We all experience feelings of sadness and grief from time to time, but major depressive disorder is a diagnosable and serious medical condition. Currently, one in six adults are affected by depression at some point in their life—episodes usually first arising in late teens/mid-20s—and that number is almost double for women. Learning how to cope with depression is an ongoing, but manageable challenge. But, before we get to such steps, let’s first examine the illness itself.
Possible Symptoms of Depression
(Before a diagnosis of major depressive disorder is reached, symptoms must last at least two weeks.)
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Abrupt increase or decrease in energy
- Sudden changes in appetite/eating habits/weight
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- The appearance of a “dark side” and/or thoughts of suicide
Medical Treatments for Major Depressive Disorder
There are a wide range of antidepressant medications available for those coping with depression. Here’s a brief sampling:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (e.g. Cymbalta, Effexor XR, and Fetzima)
- Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (e.g. Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, and Forfivo XL)
Further Steps You Can Take to Cope with Depression
Before I conclude with a little about psychotherapy, I’d like the provide some suggestions that fall more loosely into the “self-help” category.
Exposure to sunlight, ideally in the morning, without sunglasses on, has a huge impact on mood. Even if your depression isn’t seasonal, natural light still changes our neurotransmitter and hormone levels. Try to get a half an hour and notice if creates more optimistic thoughts and energy. If it’s a dark day, you might need longer, or consider use of a lightbox.
Notice your inner critic.
That voice of negative judgement in your head is not helping you. Self-blame, self-doubt, and self-sabotage is the inner monologue of a depressed person. And you have have every right to see them that way. These thoughts reflect part of you when you’re feeling bad, but they are not who you are!
One way to gain a different perspective on the negative thought cycle is through mindfulness. Bringing our thoughts to the present moment will change our relationship with self-critical thoughts. We can practice mindfulness in all sensual activities, from washing the dishes to listening to a song. Focus on the sensations and the worries will have less room to grow.
Be as active as possible/Resist isolation.
This may sound impossible when every cell in your body seems to crave solitude and inactivity, but again, that inner voice can be acknowledged without being trusted.
Exercise and healthy eating.
The fundamentals. Our minds and bodies move toward more optimal functionality when treated with love and care.
Get into a routine (including sleep).
Adding structure to your days creates positive momentum and allows for much less “downtime” ready to be filled with ruminating. This includes establishing regular sleeping habits which are yet another way to treat ourselves with love and care.
Try doing what you once liked to do.
This can be a huge step in your struggle to cope with depression. If, say, you’ve always found joy in playing a particular sport—until now—try disregarding that inner voice and playing the sport anyway. Your motor and emotional memories will kick in to remind you why you liked it so much in the first place.
Working with a therapist will help you better understand your illness, set and attain goals, improve relationships, and discover more ways to cope with depression. If you’d like to learn more about how therapy can help with major depressive disorder, contact me today for a free consultation!