Why Depression Is Self-Sustaining - and How To Break The Cycle


Depression is a treatable condition. Study after study confirms that depression responds well to treatments like TMS therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many other psychotherapeutic modalities. But, for the person living with depression, it can often feel like depression will never go away. 

Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of depression can, in their own way, contribute to further depression. This is because depression is often self-sustaining, as it leads to behaviors that help it continue. That is why it is so important for someone with depression to break this self-sustaining cycle. 

How is Does Depression Sustain Itself?

Your mind affects how you think, how you feel, and how you process the world. When a person struggles with a mental health condition, the way they experience the world – and their behaviors as a result – change as well. This causes many of the symptoms associated with mental health conditions to help feed into the conditions. 

Depression is no different. Many of its most common symptoms create an environment that furthers the depression. For example:

  • Withdrawing – Depression causes people to lose interest in otherwise pleasurable activities and avoid spending time with people. Yet we know, from research, that engaging in fun and distracting activities with people we care about can reduce depression symptoms. 
  • Insomnia – Depression can affect sleep quality. Many people with depression struggle with periods of insomnia, and poor sleep makes it more difficult for your mind to process information and cope with stress. Some people with depression also experience hypersomnia (excessive sleep) which also throws off their entire day in ways that can make them more stressed and more anxious. 
  • New Reality – Depression causes people to process experiences differently. For example, a person with depression may experience something emotionally neutral or even slightly positive (for example, a lightly pleasant interaction at a restaurant) and view it as negative. This make is it more challenging to find positivity in the world around them.
  • Hopelessness – A key symptom of depression is hopelessness. Depression changes the brain to feel as though actions will fail. For example, someone could be receiving treatment from a psychologist in Manhasset, NY for depression and, no matter how effective the therapy, the person may quit early because their mind is processing it as hopeless.
  • Labels – Once someone identifies themselves as having depression, it often acts as its own self-sustaining label. The person with depression feels, for lack of a better phrase, “depressed about their depression” and feels sad that they have it. We often need diagnoses to drive treatments and receive insurance, but labels can also have a negative effect on a person’s recovery.

These are only a few of the many ways that depression sustains itself. Depression changes how the brain functions, and while it is treatable, the symptoms of depression can make it harder for someone to break free. That is why overcoming these issues is not as simple as traditional therapy alone. Often, what a person needs is something to help them stop this cycle. 

A Much Needed Break From Mental Health Symptoms

It is because of the self-fulfilling nature of depression that many people with the condition need, above all else, a break. They need something that can help then get some relief, so that they can break this cycle that depression creates. 

It’s the reason that treatments like transcranial magnetic stimulation can be so effective. Psychiatrists that provide TMS therapy and other services in Dallas, Long Island, and other areas around the United States find that what their patients need more than anything in the moment is a chance to find some immediate relief. Even those that move forward with long lasting management solutions, like psychotherapy, still need to first break this cycle.

Whether it’s through medication, TMS, or any other type of mental health treatment, treating depression often starts with getting at least a little bit of immediate relief so the person can feel comfortable and confident with the next steps. Then, once there is that opportunity to feel like things are a bit more controlled, a person can continue to move forward and address the rest of their mental health needs.

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