Depression is not a disorder that "just goes away." When clients experience sadness, the emotion is a temporary response to life events that is resolved or dissipates with time. Depression, as a clinical diagnosis, is an extended disease that can persist weeks, months or years. Depression creates a vicious cycle that continually spirals downward, creating a situation in which clients may see no way out. Extreme sadness may lead to depression, especially if the effects are long term, such as the loss of a loved one. Depression does not necessarily need a trigger or an event as a cause. The client may just begin to feel depressed without even knowing why. Depression can also be expressed in a number of symptoms other than sadness, such as a feeling of numbness, listlessness, the inability to perform simple tasks, and the lack of enjoyment in activities that were once pleasurable.
Depression may last indefinitely if left untreated. If clients begin to show signs of depression and they continue to exhibit those signs, it may be in their best interest to see a psychologist for counseling and to determine a treatment plan. A person who has overwhelming responsibilities associated with both work and home life may not have a chance to fully move past extremely stressful events. Continued bouts of depression, or depression that does not go away on its own, should be evaluated to determine if the depression needs to be treated with medication and counseling. With proper treatment, episodes of depression can be effectively treated and minimized.
Counseling can help clients cope with the symptoms and effects of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a useful technique for treating depression as it involves both mental therapy and lifestyle changes. Therapy can support clients to replace poor lifestyle habits with more positive ones. Eating the right foods, getting adequate amounts of sleep and exercising on a regular basis are also beneficial. Exercise produces endorphins, which are key chemicals in the brain that improve mood and boost feelings of well-being. The practice of meditation or mindfulness is also effective.
Major depressive disorder is often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. In addition to cognitive and behavioral therapies, medication may be needed to optimize the treatment. The psychologist can refer the client to a licensed physician or psychiatrist for prescription medication.