How to Talk to a Therapist about Depression

GoodTherapy | How to Talk to a Therapist about DepressionBy the nature of how depression manifests itself, it’s often hard for those in its grip to seek any support, let alone therapy. 

And while it may seem like everyone else isn’t struggling, there’s a good chance that’s not the case. In fact, major depression is one of the common mental illnesses, affecting about 8% of all American adults every year.  

But it doesn’t have to remain that way. Though there are some tell-tale signs of depression, other indicators aren’t quite as obvious, and a mental health professional can offer an objective analysis of your situation, as well as a safe place to discuss some of the underlying factors contributing to one’s symptoms.  

If you think you may be struggling with depression, learn about the benefits of seeking therapy and how to discuss depression with a trusted professional 

Differences between depression and anxiety 

Individuals experiencing depression may also have anxiety, and it can be difficult to decipher where one ends and the other begins. After all, it’s normal to feel sad or anxious throughout our lives, but depression and anxiety should be taken more seriously when it begins to interfere with daily functioning. A declining job performance resulting from depression, or retreating from activities with friends due to social anxiety is a sign to seek professional help. Because each condition requires different approaches, it’s important to understand the differences between each. 


Anxiety is characterized by a jittery, apprehensive feeling, usually about something that could happen in either the near or long term. Virtually everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, but it’s typically considered a disorder when such thought patterns are ongoing in nature. Those with such conditions often feel uneasy, with “what-if” thoughts that are more future-focused particularly prevalent. 


Depression, on the other hand, typically carries a sensation of consistent exhaustion or fatigue, physically and/or emotionally. Many describe it as feeling like there is something weighing them down, as if performing the simplest of tasks – making one’s bed, running errands – feels, at times, extraordinarily difficult. While anxiety is typically associated with apprehension about current or future events, those with depression typically report feelings of hopelessness. 

Types of depression 

Stressful and life-altering situations can cause us to feel depressed throughout our lives. Grief from the loss of a loved one can trigger depressive symptoms, such as a loss of energy or intense feelings of sadness or despair. These grief-related emotions may remain for a long time, but many people are able to return to a more functional psychological state over several months, perhaps within a year in more extreme cases, in which they’re able to perform daily responsibilities, experience positive emotions, and maintain healthy relationships. 

But clinical depression occurs when symptoms occur over an extended period of time and interfere with daily functioning. There are various forms of depression, some of which arise out of particular circumstances: 

Seasonal affective disorder:

SAD tends to arise as days get shorter during the wintertime, in addition to, in many cases, colder weather. The combination of lower temperatures and less light can alter our moods and even routines.   


This type of depression is seen during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth, commonly known as postpartum depression. An abrupt life change, less sleep, and hormonal changes lead to emotional and psychological blues for many parents, but prolonged feelings of sadness or despair may point to something deeper.  

Bipolar disorder:

Manic episodes, characterized by high energy and, in many cases, delusions of grandeur, are part of bipolar disorder. But what tends to follow are periods of depression, leading to low energy, isolation, and less overall activity. Therapy is important for those with the condition, but it is also usually paired with medication treatment.  

Persistent depressive disorder:

Major depression is noted for its extreme symptoms, particularly ongoing changes in appetite, lack of social activity leading to self-isolation, and other symptoms that get in the way of daily functioning, like holding down a job. By contrast, however, persistent depressive disorder is characterized by slightly less intense symptoms that remain for around two years or more.  

Benefits of discussing depression with your therapist 

Maintaining a supportive network of loved ones, including friends and family, is a powerful way to stave off the most intense symptoms of depression. There are other ways to lessen the intensity of symptoms, such as staying physically active, eating healthy, and adhering to a routine most days.  

But therapists are experienced and objective professionals that can help contextualize feelings and symptoms. They help navigate underlying causes that are exacerbating one’s symptoms and help find ways to change, accept or adapt to external circumstances.   

Therapists can also identify thought patterns that are particularly damaging, or conversely, beneficial. They are well-equipped to help clients develop skills that combat insidious and counterproductive thoughts and behaviors, especially those that exacerbate depression. They can also help you set realistic treatment goals – such as a daily walk or social connection – and monitor your progress.  

While continuing to seek support for your social network is key, just like with a physical illness, it’s also important to talk to a trained professional who understands how to navigate and help treat such mental health conditions.  

How to talk to your therapist about depression 

Mental health professionals will often do an assessment as you begin treatment to understand why you are seeking therapy, what approaches may or may not work, and if and what symptoms are contributing to your decision to seek counseling. Think of it like a questionnaire that involves a range of inquiries into your personal life, background, medical history, and more. The point of such evaluations is not to interrogate you but to make sure your sessions are as impactful and tailored to your needs as possible.  

Remember, everything you say is confidential, so as difficult as it may be, it’s important to be honest about your emotional state.  

Types of therapy that may benefit someone with depression 

Cognitive behavioral therapy  

CBT teaches individuals to identify and track their thoughts and behavior patterns, particularly those that contribute to depression. These thought patterns are often decades old, meaning they seem so second nature and automatic that we don’t even recognize we have the power to change.  But CBT can help reverse unhelpful thoughts, which in turn, leads to more desirable behaviors.  

Interpersonal therapy  

Therapists employing this type of therapy help individuals improve relationships with others, in turn promoting their own mental health. During IPT, clients can deepen important connections, healthily resolve conflict, and set boundaries necessary for personal growth and fulfillment. This can prevent isolation and spur social engagement, a key barrier to long-term depression.  

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy 

This therapeutic approach takes the benefits of CBT and combines it with mindfulness techniques, such as meditation. These types of practices help anchor us in the present moment, which helps combat feelings of anxiety or depression, often stemming from thoughts about the past or future.  

Seeking Help  

While depression may feel insurmountable, it is a very treatable mental health condition. With the right plan and professionals to guide you, studies have shown that anywhere from 80 – 90% of patients respond favorably to treatment. Research has also shown that psychological treatments like talk therapy can have comparable effects on depressive symptoms as antidepressants and even more powerful impacts than medication long term.  

Make sure you are using an online directory that helps filter therapists and mental health professionals with important characteristics or experience, as well as those who can take your insurance. Doing so through platforms like GoodTherapy can jumpstart your therapy journey to make it as easy as possible to start feeling more like yourself.  

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