How To Cope After A Depression Diagnosis

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated February 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression by a qualified healthcare provider, you may be unsure of what to do next. You may also be experiencing difficult or confusing emotions about your diagnosis, from worry to sadness. Let’s take a look at what it means to be diagnosed with depression as well as healthy ways to move forward.

A depression diagnosis doesn’t have to be intimidating

What is depression?

As your healthcare provider likely covered with you, depression—or major depressive disorder (MDD)—is a mental illness that’s classified as a mood disorder. It’s one of the most common mental health disorders, estimated to affect around 8.4% of adults. However, it can still be serious—especially if left untreated. In order to be diagnosed with depression, an individual must typically experience at least several of the following symptoms persistently for two weeks or more:

  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant changes in sleeping habits
  • Significant changes in eating habits
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low energy
  • A loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • A sense of guilt or worthlessness
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts or behaviors of self-harm or suicide

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 by dialing 988.

Depression can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning as well as their relationships, work or school life, and overall well-being. This condition is treatable, however, typically with psychotherapy and sometimes with medication as well.


Tips for handling a depression diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression and aren’t sure where to go from here, these tips might help.

Understand your treatment plan

One of the most important priorities after you’ve received a depression diagnosis is usually to ensure that you have a treatment plan in place and that you understand its components. The healthcare provider who diagnosed you likely discussed what they recommend for your particular symptoms and situation. If you’ve been prescribed medication, it’s typically important that you take it as directed and don’t start, stop, or change your regimen without consulting with your provider first. They’ve also likely suggested you attend some form of psychotherapy. If they do not provide this service, getting in touch with someone who does will likely be an important next step. We’ll talk more about this below.

Acknowledge your feelings without judgment

It’s not uncommon to feel a mix of emotions after being diagnosed with depression. You might feel relief to have a clear cause for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and comfort in the fact that you’ll be able to get the treatment you may need. Or, you might feel confused if you hadn’t recognized the symptoms yourself before you were diagnosed. Some people might even feel angry that they have a mental health condition or that they weren’t aware of it before. 

It’s also not uncommon to feel sad or embarrassed, even though there’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to receiving a mental health diagnosis. Although there’s still pervasive shame and stigma around mental health, the fact that you’re seeking help and resources to improve your well-being should be praised and admired, not judged. Note that one study reports that “a judgemental attitude towards one's thoughts and feelings is the strongest predictor of both depression and anxiety”.

Allowing yourself to feel however you feel about your diagnosis and handling your emotions with compassion, gentleness, and care is usually the healthiest approach.

Establish a support network

Who you do or don’t choose to discuss your diagnosis with is up to you. That said, having a strong social support network in place can be helpful as you navigate your symptoms and treatment. Many people with depression tend to self-isolate because they have low energy for socializing, they don’t want to burden anyone with their symptoms, or they fear judgment. However, research suggests that social interaction and support may actually help prevent depression and mitigate symptoms in those who are experiencing them. 

A 2020 study reports that those experiencing self-isolation had “significantly higher rates of depression and loneliness” compared to those who were not. It also discusses that “the risk for elevated levels of depression symptoms” was 63% lower in those who reported higher levels of social support than those with low perceived social support. Even having a small circle of family members and/or friends you can lean on may make a significant difference in the course of the condition.

A depression diagnosis doesn’t have to be intimidating

Care for your body

Many studies have been done on the connection between mental and physical health, including how caring for your body can impact symptoms of a mental illness like depression. Some areas of physical health that it may be beneficial to focus on if you’ve been diagnosed with depression include the following.

  • Engage in regular physical exercise. One study reports that even engaging in low-intensity exercise regularly can have a “beneficial effect” on symptoms of depression.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. A 2017 study that enrolled people with moderate to severe depression in nutrition counseling found that their resulting diets improved depression symptoms in the participants, 32% of whom achieved total remission this way.
  • Cultivate a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is a state of nonjudgmental awareness of one’s current state and surroundings. Various studies have linked this practice with positive mental health outcomes. One in particular reports that mindfulness is “related to lower levels of depression and anxiety both directly and indirectly.

How therapy can help

Psychotherapy is usually one of the recommended components of treatment for depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is a common modality because research has shown that it can be an effective treatment for this type of mental health condition. A cognitive behavioral therapist will focus on helping an individual learn to recognize and shift flawed or unhelpful thought patterns in order to produce less distressing feelings and behaviors. If you’ve recently received a diagnosis of depression, a therapist can also help you cope with the emotions you may be experiencing about it.

Some people with depression experience low energy and motivation, which can make traveling to and from in-person therapy appointments difficult. In cases like these, virtual therapy is another care option to consider. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can speak with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Research suggests that online therapy may actually be a more effective treatment for depression than in-person sessions, so it may be an option worth considering for those who are interested.


You may experience several different emotions when you learn that you’ve been diagnosed with depression. Acknowledging your feelings about it can be a key part of moving forward, as can understanding your treatment plan and practicing self-care.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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