DAVIDSON – Walking into psychologist Nancy Miller’s office in Davidson feels a lot like visiting your favorite great aunt. It’s wrapped in soft pink hues, complete with a comfortable couch and full bookshelf. 

Miller often counsels depressed patients, and she breaks them into three separate categories: those dealing with dysthymia, or mild but long-term depression, major depressive disorder or manic depressive disorder, also called bipolar disorder.

“If it’s too severe, normal people can’t handle it, really. The families can’t manage it,” she said.

That’s when they should turn to professionals.

Counselor Sheryl Marenilli, who has offices in Mooresville and Denver, calls depression “a chemical imbalance where you feel as if you’re in the pits and you can’t get out and don’t know why you’re there.”

She sees patients experiencing depression brought on by premenstrual or menopausal symptoms and even lack of sunlight.

Miller uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ list of symptoms to help spot a patient in need. Symptoms can include feelings of sadness or worthlessness for most of the day for at least two weeks, loss of appetite or significant weight loss, insomnia or excessive sleeping and an inability to focus.

She stresses that someone who’s upset about losing a job or a death in the family is a completely different case than someone who is dealing with long-term depression brought on by a childhood trauma like abuse.

“You have to use tact,” she said. "Some people don’t want to talk about their depression, and those people are the hardest to heal because they keep so much in. They’ve been used to repressing information.”

For those who are depressed, she recommends increased exercise to raise serotonin levels, deep breathing and writing down 10 positive affirmations he or she can repeat when needed to circumvent a negative thinking trap. Marenilli often has her clients write down simple, positive things they’ve witnessed that day before going to bed, such as seeing flowers bloom. 

Miller also uses eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, which asks clients to recall a disturbing event while the therapist controls their eye movement to activate the neural network where memories are stored and reprocess them.

“Then the person can have the memory, but not the pain associated with the memory, and the depression lifts,” she said.

A client’s social support system is very important during depressive episodes.

Marenilli said many depressed people don’t want to tell their friends or family members how they’re feeling because they don’t want to be perceived differently. If you are close to someone who’s depressed, she suggests just listening without trying to solve problems and being a positive friend who’ll get him or her out of the house for lunch or an enjoyable event.

“A person who’s depressed is losing hope,” she said. “A lot of people think seeing a counselor means you’re crazy. But it’s someone who doesn’t know you, who won’t make judgments but will listen to you and help you live a healthier and happier life.”

Looking for someone to talk to? Visit www.allevia.biz or www.miraclescounselingcenters.com to find a counselor.