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Understanding Depression and Learning to Seek Help


A person struggling with depression and learning how to seek help through therapy

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado Public Radio reported that over 20% of Colorado residents meet the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, up from 7% in pre-pandemic levels. And while some of that may be because of the heightened recognition of mental health during the pandemic, it’s safe to say that people struggling with depression aren’t alone, even in 2024. 


In this blog, we’ll cover what depression is and how to go about seeking help.


What is Depression?


There are many ways to think about what depression is, which tells us first of all that it is a complicated experience. Biological and medical models emphasize the swelling of certain brain tissue or the absence or presence of brain chemicals like dopamine or serotonin. From this perspective, treatment is best carried out by medications and other neurological interventions. A behavioral perspective would highlight the behaviors that are caused by or contribute to depressive experiences.


Another aspect of depression is what it does or doesn’t do for the individual experiencing it. But depression can also be said to be very unique to each individual, and its roots are found within that individual’s personal life and family history. 


From this perspective, known as psychodynamic theory, a feeling or set of feelings that we experience as adults are situated within our specific developmental context. Depression is often described as a feeling of “stuckness,” and this sheds some light on its meaning for many people: a certain experience or emotion or self-image gets “stuck” somewhere in a person’s life history for various reasons. 


The classic symptoms associated with depression (hopelessness, feeling numb, a lack of pleasure, and self-reproach) can be thought of as responses to this stuckness. Here are some of the distinguishing features from a psychodynamic perspective: 


  1. In grief and mourning, it is the world which is often experienced as essentially empty or meaningless. And this usually comes in waves, and then the person improves over time (and many times, without treatment). In depression, it is the person’s own sense of self that is experienced as empty or meaningless.

  2. Some depression is more inward, with an aggression and sadness directed towards the self. Guilt and low self-esteem are common in these depressive experiences. But not all depression is the same! Other people might experience depression as relational, with an intense feeling of alone-ness; or as physical, accompanied by chronic fatigue.

  3. While it is difficult to know from the outset why you might be experiencing depression, there are some common factors, like sustaining a loss very early in life, or growing up in an environment which was intensely moralistic. 

  4. There are a lot of emotions and thoughts that come along with depression, not just sadness. There is often a repressed anger, a feeling of helplessness, or idealizing other people’ successes and happiness.


Therapy for Depression


So why does talking about depression help? 


Therapy for depression from a psychodynamic perspective works by helping bring to words the difficult experiences that are otherwise hard to talk about. Working with a therapist in a nonjudgmental setting can encourage an exploration of the roots of the depressive experiences and how they interact with each other. 


Because of the complicated nature of depression and every person’s unique history, psychodynamic therapy focuses on untying all those “knots” of a depressive experience. The goal is to understand more where it comes from. Simply talking through the details and history can help the symptoms. The process of speaking and being heard is anti-depressive, because depression often causes people to withdraw, and to view themselves as not having anything valuable to say or contribute to the world.


Therapy can also help in processing current situations in a slow-motion time frame to pick up on the nuanced ways that you look at and experience the world. 


By setting aside a regular time to commit some energy to ourselves in a safe environment, we validate our existence and give credit to how we show up in the world. Treating depression can be difficult sometimes, but processing and talking about it with a therapist can help soothe the hard feelings over time as well as address the underlying causes to help prevent depressive episodes in the future.

Sources:

Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis (2nd edition). 2011


How We Can Help

If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation

  2. Or, you can book directly online with the therapist of your choice

  3. Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life


Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:



Author Biography

A therapist for Catalyss Counseling

Sean Carroll is a student intern and a provider for the affordable counseling program at Catalyss Counseling. He works with men, anxious adults, and those seeking improved relationships to become “unstuck” and get to the root of the problem, so you can focus on the things in your life that are meaningful. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.












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