Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders (2024)

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Depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days and affects people in different ways. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable.

Last updated: March 7, 2023 Date created: October 1, 2016 4 min read

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American Psychological Association. (2023, March 7). Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders. https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/overcoming

Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders (1)

Everyone experiences sadness at times. But depression is something more. Depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days. It interferes with the activities of daily life and can even cause physical pain. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable.

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2020, an estimated 21 million adults in the U.S.—about 8.4% of all U.S. adults—had at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Understanding depression

Depression affects different people in different ways, but most of them experience some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Prolonged sadness or feelings of emptiness
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Anger and irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Appetite changes
  • Chronic pain, headaches, or stomachaches
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. People who have a family history of depression, and people with serious chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer, are at an increased risk of depression. Major life changes, trauma, and stress can also bring about an episode of depression, although some episodes of depression begin without any obvious external cause.

Treatment for depression

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not something you can just “snap out of.” It’s an illness that requires professional treatment. Yet with the right care, people can feel better.

Antidepressant medications can be helpful for reducing depression symptoms in some people, especially in people with severe depression. Psychotherapy is also an effective treatment, either alone or in combination with medications. The benefits of psychotherapy may have an enduring effect that protects against symptoms returning even after treatment is ended.

Seeing a psychologist about depression

Licensed psychologists are highly trained mental health professionals with experience in helping patients recover from depression. Several different approaches to psychotherapy have been shown to help individuals recover from depression, especially those with mild to moderate depression. Psychotherapy can help people with depression to:

  • Pinpoint life events that contribute to their depression and help them find ways to change, accept or adapt to those situations
  • Set realistic goals for the future
  • Identify distorted thought processes or unhelpful behaviors that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Develop skills to cope with symptoms and problems, and identify or prevent future episodes of depression

Two of the most common evidence-based therapies for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy in which patients learn to identify and manage negative thought and behavior patterns that can contribute to their depression. CBT helps patients identify unhelpful or negative thinking, change inaccurate beliefs, change behaviors that might make depression worse, and interact with others in more positive ways.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a form of therapy in which patients learn to improve their relationships with others by better expressing their emotions and solving problems in healthier ways. IPT helps patients resolve or adapt to troubling life events, build social skills, and organize their relationships to increase support for coping with depressive symptoms and life stressors.

There is no one “right” approach to therapy. Therapists work closely with their patients to create tailored treatment plans to address their unique needs and concerns. Psychotherapy can help patients learn ways to better cope with stress and manage their symptoms of depression. These strategies can lead to recovery and enable patients to function at their best.

To find a licensed psychologist in your area, use our Psychologist Locator.

Depression in children and adolescents

Depression is common in adolescents. In 2020, an estimated 4.1 million children age 12–17 in the U.S. (about 17% of 12–17 year olds in the U.S.) had at least one major depressive episode, according to NIMH.

Adolescents are often moody. But if your child is extremely irritable, has ongoing problems with motivation, or has persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more, it’s a good idea to have him or her evaluated for depression.

While antidepressant medications can be effective for children and adolescents, they can have side effects in young people, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. For that reason, many parents and health care providers prefer to try treating children with psychotherapy first. Both CBT and IPT are effective treatments for young people with depression. Studies also show that a combination of antidepressant medication and cognitive behavior therapy is highly effective in treating youth depression.

The good news is that most kids recover from depression. Still, research shows that people who have depression as children are at a higher risk of having a recurrence later in adolescence or adulthood. Both CBT and IPT can help kids recognize the signs of a depressive episode, so that they can monitor their symptoms and get help quickly if they experience a recurrence.

APA gratefully acknowledges Laura Mufson, PhD, Lynn Bufka, PhD, and C. Vaile Wright, PhD, for contributing to this fact sheet.

American Psychological Association. (2023, March 7). Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders. https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/overcoming

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As a mental health expert with a deep understanding of depression, I'd like to shed light on the comprehensive information provided in the article titled "Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders" by the American Psychological Association (APA), last updated on March 7, 2023.

Understanding Depression: Depression is characterized by extreme sadness or despair lasting more than a few days, significantly impacting daily life. The article emphasizes that depression is highly treatable, acknowledging that everyone experiences sadness, but depression goes beyond and can cause physical pain. In 2020, approximately 8.4% of U.S. adults (21 million) had at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The diverse ways depression manifests include prolonged sadness, feelings of emptiness, helplessness, guilt, anger, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, sleep and appetite changes, chronic pain, withdrawal from activities, and thoughts of death or suicide. The causes of depression are multifaceted, involving genetic, biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors.

Treatment for Depression: Contrary to misconceptions, depression is not a sign of weakness, and snapping out of it is not feasible. Professional treatment is essential. The article emphasizes the effectiveness of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, alone or in combination. Psychotherapy, delivered by licensed psychologists, is highlighted as a key component.

Psychotherapy Approaches: The article outlines two evidence-based psychotherapies for depression:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on identifying and managing negative thought and behavior patterns contributing to depression. It helps in changing inaccurate beliefs, behaviors worsening depression, and fostering positive interpersonal interactions.

  2. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): Aims at improving relationships by better expressing emotions, solving problems healthily, and building social skills. IPT helps individuals cope with depressive symptoms and life stressors.

Importantly, the article emphasizes the individualized nature of therapy, with therapists working closely to tailor treatment plans to unique needs.

Depression in Children and Adolescents: The article addresses the prevalence of depression in adolescents, with 17% of 12–17 year-olds in the U.S. experiencing at least one major depressive episode in 2020. Warning signs in children include extreme irritability, motivation problems, and persistent sadness.

While antidepressants can be effective, psychotherapy, particularly CBT and IPT, is preferred due to potential side effects in young people. The article stresses that most children recover from depression, but those who experience it in childhood face a higher risk of recurrence later in adolescence or adulthood.

In conclusion, the article serves as a valuable resource, providing a nuanced understanding of depression, its treatment options, and the importance of tailored approaches to support individuals on their journey to recovery.

For more detailed information, you can refer to the .

Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders (2024)


How does psychology help to explain depression? ›

Beck theorized that the schemas of depressed persons include themes of loss, separation, failure, worthlessness, and rejection; consequently, depressed individuals will exhibit a systematic bias in their processing of environmental stimuli or information that is relevant to these themes.

How do you overcome severe clinical depression? ›

Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) by a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional can be very effective. For many people, psychotherapy combined with medication works best. It can help identify underlying concerns that may be adding to your depression.

What is the most important step toward overcoming depression? ›

Reach Out for Help

One of the first steps to overcome depression is to find someone to talk to about what you're feeling. Trying to handle depression symptoms alone can get you locked inside your head, making it harder to have a healthy perspective on various situations. People can have difficulty asking for help.

What psychological factors help explain depressive disorders? ›

Psychological Factors

Sometimes people experience events where loss occurs, and this can bring on depression. The experience of loss may include the loss of a loved one through bereavement or separation, loss of a job, loss of a friendship, loss of a promotion, loss of face, loss of support, etc.

How a positive psychologist might treat depression? ›

Positive psychology offers a fresh approach and an alternative to how we deal with depression. Rather than the traditional therapy approach of exploring what's wrong, positive psychology puts the focus on growing wellbeing with practices such as learning optimism and cultivating positive emotions.

How does psychology help mental health? ›

In addition to comprehensive psychological assessments, psychologists also provide evidenced-based psychotherapies such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to provide ways to help people face fears, deal with anxiety, or add structure to their day if they are working to address depression or manage negative and ...

What is the most effective treatment for depressive disorders? ›

TREATMENT FOR MAJOR DEPRESSION For the initial treatment of major depression, we suggest a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Well-designed studies have shown that combination treatment is more effective than either treatment on its own.

What are 3 phases in treatment and recovery from major depression? ›

The treatment of depression has been divided into three phases: acute (leading to clinical response and remission of symptoms); continuation (prevention of symptom relapse); and maintenance (prevention of new episodes or recurrences).

What is the most effective treatment approach for persistent depressive disorder? ›

Either psychotherapy or antidepressant medicines may help, but they are often more effective when combined. Vigorous exercise and light therapy could offer significant benefit alone or in combination. Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent and treat depression, and reduce the chances of it coming back.

What are two main ways to treat depression? ›

Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.

What are the goals of treatment for major depressive disorder? ›

5 Treatment Goals for Depression
  • Reducing Symptoms. The first goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms of depression so that you can start to feel better. ...
  • Improving Functioning. ...
  • Coping with Triggers. ...
  • Preventing Relapse. ...
  • Improving Quality of Life.
Dec 28, 2022

What is one way to help a patient with depression? ›

Just listening and being understanding can be powerful healing tools. Give positive reinforcement. People with depression may judge themselves harshly and find fault with everything they do. Remind them about their positive qualities and how much they mean to you and others.

What is the root cause of depression? ›

There's no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers. For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, can be the cause. Different causes can often combine to trigger depression.

What are the psychological roots of depression? ›

Certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical or pessimistic. Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems.

What is deep depression called? ›

Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder.

Is there a way out of severe depression? ›

What are the ways to overcome depression? You may be able to relieve depression symptoms through therapy and some lifestyle changes, such as practicing mindfulness, getting regular exercise, and eating nutritious meals. In some cases, you may need medication to help.

Do people recover from severe clinical depression? ›

With treatment, you should feel better within a few weeks. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years.

What is the most serious form of depression clinical depression? ›

Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.

What happens to most people who are suffering from serious clinical depression? ›

People with clinical depression are at a high risk of developing anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, which further increase their risk of suicide. Depression can make underlying medical conditions worse or more difficult to manage, such as: Diabetes. Hypertension (high blood pressure).

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