There are many forms of depression, but major depression is the most severe; it has clear symptoms and may require hospitalization1. For major depression to be present, an individual needs to have at least five out of nine specified symptoms for at least two weeks or more. The symptoms include a depressed mood, lack of or decreased interest or pleasure in general, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, poor concentration or indecisiveness, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
A depressed mood or lack of interest or pleasure has to be present among the five symptoms for a diagnosis of major depression to be made. These symptoms usually have an underlying cause, and this is what cognitive behavior therapy for major depression aims to address.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Treatment for Major Depression
Using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) treatment for major depression is likely to work for the long term2. This treatment addresses the thoughts that can lead to and maintain a depressed state, but it also uses behavioral techniques to change behaviors which contribute to major depression. CBT begins by addressing the underlying cognitive problems.
The cognitive part of CBT focuses on thoughts which are automatic and negative. These may be thoughts like 'I'm a failure' or 'No one likes me' which can lead to a depressed mood. A therapist and their client will work to locate these negative automatic thoughts and begin to address them. The negativity surrounding these thoughts begin to fade as the person using CBT comes to realize how and why these thoughts are incorrect.
Negative thoughts tend to lead to negative behaviors which contribute to depression, and CBT aims to substitute depression contributing behaviors with healthy behaviors3.
The unhealthy behaviors are identified by the therapist and appropriate behaviors are then recommended. Patients are also educated in techniques to modify their behavior and these include using exercise, social activities and hobbies, and relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises. These methods are well known for their benefits.
Specifically, exercise improves mood and helps thinking while engaging in social activities and hobbies forces a depressed person to face negative thoughts and combat them. Finally, relaxation techniques can help the depressed person to face situations which have been difficult to encounter during the depressive episode.
- Cognitive behavior therapy is an effective long term therapy for several reasons2:
- CBT helps to teach coping skills, so a person knows how to handle depressive situations in the future
- It changes behavior and beliefs, so a person stops their self-destructive negative thought patterns.