Self-help approaches to treating depression are best thought of as adjuncts or additions to professionally prescribed treatments. Don't delay treating your depression professionally, or attempt to treat your depression solely on your own. Instead, seek a professional diagnosis at the earliest opportunity. Early diagnosis of depression is critical. The sooner your depression has been properly diagnosed and treated, the sooner you will have a good chance of recovering. Many people think that their low mood is temporary and will resolve by itself. While some depressions are temporary and relatively mild conditions, others really aren't. Delaying treatment in such cases allows symptoms to worsen and can cause serious problems to occur such as severely impaired health and occupational functioning, damage to your interpersonal relationships, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. A small but significant minority of people die from depression-caused suicides each year.
“[If there was] certainty that an acute episode [of depression] will last only a week, a month, even a year, it would change everything. It would still be a ghastly ordeal, but the worst thing about it — the incessant yearning for death, the compulsion toward suicide — would drop away. But no, a limited depression, a depression with hope, is a contradiction. … [T]he conviction that it will never end except in death — that is the definition of a severe depression.”
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reaction to a highly stressful event outside the range of everyday experience when a person feels very unsafe or threatened. These are unsual experiences such as war, violent attack (verbal, physical or sexual) or a natural disaster. The symptoms usually include irritability, anxiety, flashbacks, repeated nightmares, and avoiding situations that might bring back memories of the event.
Several supplements are promoted for improving depression. Examples include St. John's wort, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), SAMe, fish oil, and L-theanine. Although these supplements may have mild antidepressant properties, it is important to remember that depression is a serious condition that needs proper evaluation and treatment under the care of a physician. It is also important to note that these supplements are not regulated by the FDA; their safety and efficacy have not been proven in large clinical studies, and they may interact with other drugs.
Another brain stimulation therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves a physician passing an electrical current through an insulated coil that is placed on the surface of the depression sufferer's scalp. That induces a brief magnetic field that can change the electrical flow of the brain that is effective in easing symptoms of depression or anxiety. TMS does not require anesthesia; doctors perform TMS for a few minutes per session, five times per week over the course of four to six weeks. Side effects are usually mild and fade quickly, including scalp discomfort or headaches. It is unusual for side effects to be severe enough to cause the recipient to stop treatment prematurely. Serious side effects are rare, including worsened depression, suicidal thoughts, or actions.
ECT may cause some side effects, including confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. Usually these side effects are short-term, but sometimes memory problems can linger, especially for the months around the time of the treatment course. Advances in ECT devices and methods have made modern ECT safe and effective for the vast majority of patients. Talk to your doctor and make sure you understand the potential benefits and risks of the treatment before giving your informed consent to undergoing ECT.
Depression can increase the risks for developing coronary artery disease and asthma, contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and many other medical illnesses. Other complications of depression include its tendency to increase the morbidity (illness/negative health effects) and mortality (death) from these and many other medical conditions.
A person whose primary problem is depression, rather than anxiety, generally doesn't show the same fear and uncertainty that people do with anxiety disorders. Depressed people are not so preoccupied with worrying about what might happen to them in the future. They think they already know what will happen, and they believe it will be bad, the same bad stuff that's happening to them now. The key symptoms of depression include:
There are various methods you could use to sooth the symptoms of depression. All of us could stand to exercise more often, but exercise is especially helpful for the depressed mind. It enables you to better handle stress, and the endorphins released during exercise give you a mental boost. Aside from the mental health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that physical activity helps you sleep better at night.
The birth of a baby can trigger mood swings or crying spells in the following days or weeks, the so-called baby blues. When the reaction is more severe and prolonged, it is considered postpartum depression, a condition requiring treatment because it can interfere with the ability to care for the newborn. Depression can also occur seasonally, primarily in the winter months when sunlight is in short supply. Known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, it is often ameliorated by daily exposure to specific types of artificial light.
Antidepressants take time – usually 2 to 4 weeks – to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts, so it is important to give medication a chance before reaching a conclusion about its effectiveness. If you begin taking antidepressants, do not stop taking them without the help of a doctor. Sometimes people taking antidepressants feel better and then stop taking the medication on their own, and the depression returns. When you and your doctor have decided it is time to stop the medication, usually after a course of 6 to 12 months, the doctor will help you slowly and safely decrease your dose. Stopping them abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.