we’ve distanced ourselves from real life connections.
There is hope for depression. For some people depression is something that will come and go through their lives, for others it’s an occasional occurrence based on the events of a specific situation. Whatever is going on for you, there is relief and I can help. All of my treatment plans are multi-pronged holistic approaches, tailored to meet you where you are today and to your specific needs and goals. Together with psychotherapy, medication (as needed), and behavior activation you’ll start to feel relief and break the negative feedback loop that is depression.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I’m depressed?
Depression is defined as four or more SIGECAPS symptoms persisting longer than two weeks.
decreased Interest in hobbies or activities that you once enjoyed
feelings of Guilt on a daily basis
lack of Energy
lack of Concentration
Appetite decreased or increased
Psychomotor retardation (feels like your body is moving in slow motion. note: this is rare)
Sleep decreased or increased
What should I do if I think I’m depressed?
The top three ways to treat depression non-invasively is psychotherapy, medication, and behavioral activation. Together they provide immediate and long-lasting relief from depression.
Psychotherapy and/or medication require an appointment with a health care professional trained in psychology and/or psychiatry. Click here if you’d like to learn more about Harborside Psychiatry and how to make an appointment with me. Once we establish care, I will create a custom holistic treatment plan meeting you where you are today and what your needs and goals are.
Behavioral activation is one of the most overlooked treatments for depression. For starters it costs the least and has the most benefit of all three. Studies have shown that exercise is at least effective as medication. Homo sapiens evolved around 300,000 years ago and only in the past 30 years have people been expected been sitting for 8-16 hours a day. Our bodies were not designed to sit for that amount of time. When it comes time to sleep many people with depression cannot sleep. Our bodies are saying “I have slept all day, so why should I have to sleep tonight”. Of course, lack of sleep leads to feeling miserable and anxiety about waking-up the next day. One of the most effective ways of dealing with the inability to sleep due to depression and anxiety is to get exercise during the day.