Depression and Therapy: Does it Work?

depression

I suppose when you find yourself frequently envisioning what you’d talk about at your first therapy appointment, it’s probably time to look for a therapist. I went to an ’emergency’ appointment when I hit rock bottom a couple times in college, but I was never ‘treated’ for more than three or four sessions each time. I was put on anti-depressants the first time and went off of them almost as soon as I went on them because they either stole my sex drive, or stole my orgasms – neither of which improve depression.

I never found those few therapy sessions to be beneficial, in fact I dreaded even going. I’m not one of those people who has a hard time ‘opening up’ to people (obviously!), so I wasn’t stressed out or anxious because I had to talk about myself or my feelings. I have such little motivation that going to the appointment, and even just making the appointment gave me that sick feeling of dread in my stomach every time I thought about it.

However, I understand that depression or any other mental illness is not going to be ‘fixed’ in only a few sessions, but that feeling of dread is what has kept me from seeing someone seriously. I’m at a point in my life where I’m embarking on a permanent career and am thinking about starting a family with my husband – in other words, I need to start adulting much sooner than later and I’m terrified.

I realize that my mental status could likely be improved, or it’s at least worth it to try for the future of my family. I’ve held my own my whole life, only succumbed to ‘asking for help’ the few times, and have done well enough so far, but I feel like I owe it to myself and those I love to explore a venue that has been very successful for others. I’ve been in quite a bit of a funk for the past month and I think it’s part of what has been urging me to make an appointment, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make the commitment yet.

help

One of the reasons I even created this blog was to connect with those who experience the same things I do, and to create a space where we can all feel safe and support each other.

So I’d love to know – what’s your experience with therapy and mental disorders? Did you go through it, or did someone you love? Was it helpful? Was it with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other counselor? Did you choose a certain gendered therapist, and do you think that’s impacted your therapy? How long and how often was the therapy?  Have they deemed you ‘fixed?’

I’d love to hear your story!

-Ophelia

24 thoughts on “Depression and Therapy: Does it Work?

  1. I’ve struggled with depression a lot for a number of years and therapists never helped me much because I am one of those people who has a lot of trouble opening up to people.
    But there have been two relatively recent things that have helped me a lot.
    One is that having my son gives me continual motivation that I couldn’t find on my own to be my best self for him. This motivation has helped me to slowly re-train my brain so I can preempt and manage my depression. Also, knowing that I survived the first year of being a mom gives me the strength to do things I wouldn’t otherwise.
    The second is that writing has been incredibly therapeutic to accept and understand what’s going on in my mind more honestly than I could ever be with a therapist. And writing anonymously allows me to put myself out there in ways that I never would in my everyday life which makes me proud of myself.
    Everybody is different but I do hope that you find what helps and works for you. 💜

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  2. I noticed your recent follow to my blog. Thank you ! In answer to the questions you raised here I have much experience. I have been diagnosed with depression and have been being treated by both a psychiatrist and psychologist for over 5 years. I don’t believe I will ever be” fixed” but I am in a much better place emotionally. I have documented my fight with depression on my other blog liferequireslattes.wordpress.com. I hope you check it out as it may be helpful to you. Feel free to contact me directly also !

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  3. First let me say that we are all different and there is not one recipe to fix our psychiatric problems.
    I am a RN. I worked in a psychiatric hospital for some time. This only gave me a foundation to being open minded from not believing in any therapy.
    I had an experience with a panic attack personally. I was given Xanax and did well with it at that time. My doctor and I agreed it would only be for a short time as the medication is abused my too many people. I did well, and occasionally have taken celexa to help with the anxiety.
    My wife was having stress induced syncopal episodes. Placed on medication that was more harm then help and has ruined our marriage
    I do know that with a counsler that has experience. It is the best route.
    I see a pattern of people that are owning psych disorders without question. We all have some up and downs. Don’t own them. let them go and enjoy live. No medication will fix hiding in a house.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by and liking my blog! I was looking (okay, snooping) around yours and really enjoyed this post. I attended therapy in college when depression and anxiety suddenly became too much for me to deal with. I was not the kind of person who enjoyed therapy, and I SOOO understand what you mean by the “dread.” Each week, I’d strongly consider cancelling my appointment, but then I’d somehow manage to drag myself there.

    By the time I finished therapy, I really did feel better. I didn’t think that any particular thing that my therapist said or did was terribly useful, BUT my whole reason for seeking therapy was to have an objective ear – someone who wouldn’t “freak out” when I discussed certain things. So even though I didn’t like the experience, my need was still met.

    Interestingly, I’m a licensed professional counselor now and one thing I learned in grad school is that, despite lots of research, no one really has an answer for why therapy “works.” Above any specific technique, the MOST important thing is the client-therapist relationship…so if you don’t feel like you “click” with one professional, that doesn’t mean that no one can help!

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  5. Sometimes therapy helped me, like the first time I was depressed. It let me know I wasn’t alone and helped me sort through my issues and categorize them. The last time I went it was a mixed-bag, as was the first time I was out through all known meds without getting any relief. The one med that has always helped they “forced” me off of for fear I’d become addicted after 23 yrs. Really? I went off and horrible withdrawal only to have my primary care out me back on when nothing else helped.

    That’s when I said fuck it and tried cannabis. I went off all psych meds, lost 65#, and felt better. Sure I have bad days, but none so bad as when I was in “treatment”.

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  6. I’ve suffered with anxiety for many years, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that it really started to effect me. I couldn’t sleep, I was always nervous and shaky, sad and terrified to do certain things or see certain people. I went to my primary dr. Who prescribed me Zoloft 10mg. 1st week was tough. 2nd week was great, then after that it went downhill for me. I got insomnia really bad, which was horrible because I have a young son. So falling asleep at 3am to wake up at 7am had me feeling exhausted and crabby. I lost my sex drive, which put a strain on myself and my husband. I became VERY forgetful and I was still anxious. After 4 months I had my Dr. Ween me off the meds and I promised I would seek out a psychologist (because I refused to take meds again-just isn’t for me. No judgment on anyone who is on meds). My psychologist was great! I learned a lot about myself and how my past has a lot to do with my anxieties now. After 7months her office no longer accepted insurance, so I found a male psychologist. After 13 weeks I was uncomfortable and unhappy with him. I worked up the nerve to tell him I wasn’t happy and needed a new dr. Now I see a female who is more understanding and helpful to my needs. I feel more confident since seeking out therapy. I say what I want when I want. I don’t let ppl speak OVER me anymore. I laugh more and I’m still learning. I still have anxiety but I understand why I get the feelings I get and am still working towards becoming stronger. So I am all for seeking out therapy 🙂

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  7. Seeking help is brave and I’m sure it will help you. For me personally, I like the nice safe space it creates, where I can talk about my problems, my thoughts and feelings and also, where I can cry and nobody would judge me. And I do cry, often and a lot and sometimes the session leaves me so exhausted I go to sleep after it… I go there every week, pretty much, and just yesterday we got to me feeling confused by my life, by human behavior that I don’t understand and I cried and it was painful and I felt lost, which I do feel whole lot. I felt so exhausted and hurting that I almost cried whole way back home and had to go to bed for several hours with painkillers, because all the tension got me headache. But the good things was, that my therapist understood me and she was supportive and helpful. I can rant there and cry and laugh and uncover my twisted inner world and it’s safe, no stress, no pretending, no hiding. That’s what I like and that’s what’s helpful for me.
    I chose woman therapist, it just felt better to me, I have hard time talking to strangers and woman just felt less threatening, but it doesn’t have to work for you the same way. I have been in therapy on and off for five years now, this is my third therapist and so far I like her the most, although at first I didn’t like her :-). But I do now and I think that just shows how difficult it is to find a therapist that you would just “click” with, I know some people have bad experience and that discourage them from seeking help some more. I think therapy is great, because of the safe space, where you can say anything without offending anyone :-).

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  8. Hi, funny this should come up because today I told my therapist that I used to think the therapy is bs. How can two people sitting there talking to each other fix anything? But now I’m one its biggest advocates. I go for psychotherapy. It’s hard work, it’s painful and sometimes you want to scream your therapist for bringing up things you don’t want to think about but need to process in order to heal.

    In any case, if you can find a therapist you’re comfortable working with and one who is good, you will have a great time discovering yourself and processing your thoughts and emotions. Good luck!

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  9. 1. Find a therapist who challenges you to grow and puts your mind at ease at the same time.

    2. Meds work. Period. I’ve had a lot of people give me crap for taking medications, but I have lived the difference. Hippy stuff can work, too–for instance, cutting back on sugar helps me, and I have friends with less severe depression that manage their symptoms without meds. The downside of meds is, of course, the side effects, and it takes trial and error to find the right meds for you. But it is worth it if your symptoms are severe enough.

    3. As a female, I think it made a big difference that my talk therapists have been female. However, I can see that it might not make a difference for every female. I do med management with a male psychiatrist and that is fine.

    Good luck, we are here for you!

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  10. I have been in therapy on and off for the last twenty-something years — usually once a week for a few months at a time. I honestly don’t think therapy has ever done anything to help me. I would sit there and talk… and nothing. It was just someone sitting across from me listening to whatever I wanted to talk about. I never felt like any of them gave me any real feedback or suggestions or help of any kind. I could have been talking to an empty chair. I didn’t need to pay someone to just sit there. So I’d just stop going, and I’d be no better than I was when I started. So, no, no one ever thought I was “fixed” — not the therapists, I assume, and definitely not me!

    One of the therapists I saw was male, all others were female (and I am female, in case that wasn’t obvious). I remember thinking the male was different and I thought maybe it would help more, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Pretty much the same. (Except during this time I had no insurance and I was paying that off for a few years… ugh!)

    I currently have a mental health nurse who manages my medication. She is great but she doesn’t do therapy… just medication management. I’ve been on many different anti-depressants throughout the years. None ever really seemed to do much of anything for me. But the one I take now has had an impact. It has not negatively affected my sex life (I think it may have enhanced it – I am *always* in the mood. Sadly, believe it or not, my husband isn’t as into it as I am! WTH? Everyone always tells me men always want it! I guess I am the man in this relationship. Ha!). My current med also made me *lose* weight. That “side effect” alone helped my depression.

    I also take an as-needed anti-anxiety med. I kind of want to take that one every day… more than once each day. It helps calm me quite a bit. And I often need that. I worry. A lot. About everything. At times, to the point of physical illnesses… weird ones no one can diagnose… so I’m sure they’re the result of my anxiety/depression.

    Recently, I have been having the same thought you mentioned — “I suppose when you find yourself frequently envisioning what you’d talk about at your first therapy appointment, it’s probably time to look for a therapist.”

    However, I was downsized and am still unemployed. Even just having to dish out my co-payment for each visit to anyone is more than I feel I can spend at this point. I already see my medication nurse once a month. I’m sure a therapist would want to see me at least once a week. I just don’t have the money. Maybe it would help (though I have major doubts) but I just do not have the motivation to call anyone and jump around to find the right one. The whole thing gives me that feeling of dread you described.

    And of course, I have the memories in my head of how pointless therapy has always been for me. So not only do I not want to spend the money, but I feel it’s a waste anyway. And that’s pretty damn scary because the medication(s) only do so much. I’m not really resolving any underlying causes. I’m not even sure I know what they are. Meds have helped me cope to the extent that I don’t have panic attacks and I don’t sit around crying all day (or night). But I think that’s partly because they allow me to stop worrying so much about everything. I’m not sure that’s always good, though, because part of my worry is over my unemployment situation. If I don’t worry about it (or think about it at all), I’ll never get a job! But without the meds, I’m such a weepy anxious basketcase, I can’t do anything toward getting a job either. (Again, that feeling of dread overcomes me whenever I think about this and I start to weep.)

    Sorry this is the longest comment I’ve ever posted in my life. 🙂

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  11. I’m a huge proponent for ‘talk’ therapy. You need to find a good therapist, and that can be difficult. I’ve had about 5 years of therapy behind me. It gave me tools I didn’t have before, strength I didn’t know I had, and taught me I was sensitive, smart and funny. Gave me the confidence I had lacked. I also did a lot of journaling. A lot. It was extremely therapeutic. I am also on two anti depressants. Have been on anti-ds for 20+ years. I highly recommend them.

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  12. I’ve been lucky. Talk therapy has been very good to me. But that does not mean that it is for everyone or that every therapist is a match for every patient. Sometimes you have to try out a few therapists to find the right one.

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  13. I had a licensed social worker treating me for mild depression when I was going through my divorce. He was fantastic!

    Therapists are hit or miss. Be prepared to shop around. Sometimes they seem eager to shove you out the door and other times, not. Don’t give up searching for the one who will listen and give you the support you need.

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  14. Those are a lot of big questions that you asked. I’ll try to be brief and helpful with my response.

    I have seen medication and therapy be incredibly successful in treating depression with my ex wife. With her, the difference with her on medication was night and day. I was astonished. And with her I learned that the trick with therapy is that one has to be willing to go all in. Therapy probably won’t help if you aren’t willing to dig into whatever it takes to get where you want to go. If you don’t want to do this, perhaps invest your energy into other things that can help such as diet and exercise?

    Have you seen Silver Linings Playbook? That scene where they are talking about all the different drugs they have taken and the side effects? I’ve lived that. For me, medicine only gave me a limp dick or headaches, etc. No medicine that I ever took was worth it. Therapy was helpful because I learned techniques that helped me, although usually it was minimal. My main therapist was great for me though because he was an advocate for me. He wanted for me to grow and adapt and change for the better. If you find a good therapist, I believe that it can be beneficial.

    I’ve written just a little bit about my experiences on my blog:
    http://wp.me/p6GD1P-b

    Anyways, I hope that helps you in some was. I’m so thankful that people feel that they can talk about depression now. Societal awareness and acceptance is getting better.

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  15. Dear Ophelia:

    I have been on both sides of the couch in my life, I think this is an interesting article. I am about to launch one myself. One of the good characteristics of good therapists is putting you at ease, and a second is building trust, in part by really trying to understand you. This is hard work by the way, and most therapists that seem at least fair use a variety of techniques, not just one school, or one theory.

    I also hear people say that their therapist doesn’t do a whole lot, though they like them. They often wish they had more direction or feedback from their therapists.

    The good news is I keep running into research that states that therapy, even without medication, is often superior to medication alone. Though I think if a person is in deep trouble and their overall functioning is affected, then maybe meds and/or some kind of intensive outpatient is good. Hospitalization should only be used if there is immediate possibility of harm to self or others. Unfortunately, behavioral health is also an industry now so clinicians want to fill empty beds. That has led to a lot of harmful admissions. How many I don’t know. Overall, the outlook is good for treatment, especially if one can afford to shop around.

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  16. Been seeing a psychologist for some time now that I feel really comfortable with opening myself up to, even when times are okay. After a while, patterns of thought and behavior became more apparent and it was easier to zero in on the problematic areas of life that interfered with happiness. Something about that particular psychologist, though. Always helps to find someone you have rapport with..

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  17. One more thought: I had a therapist who did behavioral cognitive therapy and self hypnosis with me when I was dealing with serious health issues, and it was really helpful and I still use it from time to time – especially when dealing with physical pain.

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  18. Seen a few therapists. Did the drive-by therapy thing in college, too. Then was hospitalized for suicidal ideations in my early 20’s. Did therapy after that with a psychologist plus checked in with a psychiatrist for meds but who didn’t actually do any real therapy with me. Saw a different therapist years later when I was living with my parents helping take care of my dad, who has dementia. Have also done some family therapy related to that situation, and did some couples counseling a couple times. Here’s what I would say: don’t go unless you’re prepared to be really honest and do the homework they give you. I have a tendency to tell them what they want to hear, which doesn’t do any of us any good. I’d also say that it can take a little while to find a therapist who’s right for you. The couples therapist hated men, so that wasn’t so great. Another one clearly had an eating disorder, so talking about my body image made me uncomfortable and I avoided it. And some therapists aren’t willing to ask the hard questions. I don’t need another friend, I need an objective opinion who can help guide me. I think if you’re at the point where you’ve asked the question here on your blog, you’re at the point where you should seek help. But be patient in finding the right person for you.

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  19. I have had therapy under two different occasions.
    First, I went through a spell having suicidal thoughts. From thinking about driving into a bridge abutment on the drive home, to sitting in a barn with a handgun. Only the fact I didn’t want to scare the horses kept me from blowing my brains out. I went to a psychiatrist who loaded me up with antidepressants. That got me through the problem. At the end, it wasn’t any talking that helped. After meeting for a while, the doctor finally concluded I had a chemical imbalance. Whatever. It worked. I went for approximately six months. I didn’t care whether it was a man or a woman. It was a male doctor.

    The second occasion was when I saw a psychiatrist about possible sexual reassignment. That went on for several years. It helped me understand everything that I was going through.
    For the second, I specially sought out this woman who was holding a public counseling session open to anyone who wanted to attend. I had been contemplating the process. After the open session I asked her for private counseling. She agreed. I don’t think I would have gone to a man. It was this specific woman.

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  20. I’ve suffered with depression in the past and have had medication for it. It made me feel better for a few days and then I was back to feeling the same. So I stopped taking them and just self managed. I have good days and bad days, sometimes I forget to eat or get caught up just sitting alone.. not speaking to anyone. It’s never got that bad for me to think about suicide or feel the need to have therapy… so I try and find solstice in other things –
    Being dominant helps me concentrate and relax and makes me generally happier.. but when I’m alone, I’m my own worst enemy…..

    I know when I’m really bad because my hair falls out – I know when I’m good because I smile.

    I guess I’m lucky with depression – I do suffer but it’s not all encompassing and I can manage it and sex helps….

    Thanks for letting me share

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