By: Abigail Yeomans, LPC
Individuals struggling with depression commonly report an overwhelming sense of impairment when it comes to motivation and engaging in activities that once provided a sense of pleasure or joy. If you have ever thought to yourself, “I know what would help me feel better, but I just don’t feel like doing it” you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is estimated that 16 million adults in the United States have had one or more major depressive episodes in the last year (http://www.nami.org/). This statistic includes individuals from various demographic backgrounds. In other words, depression is not exclusive.
The symptoms to look out for are: consistent fatigue, a significant increase or decrease in appetite, psychomotor agitation, depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness and emptiness, interrupted sleep, difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness, feeling extreme worthlessness or guilt, loss of interest or pleasure in most activities and thoughts of death or hurting yourself. If the answer was â€œyesâ€ to five or more of the listed symptoms, and if you have been experiencing those symptoms for at least two weeks, seeking help from a professional counselor is the next step (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Ok. So, what could help me feel better? Believe it or not, depressive episodes and chronic depression are treatable, and there is substantial empirical evidence to support how we treat it at Chicago Counseling Center (Jacobson, N. S., Martell, C. R., & Dimidjian, S., 2001).
Using Behavior Activation (BA), we focus on the various events in an individual’s life and how he or she responds to those events. BA is based on the idea that life has provided little rewards too many stressors or problems. Understandably, this can lead to feelings of hopelessness and sadness which can then disrupt basic routines and result in doing less and less of what was once enjoyable and valuable such as spending time with friends and family, going to work or school, and health and wellness related activities.
What treatment looks like with BA:
- Discuss what areas of your life are most disrupted by your depression
- Collaboratively work to increase awareness of avoidance patterns and unhelpful behaviors that fuel feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Assist in identifying values and creating short and long term treatment goals based on those values
- Help clients take small and manageable steps toward increasing involvement in once enjoyable activities and developing a sustainable routine using:
- Activity monitoring logs
- Behavior Activation hierarchy
- Active coping and avoidance tracking
- Work together to address barriers that arise outside of sessions and continuously come back to active coping and resisting avoidanceÂ
While it may feel hopeless and extremely difficult to do almost anything right now, coming back to what you value most in life can make all the difference. While implementing BA, it has been demonstrated time and time again that motivation grows when we come back to what is most valuable to us. Eventually isolating and avoiding becomes less comfortable than engaging in what was once difficult before coming to treatment.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.nami.org/
Jacobson, N. S., Martell, C. R., & Dimidjian, S. (2001). Behavioral activation treatment for depression: Returning to contextual roots.Â Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,Â 8(3), 255-270.