Dr. Anna Charbonneau

Therapy for people living with stress, depression, and medical conditions

What is depression? How to recognize depression and what to do about it.

by Dr. Anna Charbonneau | Tags: depression, emotion coping

If you are feeling depressed, you're not alone. Research shows that nearly half of all people have experienced an episode of depression in their lives (58% for women, 46% for men) (Kessler et al 1993). Depression usually comes with a low mood. Depression can come out in various ways, depending on the person. Things like crying easily or feeling followed by a dark cloud are common with depression. Trouble falling asleep, feeling like everything is a chore, or feeling like you are worthless or a burden.

Are you depressed? A simple screening quiz

A common sceening test for people who might be feeling depressed is the CES-D. The CES-D has been tested in a wide variety of people and settings, and has been found to be effective in identifying symptoms of depression. You can click here to take the CES-D yourself. This tool is meant to help you explore whether you may be experiencing depression and is not by itself a tool for diagnosing depression.

Effective Treatments for Depression

One of the most effective treatments for depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also called CBT. The theory behind this treatment is that depression is caused by inaccurate ways of thinking (cognition) and unhelpful ways of acting (behaviors). With a therapist practicing CBT, you can expect to be talking about and reflecting on your own patterns of thinking and acting that could be contributing to depression, and then gradually changing and adapting new and more helpful ways of thinking and acting.

Other treatments for depression that have been researched and found to be effective are Interpersonal Therapy.

Common Questions

Why Do I Feel Bad? Nothing Is Really Wrong!

A common misunderstanding about depression that something something has to be "wrong" or "bad" to feel depressed. Sometimes everything is going RIGHT but you still feel depressed. Most people then feel even worse because "there are people out there with real problems." The truth is that feeling depressed is a real problem that deserves to be addressed. A good therapist can help you sort out what could be causing these feelings of depression and help you sort out what to do about it.

Should I Just Wait to See If I Feel Better On My Own?

Many people wait until things get so bad they are having trouble functioning before seeking out help. While it is true that any time is a good time to seek help, it makes sense to catch problems before they develop into something serious. Research shows that early treatment leads to better outcomes. Think about it this way. If something isphysically wrong, it’s much easier to treat it sooner rather than later. It takes a lot less time to heal from a broken leg when it’s treated right away, versus letting it go and seeing what happens.

Do I Have to Take Medications?

The short answer is that research shows that the most effective treatment for severe depression is a combination of medications AND therapy.

The research on medications for mild or moderate depression is more mixed, and there is not a very clear base of evidence for using medications to treat mild or moderate depression.

If you really want to heal from depression, learning new skills is going to be a key part of getting better and staying better. Medications alone cannot help you learn to communicate better with your boss, learn effective strategies to improve sleep, or help you build any other skills to help maintain a healthy life.

How to Seek Help

There are many ways to get connected with help for depression. If you are feeling severely depressed or in crisis, you can call the National Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255).

Other ways to connect with help include calling your primary care doctor for a referral and calling your insurance company for a list of providers.

If you're interested in getting more information about the process of therapy, how to find a good therapist, what therapy should and should not look like, and how to get the most out of therapy, feel free to check out my book "Talk It Out: How to Find the Right Therapist and Get What You Need to Feel Better"

If you have questions or would like to contact me, you are welcome to email me. Please note, however, that email is not a confidential way to communicate.