Studies show talking to a therapist helps ‘rewire’ brain and battle depression

Mental illnesses have become some of the most common mental and neurological disorders affecting people worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Currently, nearly 450 million people suffer from mental health conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, with depression landing near the top of the list.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States in people ages 15 through 24. In 2015, almost 16 million people in the United States in the 18 and older category had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Sadly, only about 1 in 5 people with depression seek care.

While antidepressants, exercise and changes in diets can help to combat symptoms of depression, recent studies have shown that seeing a therapist in conjunction with taking medication can actually have the longest lasting effect on treating depression.

A study from King’s College London published in August shows that talking to a therapist actually rewires our brain over time and helps ease symptoms of illnesses like depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strengthens certain healthy brain connections in patients with psychosis.

“Over six months of therapy, we found that connections between certain key brain regions became stronger,” Dr. Liam Mason, a clinical psychologist at King’s College and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “What we are really excited about here is that these stronger connections lead to long-term improvements in people’s symptoms and overall recovery across the eight years that we followed them up.”

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps battles depression with therapy

Recently, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps opened up about his struggle with depression that began in his early 20s, when he was seemingly on top of the world. In 2012, after the Olympics in London, Phelps hit rock bottom.

In 2014, after his second drunk driving charge and a six-month suspension from USA Swimming, Phelps began a downward spiral that left him locked in his room for five days. Phelps told CNN that things got a little better when he began talking to a therapist, but it wasn’t easy for the country’s most decorated Olympian.

“I didn’t want to see a therapist in the beginning but once I did I found that I felt better and I was healthier, I was learning so much more about myself that I didn’t know,” Phelps said. “I’m very comfortable talking to my wife, I’m comfortable talking with a therapist … but in the beginning I wasn’t.”

Talk therapy is just one way to treat mental illness. There are a number of treatments that can help to target symptoms of depression and mental illness. Consulting a doctor is the best way to determine the proper course of treatment.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder, contact a treatment facility for help. To learn more about the breadth of services offered at Havenwood Behavioral Health, visit call us at (864) 660-6217. With proper treatment and support, you can overcome depression.