Try to notice good things. Depression affects a person's thoughts, making everything seem dismal, negative, and hopeless. If depression has you noticing only the negative, make an effort to notice the good things in life. Try to notice one thing, then try to think of one more. Consider your strengths, gifts, or blessings. Most of all, don't forget to be patient with yourself. Depression takes time to heal.
When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone working out! But exercise is a powerful depression fighter—and one of the most important tools in your recovery arsenal. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you’re well.
There are a range of ways to deal with depression, and often they are best used in conjunction with each other. The primary medical options are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), antidepressant medication, and in some severe cases, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Education and coping strategies are also important when learning to manage your depression.
Dr. John Grohol is the founder, Editor-in-Chief & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.
Youth—More than a quarter of a million Canadian youth—6.5% of people between 15 and 24—experience major depression each year. Depression can be hard to recognize in youth because parents and caregivers often mistake a teen’s mood swings and irritability for normal adolescence, rather than depression. Studies have shown that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered youth have higher rates of major depression.
If you tend to worry a lot, even when there’s no reason, you may have anxiety. It may be something you are so used to that you may think it’s just “how you are.” Common worries include health, money, family, or work. While everyone worries about these things once in a while, if you always expect the worst, it can get in the way of living a normal life. Though researchers are still investigating the causes of anxiety, they have identified the areas of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety and are using proven studies to increase knowledge in this field in an effort to create improved treatments for anxiety and related disorders.
Antianxiety drugs such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan) are not antidepressants, but doctors occasionally prescribe these alone or with antidepressants for a brief period of anxiety. However, patients should not take these alone for depressive disorder. Due to their addiction potential, patients should phase out the antianxiety drugs as soon as the antidepressant and antianxiety effects of the antidepressant medications begin to work, which is usually in four to six weeks.
TCAs have a long record of efficacy in the treatment of depression and have the advantage of lower cost. They are used less commonly because of the need to titrate the dose to a therapeutic level and because of their considerable toxicity in overdose. TCAs are often prescribed for many other psychiatric disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. They are also used to treat chronic pain, such as neuropathy, and migraine headaches.
While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. No matter how you experience depression, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. But it’s important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation. There are plenty of powerful self-help steps you can take to lift your mood, overcome depression, and regain your joy of life.
Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won’t go away, you may have depression. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. Just trying to get through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. By understanding the cause of your depression and recognizing the different symptoms and types of depression, you can take the first step to feeling better and overcoming the problem.
Programs that use mental health professionals to teach thinking skills (cognitive techniques) that assist in coping with stress seem to be effective in preventing depression. Key aspects in the prevention of postpartum depression include helping new mothers decrease those specific aspects of their lives that may contribute to depression, like having little social support and poor adjustment to their marriage or other domestic union. Engaging in religious or spiritual practices can often prevent depression, thought to be the result of decreasing stress, increasing a sense of hope, and providing a sense of community. On the other hand, people who feel they are unable to live up to the standards set by their family, societal, religious, or spiritual practices may feel a sense of guilt that becomes a risk factor for depression.
Some people find that herbal remedies, such as St. John’s Wort, help with their depression symptoms. Remember that even herbal remedies can have side effects and may interfere with other medications. Dosages can also vary depending on the brand you use. Talk about the risks and benefits of herbal or other alternative treatments with your health care provider and make sure they know all the different treatments you’re trying.
Express Yourself. Talk about what is bothering you with a therapist or with friends or family members. If you don't feel comfortable talking, then keep a journal and vent through writing. Expressive writing (such as in a journal) for 15 to 20 minutes three or four days in a row helps you get some perspective on what is bothering you. Writing about what you are feeling can also help decrease the pressure you may be feeling in the moment. Talking and journaling about what bothers you are both known to help raise mood.
Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions often show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive illnesses, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania or hypomania and may include episodes of depression, as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual, in that they usually take place over several days, weeks, or longer.
If you have such thoughts, and find them disturbing, it's a good idea to discuss them with a qualified therapist. People often want to keep these thoughts to themselves, because they feel ashamed of them, and worry that a therapist will over-react and want to hospitalize them. However, these thoughts are a common part of anxiety disorders, and a therapist who is well versed in the treatment of anxiety disorders will probably be able to evaluate these thoughts and come to a realistic understanding of what they mean and don't mean. So review these with a therapist, in the same way you would review all the other symptoms you experience.
When your doctor recommends an antidepressant to fight depression—such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—it's about more than just boosting your mood. Depression has many potential physical effects. "Most people aren't aware that depression can lead to other health problems," says Dr. Amanda Hernandez, a geriatrician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were developed in the 1950s and '60s to treat depression. They are called tricyclic antidepressants because their chemical structures consist of three chemical rings. TCAs work mainly by increasing the level of norepinephrine in the brain synapses, although they also may affect serotonin levels. Doctors often use TCAs to treat moderate to severe depression. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants are amitriptyline (Elavil), protriptyline (Vivactil), desipramine (Norpramin), nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil), trimipramine (Surmontil), and perphenazine (Triavil).
To search for a clinical trial near you, you can visit ClinicalTrials.gov. This is a searchable registry and results database of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world (search: depression). ClinicalTrials.gov gives you information about a trial's purpose, who may participate, locations, and contact information for more details. This information should be used in conjunction with advice from health professionals.