Solving the Puzzle: A Whole-Person Approach to Treating Depression
When it comes to treating depression, there's no clear-cut one-size-fits-all approach...that's because depression can be complex - and there are usually multiple contributing factors that can be sort of like puzzle to sort out. Research has pointed us to some answers, though, and some of the causes of depression include: genetic links, brain chemistry, hormonal changes, certain medications or alcohol/drugs, interpersonal conflict, loss, major life events, illness or chronic pain, lack of physical movement/exercise, inadequate nutrition, anxiety, distorted thinking patterns, traumatic or stressful events, illness, low self-esteem, and a lacking social support network.
Depression can show up in lots of different ways with a broad range of symptoms, such as: disturbed sleep or excess sleep, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, anger, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in things, decreased appetite or increased eating, body aches and pains, and feelings of sadness.
People may experience short-term bouts of depression or experience long-term major depression symptoms. Regardless of the duration or causes, though, it's important to take a whole-person and well-rounded approach to treating depression. If you're dealing with depression, it can be helpful to get to the bottom of what's going on with the help of a Therapist. When creating a plan, here are some of the "pieces" that might be addressed.
- Underlying issues - unresolved issues from the past, trauma/abuse, relationship problems, environmental factors at home, school or work may all contribute to feelings of depression. It can be really helpful to understand and make sense of your depression. What has happened in your life (or what is now happening in your life) that may be playing a role in your depression?
- Medical - It's important to rule out any medical issues that may be contributing to depression. Are there any underlying medical issues or medications that may be contributing to depression? We often recommend getting a physical and talking to your primary care doctor about your depression so they can help you confirm or rule these things out.
- Medication Management - Although medication is not always necessary to treat depression, it can sometimes be a helpful supplement to your treatment - especially if it's the case that brain chemistry is playing a larger role in your depression than circumstances in your life.
- Alcohol/Drugs - Whether alcohol or drugs are being used to cope with depression or they are one of the causes, it's always a good idea to look at your relationship with substances and to make lifestyle changes that may better support your mental health.
- Social connection - Humans are wired for connection and lack of connection can lead to loneliness and a saddening void. Developing a plan for human connection and community is crucial. This might mean looking at barriers to connection or healthy attachment that may be stemming from your past or other problem areas in your life.
- Other Contributing Mental Health Causes - Depression is sometimes a symptom of other mental health concerns. Addressing, treating, and learning to cope with any other distressing mental health symptoms can sometimes naturally lead to less symptoms of depression.
- Nutrition - Getting proper nutrition - vitamins and nutrients that your body needs - is one of the basic foundational elements of good mental health.
- Sleep - Our bodies and brains need lots of rest...and if we aren't getting it, we aren't getting one of our most basic needs. Poor sleep alone can sometimes lead to fatigue, trouble concentrating, lack of motivation, and other symptoms of depression.
- Thinking - our thoughts, the way we think, and our relationship with our thoughts has a lot to do with how we feel and how we behave. Is your inner dialogue critical and negative in nature? Do you have a pessimistic outlook on people and on the world? Are your thinking patterns unbalanced, distorted, or irrational? A therapist might be able to help you explore these areas and ways in which you might achieve healthier thinking patterns that lead to an improvement in your mood. How we interact with our thoughts, how literal we take them, and what we do to challenge them when necessary can have a huge influence on our emotional health.
- Movement - Even just a little bit of exercise can go a long way towards decreasing symptoms of depression. The process of exercise releases "feel good chemicals" and can naturally increase your sense of well being and improve your self-esteem.
- Meaning and Purpose - Even if we have addressed all of the areas above and are striving for a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle, what's it for if you don't feel like there's any real meaning or purpose in your life? Ultimately, we as humans have to have a reason to get up in the morning. Why we get up each day, what we live for, and where we find purpose in life will look very different from person to person - but figuring that out might just mean finding that all-important crucial piece to the puzzle.
Considering Therapy to learn to better cope with or relieve symptoms of depression? You can call/text 813-515-9602, send us a message, or click on the "Request Appointment" button below. We'll walk you through the steps to getting started and will help connect you with a Therapist who can help you best. If you're looking to supplement therapy with medication management, we can provide a referral to a psychiatrist in the local area.
Float on Counseling, LLC is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa. We provide in-person and secure video sessions, depending on your preference.
Joel Schmidt, MA, Licensed Mental Health Counselor