With increasing demands at work, family responsibilities, and the expectation of what having it all should look like, statistics show depression affects women at a rate higher than men in every age group.1 Although labeled as one of the most common mental disorders in the US,2 it manifests differently for each person. And it’s because of this individuality that creating a treatment plan based on specific needs may be the key to finding relief.
Depression can show up in a number of ways that include both mental and physical symptoms. From feelings of hopelessness and anxiety to disturbed sleeping and eating patterns, when you’re depressed, you just don’t feel like you.
“Think of being depressed in a literal way—as actually being pressed down into a smaller, uncomfortable, more limited version of yourself. Depression is about not being able to shake that feeling,” explains Katherine Schafler, New York City-based emotional health expert and in-house licensed psychotherapist at Google. “One major criterion of depression is experiencing that pressed down feeling for most of the day, nearly every day in a two-week time period—that’s not the only criterion for depression, but if you’re experiencing the constancy it might be time to seek professional help.”
Among the many options for women to choose from, Schafler points to psychotherapy—also called talk therapy—as being a big one. A woman can find a qualified therapist through doctor referral or by a convenient click of a button. Nationally accredited mental health organizations have made it possible to find qualified support through sponsored online therapist locators. By plugging in a zip code, online locators allow a woman to sift through local therapists’ profiles using specialty filters, thereby helping her receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
Medical therapy is another viable option. When used together with talk therapy, research has shown this combination to be the most effective treatment for depression—especially when it’s severe.1 “Anti-depressants can be extremely helpful and there are many to choose from,” says Schafler. “It’s normal to feel hesitant about exploring medication but becoming as informed as possible can reduce this anxiety significantly, as can finding a psychiatrist whose approach you feel good about.”
In recent years, an interest in exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine has grown—with the most familiar treatment method being acupuncture. Although more research is needed to support its efficacy, meta-analysis studies have shown depression patients to benefit more from acupuncture combined with antidepressants versus the use of medication alone.3
Along with professional help, Schafler encourages women to create daily self-care routines. Participating in healthy relationships, eating nutritious foods, moving your body, and continuously doing what you enjoy are essential. “Adults need play, too,” she emphasizes. “Do something fun, sing in the car, dance, ride a bike, draw—what makes something feel playful is highly individualized, so only you can really know what play feels like for you.”
There are many more treatment options to help overcome depression and experimenting with what works (and what doesn’t) can take a lot of trial and error. A World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Survey4 revealed that people commonly hold back from starting or continuing treatment because of a “perceived ineffectiveness of treatment” or “negative experiences with a treatment provider.” From talk therapy to self-care and beyond—trying different things under the guidance of a mental health professional you feel comfortable with is a significant part of recovery.
“Maybe the efficacy is in the treatment itself, but there’s also something healing in the gesture of trying,” notes Schafler. “For example, if you want to try acupuncture and it helps you to feel better, that’s fabulous, but even if it doesn’t help directly, the fact that you tried will bode well for you in the bigger picture. When you reach for something restorative and make choices based on self-progression instead of self-destruction, you communicate the following to yourself: ‘I’m worth it. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to feel good.’ And you do.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Health Freelance Writer and Photographer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has master’s degrees in English Education and Nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering within her community.
ABOUT THE THERAPIST Katherine Schafler (link www.katherineschafler.com) is an NYC-based emotional health expert; she splits her time between running her private psychotherapy practice and being an in-house therapist at Google. With dual master’s degrees in clinical assessment and psychological counseling from Columbia University and post-graduate training and certification from the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in New York, NY, Katherine helps women change their lives for the better by learning how to—not just survive—but thrive. With twelve years of counseling experience in a broad range of capacities, Katherine tailors her approach to the unique needs of each of her clients.
1.Pratt, L. A., & Brody, D. J. (2014). Depression in the U.S. Household Population, 2009-2012. Retrieved March 8, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db172.htm
2.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Depression (NIH Publication No. 15-3561). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved March 9, 2016 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-what-you-need-to-know-12-2015/index.shtml
3.Chan, Y. Y., Lo, W. Y., Yang, S. N., Chen, Y. H., & Lin, J. G. (2015). The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 176: 106-117. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.048
4.Andrade, L. H., et. al. (2014). Barriers to mental health treatment: results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys. Psychological Medicine, 44(6): 1303-1317. doi: 10.1017/S003329171300194