Depression and stress are used in everyday language to such an extent that it could be forgiven for not seeing them as a serious mental health condition. Terms like 'oh, he's just a bit stressed out' or ' I'm depressed because my football team lost on the weekend' do not reflect true mental health problems. They are temporary and event driven. This article will outline what clinical depression is and the best therapy to deal with it.
Clinical depression (sometimes known as major depression, major depressive disorder or simply depression) is a feeling of sadness, being down or lack of optimism that is not brought about by an external stimulus or event. Clinical means observed, so it becomes clinical when it is not self-diagnosed but is diagnosed by the observation of a qualified medical practitioner. Clinical depression will last longer than 2 weeks and will require some form of clinical or pharmacological treatment or both.
The most effective treatment for clinically diagnosed depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT concerns talking through the patients problems. This could take the form of sessions with a qualified counsellor or in a group situation that is facilitated by a qualified person. The objective of these sessions is to change how the person thinks (Cognitive) and how they behave (Behavioural). The problems discussed are always current or imminent problems. The therapy is to help change the behaviour related to these problems than dealing with any problems in the past, like a poor upbringing or abused childhood for example.
The underlying tenet behind this therapy is that external events do not create our emotional states. It is the thoughts that we have towards these events that shape our emotional lives. For example, a person that is clinically depressed might have a completely irrational thought that everybody hates them. This might be reinforced because a person walking past them ignores them. Cognitive Behavioural therapy would look at why the person feels that everybody hates them. The therapy would work at changing this thought by highlighting it's irrationality. By changing the thought the actions of the person would be different and they would realise that the person ignores everybody that they walk past.
CBT has proved to be very effective in combating depression. It helps the patient to understand that they create their emotional state rather than other things or people. The therapy gives them a method to use should depression re-occur. It is often used in conjunction with some form of anti-depressant medication. One potential problem with CBT is that is relies on the patient cooperating with the therapy and working as hard as the counsellor to resolve problems. This might not be possible if the patient does not believe they are depressed or that they are responsible for the depression.