Depression

DEPRESSION is TREATABLE!! Yes. In most cases, depression resolves with treatment. Often times, it can be difficult to overcome depression on your own. Personal counseling can be effective in treating depression, and professional counselors can help you learn how to decrease the odds of a recurrence. Anti-depressant medication is also effective. Counseling in combination with medication is often advised.

The experience of depression varies widely from person to person. You may have some or all of these symptoms. They may occur after a significant loss, or they may occur out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Unlike ordinary sadness or grief, depression lasts longer (more than 2 weeks), is more pervasive, and often comes with negative feelings about oneself.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite that result in weight losses or gains not related to dieting
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • No longer interested in things that used to interest you
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much

Emotional Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Hopeless; helplessness
  • Pessimistic, anxious, angry, negative
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempt at suicide

Physical Symptoms

Some people report that their body physically hurts when they are depressed. Here are some possible physical symptoms of depression.

  • Chest aches
  • Pain deep inside the heart
  • Jaws clenched
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Heaviness in limbs
  • Fainting spells

Our Culture influences how we may experience depression or describe its symptoms. Below are examples of different symptoms related to depression and the culture with which it is most likely associated.

  • Sadness/guilt (U.S. & Western European)
  • Somatic/bodily complaints (Asian)
  • "Nerves" and headaches (Latino & Mediterranean)
  • Weakness, tiredness, "imbalance" (Asian)
  • Problems of the "heart" (Middle Eastern)
  • Being "heartbroken" (Hopi)

Possible Contributors to Depression

Environmental or Situational Factors

  • Financial problems
  • Being victimized
  • Relationship breakup
  • Death of family/friends
  • Racism, sexism, heterosexism, or oppression of any kind
  • Problems with school work

Diet/Exercise

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Alcohol/drug use
  • Lack of exercise

Cognitive

  • Negative self-talk; catastrophic thinking
  • Self criticism

Biological/Physical/Medical Factors

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Chemical imbalances
  • Dealing with illness or infection
  • Sleep deprivation

Some medical causes that could mimic depression or contribute to depression:

  • Malfunctioning thyroid
  • Allergies
  • PMS
  • Chronic health problems
  • Drug/alcohol abuse or dependence

Strategies For Coping With Depression

  • Develop effective stress management and time management skills.
  • Develop and use a support system.
  • Get regular exercise and sufficient sleep.
  • Eat healthy and balanced diet.
  • Be aware of your emotions.
  • Build a positive attitude.
  • Structure your day to include ways to take care of yourself.
  • Clarify your value system and examine whether you are living according to your values.
  • Get professional help (psychotherapy, psychiatry).
  • Anti-depressant medication.

How does counseling help people recover from depression?

Counselors help people to identify the possible causes of depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes. Skilled counselors such as licensed psychologists can work with you to:

  • Pinpoint the life problems that contribute to your depression, and help you understand which aspects of those problems you may be able to solve or improve.
  • Identify realistic goals that allow you to improve your well-being.
  • Help you regain a sense of control and pleasure in life. Counseling helps you see choices as well as gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into your life.

There is evidence that ongoing personal counseling may decrease the chance of future episodes of depression or reduce their intensity.
The support and involvement of family and friends can play a crucial role. Those in your "support system" can help by encouraging you to stick with treatment and to practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills learned through counseling.

Use of anti-depressant medications

Antidepressant medications can lead to improvement in the symptoms of depression. In addition to improving mood and problems with enjoyment of life, these medications work to improve sleep, regulate appetite, improve concentration and help increase energy levels. They also help decrease or eliminate feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, as well as suicidal thoughts. One anti-depressant may be more effective or better tolerated than another for any given person. You must take them regularly as prescribed in order to maintain benefit. It is generally recommended that, if an anti-depressant is effective, it be taken for several months. This is because there is a high probability that depression will recur if the medication is stopped sooner. Anti-depressants are not addictive. They usually maintain their effectiveness over time, but they should be used in conjunction with regular psychotherapy.

Will I become a different person if I take medication?

No. Most people who take antidepressants are happy to feel like themselves again. If you have been depressed for so long, you may have trouble remembering what it's like not to feel that way. By contrast, you may find it unusual to experience happiness or pleasure.

Is it a sign of weakness to be in therapy or to take anti-depressant medication?

No. As with any serious illness, dealing with depression takes great personal strength. Nonetheless, you may be exposed to negative attitudes about psychotherapy and anti-depressant medications, which vary among individuals and cultures. Many students have found it helpful to take the perspective that medication and seeking help are forms of treatment for depression, just as seeking a physician may be helpful to treat allergies, asthma, infections, or diabetes. Although no one welcomes the presence of illness in their life, treatment such as psychotherapy and medication can serve to limit or eliminate the impact of illness, freeing you to direct your energy more fully toward your personal goals.

Issues to discuss with your healthcare provider

It is important to minimize your use of alcohol and/or other recreational drugs when on antidepressant medication. The best alternative is to avoid use of these substances altogether. Your healthcare provider needs to know what other medications (prescription or over the counter) or herbal supplements you are taking, and whether you have other medical conditions. It is also important to communicate all medical history, including eating disorders, as these conditions can influence decisions about treatment.

If you need help:

Come to Counseling Services in Administration Building, Room 201, to see one of our professional counselors. You can also discuss a possible referral to a psychiatrist for medication evaluations. If your academics are negatively impacted, we also have educational counselors who may help with your educational performance, time management skills, etc. Our personal counselors are available for initial drop-in consultation from Monday through Friday, 10am-4pm, and for emergency/crisis walk-ins M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm. Please call 408-924-5910 if you would like additional information or to make an appointment with an educational counselor.

SJSU Campus Resources For Emotional and Physical Health:

  • Counseling Services
    Administration Building, Room 201
    408-924-5910
  • StudentHealth Center
    Student Health Building
    408-924-6122
  • Nutrition Counseling
    Student Health Building
    408-924-6122
  • Psychiatric Services
    Through Counseling Services
    Administration Building, Room 201
    408-924-5910
  • After Hours Advice Nurse
    1-866-935-6347

Off-Campus Resources

  • Bay Area Self Help Line
    1-800-273-6222
  • CountySuicide& Crisis Line
    408-279-3312

Disclaimer: This written information is not intended as a substitute for medical or mental health care advice. Please be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with a professional staff.

Source: The American Psychological AssociationExternal Link that Will Take User Outside SJSU Domain