There is such a stigma when it comes to “mental illnesses” like depression, but the reality is, it’s incredibly common, especially for women in their twenties. I’ve personally experienced it and know plenty of other people who have as well, so why are we so shy to talk about it? My guess is some of you out there may have dealt with depression, are dealing with it now, or may face it at some point in the future. And that’s totally okay. The point I want to get across is that you’re not alone, so don’t feel like you can’t ask about it, talk about it, or do something about it.
I got the chance to ask Psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein a few common questions about depression that I thought some of you might have. So don’t be shy — take a look and hopefully these answers will help you or someone you know! The italicized paragraphs are some tidbits I added about my own experience, but the rest of the answers come directly from Jennifer Silvershein herself.
What’s the difference between feeling sad and feeling depressed?
Since we associate depression with the primary symptom of pervasive sadness, it’s common for people to struggle to tell the difference between sadness and depression. This confusion may cause individuals to neglect a serious condition thinking it may just be sadness and also may cause individuals to overreact to feelings of sadness thinking it may be depression.
Here’s a simple way to view the differences:
Sadness is a normal human emotion – this is something we have all experienced and will continue to experience throughout our lives. While these feelings of sadness can be triggered by a multitude of different events, we tend to feel sad about something. And once this something changes or the feeling lessons, the sadness dissipates.
Depression is an abnormal emotional state that influences our emotions, behaviors, perceptions and thinking in a widespread and prolonged way. When we feel depression there is no specific something, rather it’s everything. Depression is like a lingering cloud – hanging over all aspects of the individual’s life, making everything less pleasurable.
How can I tell if I’m depressed?
Below are a few signs and symptoms that twenty-somethings may experience:
A lack of enjoyment is a common symptom of depression. You might still go out with friends but may not enjoy yourself or feel as though you’re having fun. Commonly people describe going through the motions of their lives but not feeling as though they are truly able to be present in the moment.
Depression can consume our thoughts. A person may notice that their mind is filled with negative thoughts or a generally pessimistic outlook on life which can lead to a lack of focus in school or work and an inability to produce the amazing work that is typical for the individual without depression.
Other common symptoms include: low energy, reduced concentration, weight changes, less interest in sex, feeling hopeles, sleeplessness, early morning awakening, or oversleeping and not wanting to get up, as well as thoughts of self harm.
[Personally, I knew I was depressed when I didn’t want to get out of bed and felt a complete lack of motivation for anything. Things that typically got me excited didn’t have any effect on me anymore. I just wanted to be alone and I definitely cried a lot. The smallest things could make me cry to the point where I could tell it was the chemicals in my brain that were creating this, not something that had happened in real life.]
Why do twenty-somethings experience depression? What causes it?
Twenty-somethings are going through many psychosocial and biological experiences that make them especially vulnerable to depression. Depression is commonly triggered by loss and our twenties can be filled with potential loss: losing a job, not getting into the college or program we hoped for, breaking up with a significant other, realizing our dream career may not work out immediately, and shifting (and potentially losing) friends. Your twenties are an abstract time that can commonly leave people feeling powerless to the changes going on in life.
Starting college as well as graduating from college are both extremely stressful – they are both extremely overwhelming changes. We go from being taken care of and relying on adults to becoming our own advocates and caretakers. We also put a lot of pressure on ourselves! Many times students and post-grads find themselves trying to fulfill the expectations set by society to get good grades in school, become well rounded by participating in extracurricular, or land their dream job. While having high aspirations is not a bad thing, it’s important to be realistic so that we don’t create our own disappointments.
What are some things I can do immediately when I’m feeling depressed?
There are multitudes of ways in which an individual can alleviate feelings of depression. While the below list does not cover every way, it highlights many effective strategies for twenty-somethings.
- Psychotherapy is an effective way to treat depression and relieve symptoms experienced by individuals who suffer from depression. Working with a therapist assists individuals identify the factors that contribute to their depression and effectively cope with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational contributors.
- Reach out to your social network for support. It’s common to withdraw from our social supports, friends and family, when we’re feeling depressed but having, and using these supports is crucial while experiencing depression.
- Another way to begin combatting symptoms of depression is by leading a healthier lifestyle. This includes eating right, exercising and aiming to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
I always say, gratitude is the attitude, sometimes in those moments when we are so focused on our depressive feelings helping others enables us to feel more purposeful and therefore more positive!
What if I don’t have the funds to pay for a therapist or psychiatrist?
In 2008 The Mental Health Parity Law was passed requiring coverage of services for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders to be comparable to physical health coverage. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist does not need to break the bank! Most, if not all, colleges and universities have counseling centers that are of little, or no, cost to the students. A low cost way to obtain mental health services is to find an ‘in-network’ provider through your insurance company.
What can I expect when I see a therapist? How does it actually help?
I’m glad you asked! Many people feel nervous about contacting a therapist and this is perfectly normal, but making the call is taking the first step in empowering ourselves.
Seeing a therapist assists people to live happier, healthier and more productive lives. Going to therapy is a collaborative process based on the relationship between the client and the therapist. The relationship is rooted in dialogue, and provides a supportive and nonjudgmental environment that allows you to speak openly with an objective, neutral trained professional. Together, the client and their therapist will work to identify and explore the thoughts or behavioral patterns that restrict the client from feeling their best.
[Personally, I’ve seen a therapist on and off for years and my advice is to stick with it. I didn’t think it was helping during the first few months and after about 6 months, we hit a “breakthrough” and things began to snowball from there. It has seriously changed me for the better and made me such a stronger, more self-aware person! I highly recommend it!]
About Jennifer Silvershein:
Jennifer L. Silvershein, LMSW has her undergraduate degree from Union College and her Masters in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University. Jennifer has worked at St. Barnabas Hospital, The Renfrew Center NY, as well as Crisis Text Line. She is currently seeing individuals for psychotherapy within a private practice in Flatiron. For more information, or to work individually with Jennifer, she can be reached at email@example.com.
What other questions do you have about depression?
Is there anything else you’d like to ask Jennifer Silvershein to answer in another post?