If you have a mental illness like depression, it can be difficult to express how you feel to those who have never been in your shoes. Helping loved ones understand what you’re experiencing is challenging sometimes, but a simple tool like a depression chart may be able to help. There are a few different types, and finding one that works for you can have several benefits.
If you’re experiencing depression, accurately expressing how it makes you feel can be useful. It may help friends and family understand what you’re going through and be able to better support you. However, adequately explaining the effects of depression to someone who has never personally felt them can be difficult. It’s also typically a nonlinear condition, meaning that a person may have better or worse days but not be able to predict when or why they’ll occur. A depression chart can help a person talk their experience in a simplified, easy-to-understand format, even if it changes from day to day.
Another benefit of a tool like this is personal for the individual with depression. It can function as a tracking mechanism so you can monitor how you feel over time. Once you have enough, you may be able to pick out factors that triggered you or made you feel better on certain days so you can use that knowledge to help yourself going forward.
Finally, tracking may help you get more specific, helpful treatment. One study on the topic of mood tracking suggests that it can provide a deeper understanding of states and behavior and improve clinical care for those with mood disorders. For example, using a chart to explain to your mental health provider how you feel that day or the specifics of how you’ve been feeling lately can help them better understand where you’re at and what kind of treatment may benefit you.
People may experience depression in different ways, or have different needs when it comes to communicating or tracking their symptoms. Choosing the type of depression chart that works best for you is key. One type is similar to charts that some doctors use to help patients express their level of physical pain. These may look like a series of increasingly pained faces accompanied by a short description of each stage. In a physical pain chart, they might range from a smiling face with the caption, “No pain at all” to an upset face with a caption that says, “So painful that I can’t focus on anything else.” In a depression chart, the range might be from “I’m not feeling great today: unmotivated and detached” to “I can’t get out of bed; I feel numb” with two or three levels in between. This type is the most useful for letting loved ones know how you’re doing on a given day and what you may or may not need or be up for.
Another type of depression chart takes the form of a graph that you fill in each day. You can plot your mood on it daily and make notes at the bottom. That way, you can see what your progression is over time and which factors may contribute to better or worse days. For example, you could track your moods after starting therapy or a new exercise regimen to see if either of those things are helping you feel better over time. Or, you could take note of your mood on the days when you ate a healthy meal or wrote in your journal or slept well versus the days you didn’t to see whether any of these actions tends to make a difference.
Significant scientific evidence supports the link between social support and mental health. A 2019 study, for example, suggests that university students who have strong social support networks also have better levels of psychological well-being, fewer depressive symptoms, and better quality of life. Using a depression chart may help you strengthen existing relationships by letting your loved ones understand how to support you. Using a tracking-style depression chart may also help you monitor the potential impacts of positive social interactions if you’re looking to build more or closer connections.
Another form of support that can be helpful for those experiencing depression is an ongoing relationship with a trained therapist. A robust body of research supports that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular can be an effective treatment for depression. A therapist can not only act as a listening ear for when you want to tell your feelings, but they can also help you learn to notice and adjust distorted patterns of thinking that may be contributing to symptoms. Telling your depression chart or tracker with your mental health professional may help them get a better idea of where you’re at and treat you accordingly.
For those who are experiencing depression, going to a physical office to get the support of a therapist can seem daunting or even impossible on some days. It’s one reason why virtual therapy has become an increasingly popular option for those seeking mental health care. Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety. With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist who you can meet with via phone or video call from the comfort of your own home.
A depression chart can be a useful tool for those experiencing this mental illness. It can help you express how you’re feeling to friends and family, track your progress over time, and give your therapist more information so they can provide you with the right type of treatment for you.