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Online Counseling Therapy for Depression with a Licensed Counselor
Depression: Hopelessness and Self-Loathing
Online counseling therapy can be very effective in treating depression, which can be a disabling disorder that feels like a deep, dark hole from which there is no escape. Clinical depression is more than feeling "down" or "blue," which all of us experience at times. Rather, clinically depressed persons experience a variety of emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms such as sadness, tearfulness, fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, over-sleeping, loss of appetite, over-eating, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, loss of motivation, irritability, anger, suicidal thoughts, or feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness for more than just a few days.
Depression is not difficult to diagnose, but determining the causes of depression can be tricky. Is it genetic or biochemical? Or is it situational? Or is it both?
Treatment may involve antidepressant medications, counseling, or both. A variety of antidepressant meds work to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects mood. The chemical imbalance may have been caused by genetics, a medical illness that affects brain chemistry, head trauma, substance abuse, or chronic exposure to a depressing environment, such as growing up in an abusive household, living in an abusive marriage, or experiencing a succession of overwhelming losses, or any combination of the above. Antidepressants usually give some relief within a month, but the process may involve a trial-and-error period until your doctor determines the right antidepressant and dosage. Antidepressants are not "happy pills," or addicts would be abusing them, which they don't. Rather, antidepressants make you less reactive, so if you tend to get triggered into beating up on yourself or falling into hopelessness, you will get triggered less easily when taking an antidepressant, which then allows you to be more the person you want to be. However, many of my clients manage their depression effectively without medications.
In online therapy for depression, I will educate you about depression and assess if antidepressant medications might benefit you. I will help you correct mistaken beliefs and change unhelpful patterns of thinking that fuel depression. I will teach coping and self-care skills, and coach you in using them effectively. And if applicable, I will help you grieve unresolved losses and guide you in healing past traumas. Interestingly, research has shown that successful counseling therapy can help correct chemical imbalances in the brain much as antidepressant medications do, only more gradually but possibly in a more lasting way.
Certain patterns of thinking fuel depression. The two most common are hopelessness and self-loathing:
Hopelessness is a pattern of thinking where you believe you're trapped in misery with no expectation of things ever getting better.
Self-loathing is a pattern of thinking where you believe you're bad, worthless, unsuccessful, unlovable, and/or incompetent.
Both patterns of thinking are common reactions to childhood abuse, trauma, neglect, bullying and teasing, or overwhelming loss where too little adult support was available to help children cope with such painful situations. These children were forced to cope alone (as best as their immature minds could), sometimes with disastrous results, such as relying on drugs, alcohol, gangs, crime, promiscuous sex, or other destructive or self-destructive behaviors. Often these children grow into adults who do not know how to take care of themselves emotionally, spiritually, or in relationships and who are frequently triggered into hopeless despair and self-loathing as they struggle to find their place in relationships and the world.
In online counseling therapy I will help you recognize these unhelpful patterns of thinking and then teach you how to "detach" from them by practicing mindfulness so they no longer rule your emotional world and life.
Interestingly, research has shown that individuals diagnosed with depression do not always exhibit these destructive patterns of thinking (that is, hopelessness and self-loathing). In fact, when persons who have a history of depression are not particularly depressed, their patterns of thinking are not significantly different from persons who have never been clinically depressed. So how can we explain this?
These destructive patterns of thinking seem to be connected to a "switch" in the mind of a person who struggles with depression. Certain "triggers" seem to "trip" the switch, causing a flood of hopeless and self-loathing thoughts, which then ignites the embers of depression into full-fledged flames. Triggers can be anything that trips the switch, such as being criticized, having an argument with a spouse, losing a job, flunking a test, making a mistake, becoming ill, being denied a promotion, feeling rejected, raising a difficult child, having a bad day, experiencing a loss or disappointment, having a financial setback, and so on.
When the switch is triggered, it's as if a megaphone in the depressed person's mind begins to blare, overwhelming the person with "stinking thinking" such as "I am a failure," "I can't do anything right," "No one could ever really love me," "Things will never get better," "I don't deserve to be here," "I'm bad," "I will always be alone," "No one cares about me," "I can't trust anyone," and so on until the person's own thinking pounds him or her into a deep, dark, depressive hole.
Learning to be aware of when this switch has been tripped, and then learning how to reset the switch are valuable skills in managing depression, which is what I teach in online counseling therapy. If you would like to be more aware of how your own thinking fuels depression and learn what to do about it, then click on the picture below to begin therapy.
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Text and photos by Carl Benedict except where noted
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