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Am I Depressed?

Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder. Depression typically involves a consistent pattern of symptoms, which occur for a sustained period of time. There’s tremendous value in assessing our emotional state, but occasionally feeling sad, down, or despondent differs from a major depressive episode. Daily stressors and events often impact mood fluctuations; this is actually healthy as it reflects our processing of events. However, the continuation of feelings of sadness (for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks) reflects the onset of a depressive episode.

For some individuals, mood fluctuations are not as easily noticed and other symptoms might be more valuable indicators of depression. As the list of common symptoms is lengthy, I often encourage clients to focus on impairment within their lives. Impairment is typically measured in a few different domains: occupationally, socially, educationally, and physically. We could include emotional here, but that reflects mental health more broadly. The aforementioned domains are used to serve as indicators for a change in the self. For example, I often hear that clients notice behavioral changes in themselves at the onset or just prior to a depressive episode. Some notice they answer calls/texts less frequently while others report a decreased desire to spend time with friends/loved ones. Therein lies social impairment; depression is reducing our interactions with others and is affecting our quality of life.

Treatment then focuses on addressing the factors contributing to the impairment. With the prior example, cognitive work (within and outside of sessions) would challenge the cognitions related to decreased responses to outreach. A thought such as “I’ll respond later; I’m just not feeling up to it” might be replaced with a more functional statement of “It’s important that I respond to my friends in a timely manner; I know they care about me and they help me stave off depression.” Similarly, efforts within the session would focus on implementing SMART goal-setting between sessions in order to increase the likelihood of behavioral follow-through.

Ultimately, you are the expert on yourself and will have the most insight regarding current and past depressive episodes. An empirically-validated self-assessment instrument that can help you identify current depressive symptoms is the PHQ-9. However, this serves as a preliminary assessment of current symptoms; if you’re interested in better understanding how evidence-based therapy could help you, reach out to Roswell Psychology today for a complimentary consultation.

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