Can Online Therapy Help With Depression?
The term depression is used excessively and casually in everyday conversation these days. However, feeling sad on a certain day or as a consequence of a certain event or because of someone and feeling better in a few hours / days time is not what is called Clinical Depression.
What is Clinical Depression?
Clinical Depression, hereafter referred to as depression, is a psychological disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest, major mood swings, sleep disturbances, unexplained physical illnesses, anxiety, agitation or restlessness that prevents you from doing normal routine activities and may make you feel worthless or incapable of doing anything successfully. The symptoms of depression are usually severe and obvious and can prevent the person from functioning normally and require therapy provided by a doctor or medical health professional.
Symptoms of Depression
Persons of any age / gender / personal background can get depression. There are a few differences between depression in children and in adults.
In younger children and preteens, symptoms of depression include sadness, excessive clinginess, medically unexplained aches and pains, lack of appetite and being underweight, and refusal to go to school.
In teenagers, symptoms of depression could range from irritability, extreme sensitivity, eating and sleeping disturbances, decline in scholastic performance, feeling of worthlessness, substance abuse, self-harm and avoiding social interactions.
Adults with depression often take a longer time to respond to therapy. Symptoms may include physical aches or pain, personality and behaviour changes, fatigue, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, lack of interest in sex or even in social interactions, and suicidal tendencies.
People who have experienced difficult life situations like loss, unemployment, psychological trauma, major physical conditions like cancer or AIDS, or in substance abuse (using alcohol, cannabis, etc) are most susceptible to depression. While not explicitly proven, it has been observed by researchers that persons whose immediate or moderately-extended family members have suffered from severe depression are more likely to suffer from depression than others. Bipolar depression is often linked to family history and causes a person to experience depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between. Certain prescription drugs (like steroids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, isotretinoin)* have also been found to cause depression for some people. Certain medical conditions like thyroid dysfunction or autoimmune conditions can also be causes for depression.
Can Depression Be Treated?
Depression can be, and must be, treated with therapy by a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible. If you are persistently experiencing symptoms of depression or have suicidal tendencies, or know of someone who is showing these symptoms, you need to approach a doctor or mental health professional immediately.
Apprehensions About Therapy
Many people suffering from depression fear that they may be ostracised by society for approaching a mental health professional. While cases of anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies have gone up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are hesitant to go out to a hospital or clinic for therapy and treatment.
Does Online Therapy Work?
Those who do not personally know a mental health professional or have not consulted one before form ideas of therapy sessions from knowledge gained from hearsay and movie settings. It is not always a prerequisite to hold face-to-face sessions with your doctor or therapist to gain the benefits of therapy. Infact, there is substantial evidence** of the effectiveness of conducting therapy online. It can be practised by private mental health consultants, outpatient clinics, hospitals, correctional facilities, schools and nursing homes.
The content and structure of virtual therapy is the same as in a face-to-face therapy session conducted offline. Scheduling of appointments, length of meetings and number of appointments needed for the therapy to be successful remain the same. Standards of privacy and patient information confidentiality clauses are also maintained the same way.
Concerns that online therapy sessions do not allow the doctor or therapist to observe body language, tone of voice or overall demeanour of the patient, or that the patient may not be able to connect with and form a bond of trust with the therapist in a virtual medium are not valid. There is no discernable difference between therapy that is conducted online or face-to-face and virtual therapy is just as effective.
In the case of persons suffering from depression, the doctors and therapists are able to conduct psychiatric evaluations, therapy, patient education and medication management effectively through virtual communication.
**Source: American Psychiatric Association