How To Diagnosis Depression: How To Cope After A Diagnosis

Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Stephanie Deaver, LCSW

After receiving a depression diagnosis, you may have more questions about what it means as it relates to your mental health. It may be hard to accept, but you are not alone. Whether you’re diagnosed with major depressive disorder or another form of depression, it is significant to acknowledge that you may need to seek professional support for your symptoms. Since depression affects people differently, it can be challenging to navigate without understanding treatment options and how to move forward with your life. Now is the time to get answers about what steps are necessary to manage your depression.


Acknowledge and Accept that You Needed Help

A diagnosis such as major depression may be difficult to hear even if you had suspected for some time. You may have a rush of emotions running through your mind as you wonder what will happen next. Some feel relieved to know that what they have been experiencing has a name. Some feel hopeful because they can learn options to help them feel better. Others may deny their diagnosis and find it hard to accept. You may feel shameful if you see it as a personal flaw. Some experience confusion if they think their issues don’t line up with the diagnosis. Others may question why they feel angry. Some think their life will not be the same or feel guilty and think it is their fault. You may feel powerless because you don’t know what to do.

Experiencing negative thoughts is normal, and it may seem overwhelming to take in such a diagnosis. Over time, you will learn more insight into treatment options and how to adapt your life to manage your symptoms. Dealing with a depressive disorder is challenging, and it is okay to take your time to figure things out. It may take time to understand how your life may change and how the diagnosis may define it. As you know more about your diagnosis, it helps to acknowledge what you have done so far to get to this point. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. Doing so can help you realize you deserve better for yourself.

It Is Not Your Fault

First off, don’t be hard on yourself. It is common to wonder why you have a depressive disorder. While much is learned over the years about depression, researchers are still exploring contributing factors behind its cause. You may wonder if you somehow caused your symptoms to appear.  However, depression has nothing to do with personal character flaws or weaknesses. Several different things may contribute to developing depression, including things out of your control.


Many diagnosed with major depression may have a family history. Someone in your family may have dealt with similar symptoms. Some studies claim women are more likely to be diagnosed than men. A life-changing event such as the birth of a baby, career change, or relationship conflicts may lead to being depressed. Other medical problems such as substance abuse or chronic pain may cause symptoms, especially if you have an unknown underlying health problem. Seasonal changes and how you view the world around you may be contributing factors for persistent depressive disorder.

Sometimes a cause is unknown. While it may help to understand what led to your symptoms, the important thing is that you recognized your mental health needs special attention.

Research More about Depression

While you may know the basics about the symptoms of depression, it is crucial to keep learning beyond the necessary information. You’ll want to review ways symptoms may interfere with daily living. Learn about ways to cope – such as treatments, support groups, and self-help options. Gain insight into what to expect during the treatment process. Spend time making sense of your diagnosis to understand realistic expectations for your journey to recovery. Collecting information helps you see you are an individual with a diagnosis, and the diagnosis does not define who you are.

Explore effective treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and understand how they work. As you learn more about living with a depressive disorder, there are significant details you’ll want to keep in mind to guide you during research. As you seek recent, credible information, consider aspects based on evidence. Such sources will have up to date data from researchers such as academic journals, mental health organizations, and other related resources. You’ll also want to learn more about other people’s experiences with depression through community support groups, organizations, etc. You may learn practical ideas for overcoming personal challenges.

Assessing Treatment Options

Even with a persistent depressive disorder, recovery is achievable with the right treatment plan. Upon learning your diagnosis, you may have questions about treatment options. Options may include a combination of medication and talk therapy. You may also make changes to daily living activities to reflect a healthier lifestyle. There are different ways to create a treatment plan, and there is no one size fits all approach. It is vital to work with your doctor or mental health specialist to get the most benefits from your treatment plan.

Some living with a depressive disorder may need changes or adjustments made to their treatments. It is a normal part of recovery because circumstances change, and you want your treatment plan to reflect changes to ensure you stay on track. It may take time to adjust to your plan, and some parts may pass faster than others. Establishing excellent communication with your mental health specialist is significant because he or she will help you reach milestones and set goals.


Your treatment plan is based on the symptoms you experience.  If you have major depression, your plan may focus on improving your mood. If you have bipolar depression, your plan may focus on establishing a balance between high and low moods. Your treatment plan may also be based on your insurance and personal preferences.

Handle Your Diagnosis with a Plan

Create an action plan to navigate your diagnosis. Start by making notes of what you want to accomplish. Make an effort to keep your appointments and take advantage of the time you have with your healthcare provider when you meet with them. If you’re diagnosed with major depression, it may include questions to discuss with your healthcare provider about your condition. Maybe your plan will focus on achieving specific goals to gain a better outlook about your diagnosis. People with persistent depressive disorder may have questions about their treatment, but your plan may include when to expect to follow up answers.

Your plan may detail other actions you will take to ensure your treatment achieves favorable results. Take notes on what tasks you’ll need to complete. Make a list of people to add to your list of supporters when you need someone to talk to. It may include friends, family members, and peers from support groups. Your plan may consist of therapy sessions and making time to find a compatible therapist. Other notable details to add in your plan may include when to reassess your goals and ways you’ll maintain looking after yourself.

Establish a Support Network

People with depression may isolate themselves from others. Having a support network is critical when dealing with a diagnosis. A depressed person may not want to be around others due to feeling shame or guilt. If you expect to overcome your condition, social interaction is a must. Support from people that care about you is essential. Some people close to you may have suspected you’re depressed beforehand. Let them know about your diagnosis. You may be surprised by their support and encouragement.

People with the persistent depressive disorder may find support as helpful motivation. Sometimes you may struggle to have a good day or to get tasks done. Having a support system helps you be accountable for your actions, but also, you’ll know where to turn when you need help from people you can depend on.

Relief and Recovery: Ways You Can Help Yourself

Your road to recovery with a depressive disorder may change as your needs change.   You will need to allow yourself time and compassion. Things may take time to develop because symptoms may be a hindrance. It is the perfect time to review your living habits and start implementing changes to encourage results. Plan on getting to bed early, making changes to your diet, create an exercise routine, and make social plans with friends. Think about activities you can do when you feel sad. Make an effort to be consistent with your actions. Some days you may feel low on energy, and that is okay. Continue taking prescribed meds and plan on attending upcoming appointments. You’ll still be moving forward even on days where your efforts are limited.


Soon you’ll notice symptoms fading and other areas of your life improving, such as your energy, mood, sleep, and appetite. Take advantage of getting involved with people and activities you enjoy the most. Any negative thoughts you experience are due to your depression. Stay focused on improving your lifestyle and wellbeing. Stay active and avoid alcohol. Keep stress to a minimum and learn stress management techniques.

Consider working with a therapist. Online therapy support options provide comprehensive insight on dealing with major depression and other mental health concerns. Adjusting to your diagnosis takes time and requires patience. Having realistic expectations about your recovery, along with persistent action and support, will help you get the results you want.

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