It’s human nature to cycle through a range of emotions, but some unpleasant feelings—like the ones that come with depression—can stick around for a long time if they’re not addressed. All Veterans deserve to live their best life and VA offers a variety of therapies shown to help with mental health concerns, including depression.
What is depression?
Major depressive disorder, usually called depression, is a mental health condition marked by long-term sadness and a lack of interest in the normal pleasures of life. Typically, depression is caused by a combination of inherited, environmental and psychological factors.
Trauma, the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or a stressful situation may spur a depressive episode. However, depression also may develop without an obvious cause or trigger.
Some people with depression experience negative thoughts that recur throughout the day while others experience bursts of severe unhappiness or hopelessness. Because of the different ways that depression is experienced, Veterans might think what they are feeling is just a regular case of the blues.
Common signs of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless;
- Losing interest or pleasure in most of your daily activities;
- Gaining or losing weight;
- Sleeping too much or not enough almost every day;
- Feeling tired or as if you have no energy almost every day;
- Eating more or less than usual almost every day.
If you are having these or other, similar symptoms, talk with your provider about VA’s many therapies shown to help relieve or resolve depression symptoms.
Proven therapies for depression
Evidence-based therapies (meaning therapies that have been scientifically tested and proved to be effective) are considered the best treatments for mental health conditions like depression. Shown to work quickly—sometimes within a few weeks or months, depending on the nature or severity of the symptoms—these therapies can greatly improve a Veteran’s quality of life.
At VA, five evidence-based therapies are commonly used to treat depression:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression helps Veterans develop more balanced and helpful thoughts about themselves, others and the future. This type of therapy explores the relationship between thoughts and emotions and focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors to improve mood.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy for depression encourages Veterans to take productive actions that align with their values in order to overcome emotional pain and worry. ACT-D improves symptoms of depression by helping you manage the thoughts and feelings that overwhelm your sense of well-being.
- Interpersonal therapy helps Veterans understand the connection between their depression and their relationships. It also helps you address relationship problems caused by life changes, relationship conflicts, grief or other issues.
Problem solving and behavioral activation
- Problem solving therapy for depression focuses on the ways that people cope with stressful events, helping Veterans change how they react to and attempt to solve real-life problems. PST-D is typically 12 sessions but is flexible depending on your existing problem-solving and emotional regulation skills.
- Behavioral activation for depression builds on the idea that depression causes people to withdraw from their routines and environment, which over time can make them more depressed as they lose opportunities to have pleasant experiences and social activity.
By increasing your contact with rewarding activities and people, BA-D helps you lessen symptoms of depression and improve your life context.
Although these therapies treat depression in different ways, all have been shown to reduce unpleasant feelings and improve Veterans’ well-being. And with all five, Veterans are asked to attend sessions regularly and work with their therapist to set and work toward treatment goals.
Over time, Veterans who actively participate in treatment will find that they have fewer or less severe mental health challenges. Some even find that their symptoms have gone away. Hear the stories of other Veterans who have reached out for treatment and are living fuller lives today.
Take the next step
If you are experiencing depression or believe it’s time to change your current care plan, speak with your provider or call your local VA facility. Treatment is different for everyone, and if you talk openly about your needs and concerns, your provider can help you find the therapy that’s best for you.