Depression: Why we can’t “just snap out of it” and what can we do?

By Thanos Nioplias, LMHC

Most people believe that the primary symptom of depression is sadness.  Even though this perception is somewhat accurate, depression is, in reality, a much more complicated state that includes not only negative emotions but also physiological changes, such as disturbances in appetite and sleep, as well as changes in the individual’s self-concept- the way one sees themselves. 

Even in this mental-health friendly age, many people still believe that one can “snap out” of depression. The reality is that depression is a complicated emotional state that includes not only sadness but also physiological changes, such as disturbances in appetite and sleep efficiency, as well as changes in an individual’s self-concept – the way we see ourselves. Once a person is in the midst of a depressive episode, they are often literally unable to see themselves in a positive light or regulate their bodies.

However, small behavioral changes over time can definitely make a huge difference for depressed individuals and help them to recovery from depressive episodes and prevent future lows. This is because depression tends to create struggles in two main life areas: Decreased levels of pleasure in everyday life activities (anhedonia), and negative judgments about oneself including endorsing beliefs like “I am not good enough” and “I can’t do anything right,” among others.  Having this awareness can be helpful in understanding and managing depression. Since depression can significantly affect our experience of pleasure and sense of self, engaging in pleasurable activities and striving for mastery can be an antidepressant.

To clarify: These strategies are not ways to “snap out” of depression, but they are tried and tested methods to manage the long-term course of depressive mood states.

P is for Pleasure

We live in a society that glorifies busy-ness, productivity and financial success. As a result, time for relaxation, leisure, and joy is considered secondary and may even be completely neglected. The price that we pay for this attitude can be very significant: When humans go through several weeks or even days without engaging in any kind of pleasurable activity, we begin to experience a sense of emotional deprivation, stress and increasing physical exhaustion. In a nutshell, neglecting pleasurable experiences is the recipe for unhappiness.

For individuals battling depression it is important to schedule activities that typically increase positive emotions on a daily basis, even if one doesn’t “feel like” doing them. Pleasant activities can be as simple as seeing a good friend, visiting a place that is soothing, or artwork. It is crucial to remember to keep an open, non-judgmental mind while engaging in pleasurable activities.  For instance, if the activity is not truly fun, try again tomorrow and then again the day after. And if the activity isn’t fun day after day for 3-5 days, don’t judge yourself for feeling blah rather find another activity that is very stimulating and immersive, such as sports, movies, or even trivia games that leave little time for worry. Last, if you cannot think of anything that sparks positive emotions for you currently, continue exploring and experimenting and keep active anyway. Simply doing “pleasure” activities (even if they don’t feel fun) can change our emotions over time.

M is for Mastery

As mentioned above, depression also interferes with how we perceive our competencies. Needless to say, when we think negatively about ourselves, we tend to withdraw and avoid important day to day tasks. Mastery refers to the effort of striving for small accomplishments every day (e.g., paying bills, going grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, running errands), and it can have a huge impact on depression. When building mastery, it is helpful to set goals that are not too easy, but also not too hard, in order to slowly and steadily increase our self-esteem and confidence. Scheduling activities that are mildly to moderately challenging yet doable is generally the most effective way to make yourself accountable and to also set yourself up for small successes. Similar to pleasure activities, building a sense of mastery is a journey that requires patience, persistence and a non-judgmental stance, and also consistency. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…


In my clinical practice, I have observed that individuals who experience depression struggle significantly in two main life areas: they experience decreased levels of pleasure in their everyday lives, while they also have negative judgments about themselves, endorsing beliefs like “I am not good enough” and “I can’t do anything right,” among others.  Having this awareness has helped both my clients and myself to better understand depression and take steps to manage it.  In other words, if depression can significantly affect one’s experience of pleasure and their sense of competence, what IF striving for activities that bring pleasure and mastery is in fact an effective antidepressant? 

Inspirational Message

The Way of Mastery is to break all the rules—but you have to know them perfectly before you can do this; otherwise you are not in a position to transcend them.


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Calmer in the Face of Hardship
I came to the Center for Anxiety for help in dealing with a family member who suffered from extreme anxiety. But I ended up getting a serious illness two months later and started having my own sessions. With the help of my therapist I got through my illness, learned to understand my habits that were making my major life stresses worse, learned to communicate better, taper my anger, and surprisingly I became more calmer even though my hardships in life worsened. Therapy is a lot of work and not easy, but nothing in life comes easy! I became a better and softer mom and (when I practice what I learned) and my kids and home are calmer and happier. I am still a work in progress and have more to work on, but I know I am on the right path. I wish I knew before how my communication style and anger were really impacting my life, how being softer you can accomplish way more then being harsh. I have been to other therapists in the past and I can hands down say that the Center for Anxiety’s approach is really effective. I have even referred a bunch of people to the Center and they have been really happy with the therapists and how much they really care for their patients.
I Tackled a Long List of Fears
When I first came to the Center for Anxiety, my list of anxieties/fears was long! I was scared of getting sick, getting stranded, driving, flying and more. With the help of my therapist, I immediately got to work and tackled every one of my fears. Now the world is open to me and I feel free! I can dream big and accomplish whatever I set my mind to! I am especially grateful that I was able to do all this without having to rely on medication. It was hard work – grueling at times! – but now I have the coping tools within me for life. In fact a family member recently said to me “You are awesome. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to because you don’t let fear stop you! ” Thank you Dr. Rosmarin and the Center for Anxiety staff for helping me get here. My fears no longer limit me and I love my life. Try it, it might turn your life around too!
Highly Skilled and Professional Treatment
When I sought treatment at the Center for Anxiety, the clinic was is in its incipient stages. However, by the time I successfully finished treatment, the Center for Anxiety grew and flourished into a world-class treatment center, offering cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment to countless individuals. The continued success of the Center for Anxiety comes as no surprise to me, with a team that contains such highly skilled professionals who display clinical acumen, empathy, and compassion. When I first entered treatment I was concerned that therapy would be similar to the experiences with past psychologists: a seemingly bottomless pit with no reductions in my anxiety symptoms, but was so relieved when I started to feel less anxious after only a handful of sessions. My therapist created a treatment plan that was tailored exactly to my needs and taught me practical skills to help me work through my anxiety that I still use and practice to this very day.
No More Panic
When I first came in, I was struggling with panic disorder and didn’t even know it, which only made dealing with it that much more difficult. After my first time sitting down with my therapist, however, I instantly started to gain perspective and look at the difficult situation in a different light. Our meetings helped me conquer the issue step by step and get my life back on track. I’d strongly recommend that anyone dealing with anxiety in a way that impacts their day to day life should visit the Center for Anxiety! I know it helped me tremendously.
Free of Obsessions
When I woke up one morning last June and didn’t want to get out of bed, I knew I needed help. The thought of getting through another day with all my anxieties, obsessions and rituals was just too overwhelming. After feeling stuck for years, I just couldn’t anymore. Thankfully, that’s when I found the Center for Anxiety. Dr. Rosmarin and his staff are experts at what they do, kind and professional. After just several weeks I accomplished my initial targets. The change I experienced in such a short amount of time was astounding that I stayed on for a while longer to work on more complex goals. I soon achieved those too. Now, I am free of my obsessions, know how to manage my anxiety, and love my life. My only regret: not having done this sooner. I wish I had known that you don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom to get help.
Depression Lifted
I’m 26 years old and I’ve been suffering from terrible depression for 7 years. In the throws of my sadness I literally wanted to die. Soon after starting therapy at the Center for Anxiety, my depression lifted. My suicidal thoughts began to dissipate. I remember the feeling that came over me as soon as the dark cloud above me left. It was the most liberating feeling I have ever experienced. I actually shouted to my friends, family and anyone nearby me “I’m Happy! I am Happy!” I felt free.
Over the course of four years I developed anxiety-like symptoms (tightness in chest, gut, back) that slowly but surely increased in duration and severity. The EXTREMELY uncomfortable nature of the symptoms notwithstanding, I still continued and managed to function. The effort required to do so, however, left me utterly drained. Having always been a very spiritual person I strongly felt that a course of therapy incorporating a spiritual component could potentially work well for me and decided to give the Center for Anxiety a try. Happily, I have achieved significant symptom reduction, tremendously improved emotional/mental health, and above all, Connection. Medication free. I’m no longer just existing, I’m LIVING. I’ve been given a second chance to become the unique human being that I was meant to be.
No More worries
I have wormed in healthcare for 36 years in many different settings, and I have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the Center for Anxiety. When staff says they are going to call, I get a call. From the first contact, I have been very impressed with the professionalism and efficiency. I had a situation and needed to have sessions more than once per week, and my clinicians worked out a schedule to accommodate my needs. I was astounded that they attended to me so quickly and effectively - they made my priority their priority. My clinicians were also excellent at what they do - they have a plan for me each session, and it's clear that they have thought in advance about each session, and that they are listening to what I say and observing what I do, even though our sessions have been conducted via Telehealth. Compassion is a quality that I have all too often found to be lacking in my experiences as a healthcare professional and patient, and this is not the case with the Center for Anxiety. Of all the websites I found on Google, I am so thankful that God guided my hand to yours.

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