How to Manage Depression
Learning how to manage depression is an important skill, because depression can negatively affect our marriage, relationships, work and every other aspect of our lives. Depression might cause or heighten other conditions, such as anxiety or weight issues. Depression often leads to substance abuse, or even suicide. Depression affects people of all ages, but most people suffering from depression never receive treatment. This is a shame, because psychological or medical treatment can help people manage depression.
Before we discuss treatments and management techniques, you should know that you aren’t alone. Nearly 1-in-6 American will suffer from depression sometime in their lives. Think about that. Think of all the people you know, then understand that 1 out of every 6 of them has suffered depression in their lifetime. You are not alone.
How to Spot Depression Symptoms
There are certain warning signs which indicate you ar at risk for depression. Here is a short list of the common signs you might be suffering from this medical condition. If you have at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms, you are, by definition, suffering from depression.
- Insomnia or Hypersomnia (Excessive Sleeping) virtually Every Day
- Depressed Mood throughout the Day, especially in the Morning
- Impaired Concentration or Indecisiveness
- Recurring Thoughts of Suicide or Death (Fear of Death is Common to Everyone, though)
- Significant Weight Gain or Weight Loss (5% of body weight in a month)
- Daily (or almost daily) Feelings of Worthlessness or Daily Feelings of Guilt
- Daily (or almost daily) Fatigue or Loss of Energy
- Sense of Restlessness (“Psychomotor Agitation”) or Being Slowed Down (“Retardation”)
- Noticeably Diminished Interest/Pleasure in Almost all Activities nearly Every Day (“Anhedonia”)
Also, if you are irritable or restless, hopeless or pessimistic, these are common symptoms of depression. If you have persistent aches and paints, cramps, digestive problems which no treatment eases, or chronic headaches, these are also signs of depression. Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or empty feelings can also be signs.
Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, or difficulty remembering details, making decisions, or otherwise concentrating are indications you may be depressed. In particular, thoughts of suicide or actual suicide attempts are obvious indicators of depression.
As you can see, there are a whole lot of symptoms for depression. Not everyone is going to have the same symptoms. Due to the wide range of psychological, biological, chemical, and social causes of depression, the disease is really like a whole slate of diseases with similar symptoms and effects. There are several major types of depression, then sub-types of those types.
For example, people with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, might themselves fit into several different categories. So you might ask yourself, what kind of person typically suffers from depression?
Who Suffers from Depression?
Every type of person suffers depression. People from all cultures or socioeconomic classes suffer depression. Anyone you meet on the street or know at work is a possible sufferer from depression. This condition cuts across all archetypes, from corporate CEO’s and movie stars to people working in cubicles or out in nature.
Women are more than twice as likely to suffer depression as men, but men are less likely to seek help for their depressed condition. Men are also 4 times more likely to take their own life, which makes their depression even more troublesome. Elderly people are prone to depression, due to medical issues, decrease in activity and the loss of loved ones. Like the male demographic, senior citizens are more likely to avoid treatment, because they are less likely to open up and talk about their problems.
One reason women tend to be depressed more often is because of hormonal changes. Hormones that causes puberty and menopause, pregnancy and menstruation can also create the chemical imbalances which lead to many kinds of depression. Changes in body chemistry affect both men and women as their grow older, so even people who have never had depression can find symptoms appearing as their body chemistry changes. For these people, treating the chemical imbalance can have profound results in the quality of their lives.
Depression is not always caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, though. Depression is really a collection of symptoms, which can be brought on from one person to the next by wildly different causes. Anxiety, isolation, the loss of loved ones, or stress can cause depression. Depression and melancholia can be caused by psychological, social, chemical, or neurological conditions.
How to Manage Depression without Medicine
Because of the wide ranging types of depression, no one treatment cures all cases of depression. Some cases are passing, while others are chronic and clinical. Some types of depression can be managed with psychological counseling, while other require pills to cure them. Still others require a combination of psychological and neurological treatment. Those who suffer from severe depression or recurring thoughts of suicide should talk to a medical professional immediately.
If you’re going to be hard-headed and refuse to talk to a medical professional about the depressed feelings you have, then you may attempt to manage your depression without medication. This may or may not be effective. Follow the depression management tips below to see whether you can treat your own depression. If this doesn’t work, get psychological or medical assistance.
Change Your Diet
Eating the proper foods is more than just about weight loss and weight gain. It’s more than just feeling good or getting your body to function properly. These are all incredibly important concerns, and could be contributing to your depression. But eating a different set of foods changes your body chemistry.
Your mom used to tell you, “You are what you eat”. If all your eat are fried foods, processed cheese, and desserts, a large percentage of your body is going to be built from those foods. For the sake of depression management, the most important of those is sugar intake.
Scientists have linked depression to low serotonin levels in your brain. Sugar temporarily raises the serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin has been shown to function in the regulation of human sleep, muscle contraction, memory, learning, appetite and mood. When we eat sugar, it lifts our mood and suppresses our appetite. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary boost. When we come down off our sugar high, our mood crashes (and our body is apt to tell us we need to eat again, whether we do or not).
Regulating your sugar intake therefore keeps you from having unnecessary swings in your mood cycle, dominated by the down mood swings. So if you want to manage you want to manage depression without pills, eat fewer sugary foods.
What to Change Your Diet To
To replace your sugar intake, eat proper foods like vegetables and fruits (which contain healthier levels/types of sugar) and take a multivitamin regularly. When you have a well-balanced diet, your body undergoes wild swings in body chemistry and blood sugar levels, which makes you healthier and makes you feel better.
Regular Exercise Makes Your Feel Better
Another way to improve your depressed state is to get regular exercise. Exercise releases endorphins to the pleasure centers of your brain, gives you an adrenaline rush, and sends the blood flowing through your brain at an increased rate. This tends to make you more energetic, wake you up and make you feel “alive”. Increased blood flow also means you’re getting blood (oxygen, quicker healing) to those aches and pains around your body. There’s really no better way to make yourself feel better than to exercise.
This is in addition to the obvious health benefits of being fitter and stronger, and carrying less unnecessary weight around. Exercise is a healing act for the depressed mind.
Absorbing sunlight improves the production of white blood cells (healing) and red blood cells (oxygen) in your body. More important, sunlight helps in the production of serotonin and other endorphins, which boost your mood. (You want serotonin in your brain – just not temporary boosts and lengthy crashes of those levels.) This calms your nerves and makes you feel better.
Sunlight helps balance out and regulate hormones, and may relieve certain PMS symptoms. The Sun can also improve the function of your liver, which breaks down certain waste products and toxins in your system. Sunlight exposure also helps increase pain tolerance for swollen joints and arthritis. Certainly, you don’t want to get too many ultraviolet rays, but getting a natural amount of sunlight is healthy.
Exposure to sunlight also helps with your body’s natural melatonin output at night, when you need it. Melatonin helps you sleep better at night. It also slows down the aging process, but let’s get back to the subject of sleep.
Get Enough Rest and Sleep
Have you ever heard, “Get a good night’s rest and it will seem better in the morning.” That’s true. Not getting enough sleep is one of the chief reasons for people being stressed and grumpy all day, and chronic fatigue has been shown to cause depression. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day, because proper sleep helps with body function, and also lowers your irritation levels. Proper rest lowers the chance you are depressed through the day.
Remain Active Socially
Seek out people to socialize with. Isolation is a major cause of depression. You need friends, whether you believe that or not. Human beings are social creatures, and we need the attention and affirmation which comes with friendship. Having friends to talk to and enjoy life with does several things, but one benefit is that it keeps you from dwelling on your own thoughts for too long. Friendship is stimulating, because you’re bound to hear things and see things that you wouldn’t have heard or seen on your own, and this causes you to think different thoughts.
This isn’t to say that just any friend will do. If your friends irritate you, anger you, provoke you, or otherwise make you feel bad, that kind of social interaction is bad for you. You don’t want to spend time with people who are going to make you dwell later on the negative moments of your time together. This might be a bigger hindrance than a help. Friendship should relieve stress, not cause stress.
I’m not saying you should ditch your friends who annoy you sometimes. I’m not saying you should end your friendship with anyone who angers you or provokes you in some way, or even those who make you feel bad occasionally. But if this is the main story of your friendship, you probably need to find new social companions. This brings me to another point.
Stay Active – Depression Management Tips
If you want to manage depression without pills, stay active. Get out and do things. Experience new sites and sounds, even if these are minor variations. Start a new hobby. Join a club. Take a night course. Attend a church. If you don’t read, then read a book that sounds interesting. Do anything to stimulate your mind.
The brain is like a muscle. The brain gets used to the same patterns. Studies show that any kind of new stimulation for the brain makes our brain work better. New activities make us smarter. And when you stimulate the brain with something new, it’s not going to be going down the same old path it has every other day this year. If your depression is rooted in isolation, boredom, or malaise, positive action of any sort is a big remedy for depression.
Keep a Journal – Managing Depression
It’s bad to become mired in your depression. Sometimes, though, you need to start analyzing why you’re depressed. What is it that has made you depressed? Sometimes, you don’t need psychoanalysis to start seeing the root causes.
Keep a journal of the various moods, thoughts, and mental states you’re going through. Start a short journal you write in daily. See which thought patterns seem to recur or come to the forefront. See which thoughts trigger your most depressed states. It’s also a positive way to focus on your mentality.
If that sounds too singular, consider blogging a depression journal. Focus on your experiences with depression, while documenting the thoughts and triggers for your melancholic states. A depression diary can be theraputic and helpful to others, as long as you keep a honest and accurate record of what’s happening. I strongly suggest you should use a pseudonym or online identity when writing this blog, to assist you in this honesty. Employers sometimes do Internet research these days, or hire firms which do the same for a living, so you don’t want a potential employer reading your depression blog a month, a year, 5 years or 10 years down the road. If you don’t take this precaution, such an honest and public discussion has no place in such a public forum.
Sharing your experiences with others lets you get positive feedback and suggestions, and might help one other person (or many people) out in the world somewhere. At the very least, keeping a public depression journal is confessional. It also helps you in the next step of trying to help yourself.
How to Get Professional Treatment for Depression
Once you’ve exhausted all the personal and private methods for relieving your depression, it’s time to get professional help. There are times when you simply cannot treat depression without psychological counseling or pharmecutical help. If you have a serious chemical imbalance, no amount of healthy dieting and exercise is going to help you. People with deep psychological scars may not be able to pull themselves out of the mire of neuroses, without medical assistance or psychotherapy.
Talk to your family doctor or a general practitioner about your condition. Give them an honest and open description of the length and seriousness of your depression and ask for a referral. The medical advice you get from people trained in psychology is going to be worth the price paid, because lifting the black cloud of depression is going to change every aspect of your life.
Learn the Causes of Your Depression
Once you start to consult with a physician, you can start to get at the root cause of all your problems. As I mentioned earlier, there are many different potential causes of depression. According to Web MD, just some of those potential causes are as follows.
- Past Physical Abuse
- Past Sexual Abuse
- Past Emotional Abuse
- Conflict in Your Life
- Losing You Job
- Starting a New Job
- Losing Income
- New Marriage
- Getting a Divorce
- Death or Loss of a Loved One
- Family Ostracism
- Ostracism from a Social Group
- Social Isolation due to other Mental Illness
- Serious Illness
- Medication You Were Prescribed (Ex: High Blood Pressure Pills)
- Substance Abuse
- Family History of Depression (Genetics)
Depression Is Biological
There are a lot of mysteries to be solved about depression, because it’s a complicated diseases. But one thing doctors do know is: depression is a real biological condition. Depression is not you just feeling sorry for yourself. Let me give one example.
Doctors have found that the hippocampus, one part of your brain which is instrumental in the storage of memories, is smaller in those with a history of depression. Doctors have different theories about why this is, but with a smaller hippocampus, you have fewer serotonin receptors than a person with no history of depression.
Depression is a real medical condition that you need to treat or manage. What’s more, history has shown that most people respond to psychological and medical treatment for depression. Clinical depression is so complicated, that it might take a while to find the right combination of medicines and counseling to help your condition, but it’s more than like than a trained physician knows how to treat your depression.
Managing Depression with Medicine
You’ll need a trained doctor to give you specific advice on how to manage depression with medicine or pills. Given the many types of depression, a doctor has to know your many symptoms, the length of your depressed state, and you personal history to diagnose your condition. Only then can a suitable medical and/or psychological treatment regimen be prescribed to help you manage depression.
For more information related to how to manage depression symptoms, see the following:
Also, and very importantly, my sister in law can help you manage depression if you live in the Austin, TX area. Her name is Jennifer Berliner, LCSW, and her site is located here: Austin TX Counseling. (You can find her in Bing by searching for “Austin TX counseling”.)