How To Deal with Depression: Tips, Techniques And Finding the Right Treatment
Updated November 19, 2019
Reviewer Heather Cashell
Depression can be overwhelming. And, when you're in the midst of it, you can feel like the only person in the world that is struggling, which can make you feel very alone. Learning how to deal with depression can be the difference between you being able to overcome it or simply giving in to the symptoms of it day after day. In this article, we'll cover common signs and symptoms that can help you determine if you have depression, how to deal with grief in your everyday life, and how to find professional treatment for depression.
Is depression treatable?
Depression can impact every part of your life if left untreated. But that's good news. Depression is a highly treatable mental health challenge. Just because you're struggling right now doesn't mean that you need to continue to fight. Here are some of the tips that we're going to discuss in more detail in this article:
- The importance of staying connected
- Take time to do things for yourself
- Focus on your physical health
- Get outdoors
- Treatment options
Depression can make everyday life difficult, especially for those with major depressive disorder, which is 16.1 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But, treatment, including internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy, is effective at helping people overcome it.
How to know if you have depression - signs and symptoms
Unlike other mental health disorders that can be easier to detect, people with depression may find they have a tendency to "shrug off" their depressive feelings, trying to convince themselves it's just a few off days or that feeling down or sad is a normal part of life. And it is, but for how long? How do you tell the difference between sadness and depression?
If you've wondered if you could have depression or if the feelings you've been experiencing are reasonable, there are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of that can help you decide if you should seek professional treatment. These symptoms generally occur for most of your day without letting up and can continue on for days or even weeks and months at a time.
- Feeling sad, lost, empty, hopeless, or just generally unhappy
- Losing interest in or enjoyment from activities you previously enjoyed (socializing, sex, hobbies, etc.)
- Changes in sleeping habits ranging from insomnia to spending most of your time sleeping or in bed
- Exhaustion and a lack of energy that makes even simple everyday tasks seem difficult
- Appetite changes (commonly lack of appetite and weight loss but occasionally increased desire to eat and weight gain)
- Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
- Slowed thinking or difficulty paying attention
- Feeling worthless or not good enough (often in conjunction with overthinking past mistakes or failures)
- Feeling guilty about things that aren't your fault or are out of your control
- Difficulty making decisions or remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Physical issues, such as headaches or muscle pain
It's important to remember that not everyone with depression will have all these symptoms and that there may be other signs of depression that you've experienced not on this list. However, it is essential to understand that if you're wondering how to cope with depression or if you have depression, that there are resources available to you to help you begin to learn how to deal with it.
How to diagnose depression
While reading over the symptoms of depression may help you better understand the disorder and give you some sense of the way you're feeling, a professional diagnosis is typically necessary for successfully overcoming depression.
However, if you're still unsure of how severe your symptoms are or want other resources to help you know if you're depressed, there are online depression assessments available. These assessments will ask questions to gauge your current emotional state and give you an idea of how it compares to symptoms of depression.
But a formal diagnosis must come from a professional-typically your doctor or a mental health provider-and will generally consist of the following diagnostic steps:
- Physical exam: this helps rule out depression-like symptoms as a result of a separate health problem. This often includes lab tests that can further rule out depression symptoms from issues with hormones, your thyroid, etc.
- Psychological evaluation: a discussion of your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns (including when they started and any notable events that may have happened to you during that time)
- DSM-5: Criteria for depression listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that your mental health counselor can use to compare your symptoms to and make a final diagnosis
While it can be difficult to admit to yourself or others that you have depression, understanding the symptoms and finding a professional to talk to will go a long way in helping you learn how to overcome it.
How to deal with depression alone - self-help tips when you're waiting to get treatment
Seeking professional treatment for depression-while your best bet for a full recovery-isn't an easy task. It can be challenging to open up about your symptoms, or you simply might not have ready access to professional treatment. However, that doesn't mean you need to continue living with your depression as you are now. There are things you can do to help yourself cope with your depression until you are ready and able to get professional help.
Typically having depression causes you to want to withdraw from the people around you. However, isolating yourself can actually worsen your symptoms. Making an effort to stay connected to even just a few people can give you the support you need to feel some temporary relief from your symptoms. Not to mention talking to people can help you focus less on your own feelings and more on what's going on outside of your depression.
Do things for yourself
You won't be able to force yourself to feel happy; however, you can at least make attempts at keeping up with things you previously found enjoyable or relaxing. Get out and exercise, sit down with a book and a cup of tea, or try out some meditation. You may not enjoy everything that you once did, but taking the time to focus on something just for yourself can help you find one or two activities that can help you handle depression.
Remember your physical health
While matters of physical fitness may not feel important, keeping up with things like a nutritious diet or getting enough sleep at night can help you on your journey to figure out how to beat depression. Issues with physical health can add further stress and anxiety that worsen depression. So, take the time to make sure you incorporate some form of exercise into your day (whether it is something as simple as a few yoga poses or more physical like a run). And, focus on consuming foods low in sugar and refined carbs and high in nutrients (particularly B vitamins, which have shown in studies to trigger depression when you don't have enough of them).
Get some sun
Studies have shown that sunlight can improve overall mood, so making sure to get outside for a few minutes every day can reduce feelings of depression.
Challenge negative emotions
It's important to actively think of your depression and depressive thoughts (e.g., you're not good enough, nothing good is happening in your life, etc.) as separate from you. These thoughts and symptoms are not an accurate view of who you are and how your life is going. So, while challenging, it's essential to try to challenge negative thoughts stemming from your depression and find positive thoughts to focus on instead.
Expose yourself to funny and lighthearted entertainment
It may seem too simple, but even watching a funny movie or reading a book more suited to a lazy Sunday than a classroom discussion can help you combat depression by making you smile and laugh, pulling you out of grief for a short while.
If you're suffering from depression and are still in the process of getting professional help, trying these different self-help techniques can lessen your symptoms and help you recover a sense of normalcy in your life. However, it is best to note that these are meant to be temporary and supplementary tips for a professional treatment plan.
How to get help for depression - seeking professional treatment
When it comes to seeking treatment for depression, you've got a few different options. If you've never worked with a therapist or other mental help professional, you can find one that's right for you and your symptoms through a few avenues.
First, you can generally look through a directory of mental healthcare providers that are part of your health insurance network on the company's website. This can ensure that you're going to get treatment from someone who is covered by your insurance. Second, you can do an online search through a directory listing all mental health professionals in your area. Typically, these will contain more detailed information on each professional than your insurance company and allow you to select a therapist or counselor who is best for your situation. And, finally, you can talk to your doctor to see if there is anyone they can recommend to you. This way you'll have a firm referral from another medical professional you trust.
Once you've got a list of potential treatment providers, give them a call to see if they'll be a good match for you. And if not, try asking someone you trust and who knows you well to make the calls for you. This way, you can be reasonably sure that you've found someone you'll be comfortable receiving help from.
After deciding to receive professional treatment for depression, you'll see that there are two general types of depression treatment-talk therapy or medication. Both of these have multiple different types that are used based on what your treatment provider believes will work best for you.
Prescription drugs that improve the way the brain uses certain chemicals that control your mood and making sure they're correctly balanced. They come in a few common types (but some antidepressants exist outside of these types. Your healthcare provider can give you a full list of options.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) - the most commonly prescribed antidepressants that increase the level of serotonin (a chemical messenger in the brain) and block its resorption or reuptake, ensuring enough is available. They are ideal for moderate to severe depression and typically have few side effects.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) - a newer antidepressant, SNRIs affect both serotonin and norepinephrine uptake, which together help regulate mood and transmit information through the brain. These have fewer side effects than SNRIs.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) - some of the earliest antidepressants used for treatment but have mostly been replaced due to their high number of side effects. They work similarly to SSRIs and SNRIs by helping regulate brain chemistry.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) - these are typically antidepressants that are recommended when others have had provided little improvement in mood or symptoms or caused issues from too many side effects. They work to rebalance brain chemical thought that causes depression.
This is the act of discussing symptoms, feelings, and related experiences with a mental health professional to treat depression or other mental health issues. Talk therapy covers many different therapy techniques.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy - this type of therapy is designed to help you learn how to alter negative thinking and to begin viewing your life and environment in a more positive light. It can help you identify what's contributing to your depression and what triggers make it worse.
- Interpersonal therapy - therapy designed to help you work through relationships or events that altered a relationship that may contribute to depression, including loss of a loved one, the end of a romantic relationship, or problems with your parental relationships.
- Problem-Solving Therapy - this type of depression treatment can help you become better able to cope with difficult, stressful, or tragic life events. This technique typically involves creating a step-by-step process for realistically dealing with a given situation. This is especially useful for older adults with depression.
Depression isn't something anyone should have to struggle with on their own.
BetterHelp provides a convenient option for those with depression
While therapy is highly effective at treating the symptoms of depression, it can be difficult for people that are struggling to get help. Sometimes the thought of getting out of bed is overwhelming. That makes the idea of getting ready and going to a therapist's office feel impossible.
BetterHelp has online therapists that are available 24/7. You can access professional help from a licensed therapist right from the comfort of your own home, and right from your bed if you need to. Read the reviews of BetterHelp therapists below to see the impact they are making on others with depression.
"I put off finding a therapist for a long time. I dreaded my first conversation with Neil and all the awkward, clunky explanations I'd have to give about my depression and anxiety. All of the things that felt like dirty little secrets that caused me so much pain. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the way Neil accurately picked up on what I was saying and gave me more insight into how my brain was working. It made my issue feel so much less of a personal problem and more of a universal problem we could examine together. He always gives me a thoughtful response within a day or two any time I send a message. I actually think we've made more progress in between sessions just by being able to communicate things that are coming up in real-time. Neil is intelligent and kind. I really appreciate his communication style and highly recommend him."
"Tamera is straightforward and supportive. She's not afraid of pointing out what to work on and give you the right tools immediately. It is highly personalized just for your unique symptoms and situation! Tamera helped me manage my depression and anxiety, and I became more empowered to have more control in my life. I feel a lot happier."
If you think you are struggling with depression and want to know how to treat it, connecting with a mental healthcare provider gives you the best chance for successfully overcoming it and returning to a healthier and balanced life. Although it may seem almost impossible now, it is within reach -- with the right tools. Take the first step today.