Managing Depression: Can I Do It On My Own?

Updated August 27, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC

When a lot is weighing on your mind, you might fall asleep feeling sad and wake up in the morning and still feel sad. It’s nothing to worry about if that happens once in a while. If it’s happening nearly every day over a long period, you might be dealing with something more than ordinary sadness. It could be that you have clinical depression. The word depression can be a scary thing if you’re not familiar with what it truly means. In general, society has a lot of misperceptions about depression and other mental health disorders. It’s common for people to attach a stigma to mental health issues.

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Having depression is nothing that you should worry excessively over, but it is essential to take it seriously and address it. The psychological community has assigned criteria to help diagnose depression. While it’s important to learn as much as you can about depression, you shouldn’t try to diagnose yourself. If your sadness seems like it’s getting out of control, it’s best to see a licensed clinician so you can get a clear diagnosis and decide on a treatment plan.

You may be able to manage depression symptoms on your own, depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Many people find that it’s best to begin treatment with a licensed therapist and then fight depression on their own once they’ve met their treatment goals.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

Several factors have to be considered for people with depression when trying to make a distinction between normal sadness and a diagnosis of clinical depression, which is why it’s important to get a clinical assessment from a licensed clinician. The criteria for a diagnosis for depression are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). The criteria state that someone must have five or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period, and at least one of them should either fall into the category of depressed mood or loss of interest.

  • Having a depressed mood the greater part of the day on most days.
  • Having less interest or pleasure in most activities most of the day.
  • Having significant weight gain or weight loss that can’t be explained.
  • Having sluggish thoughts or movements, as noticed by others.
  • Feeling fatigued and having less energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt almost every day.
  • Decreased ability to think and make decisions almost every day.
  • Having recurrent thoughts about death or have suicidal ideations or attempts.

A licensed clinician is qualified to assess whether these symptoms cause a person significant distress or impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning. The criteria also state that symptoms should not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

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Facing Your Fears About Getting Professional Help

Often times, people are afraid to get professional help even when they know that they have a problem that they can’t deal with successfully on their own. Fear of the unknown prevents a lot of people from seeking help. A couple of things can help someone to get over the fear of getting help for a mental health issue.

The first thing to consider in confronting your fears is that you aren’t alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five people have some type of mental illness. About 16 million adults in America live with major depression.

When you finally get to the point that you schedule an appointment with a therapist, don’t be surprised if your fear increases a bit more. For some people, the act of making the appointment means having to admit to themselves that they may have a mental illness, and they need professional help. It can be scary to think that you might be labeled with a mental illness when you don’t know much about the diagnosis or treatment options.

It helps to think about mental health in much the same way that you think about physical health. We all have mental health. Sometimes our mental heal is in good shape, and sometimes we need a little treatment to improve it. Clinical professionals are highly trained in their professions, just as medical doctors are. They’re the experts in their field, and they can help you fight depression and educate you about depression treatment.

The second thing to consider is that there are many options for depression treatment and stress management. Your chances of improving your symptoms of depression are good.

What Can I Expect If I Work With A Therapist?

Once you get past the fear of accepting treatment for your depression symptoms, you’ll probably find that you start to look forward to your therapy sessions. During the first few sessions, your therapist will help you try to relax. They’ll establish a professional working relationship with you, and you’ll both begin to build trust.

Your therapist will also take a medical and personal history. You’ll need to disclose if you’re taking any medications for any other medical conditions. If you know of other family members that have a formal or informal diagnosis of depression, your therapist should know this as well.

Therapists will also usually do some type of testing, but that’s cause for worry. Testing is usually non-invasive. Most often, you’ll be asked to fill out some questionnaires or rating scales about the types of symptoms you’re having and their intensity.

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Once your therapist has given you a diagnosis, he or she will discuss it with you and help you learn more about it. Once you have a firm diagnosis, your therapist will talk to you about the potential treatment options. They’ll help you to set goals. When you’ve met your treatment goals, you can end your therapy sessions. Your therapist will give you an idea of how long your sessions will run and give you some idea of how long your treatment program will last.

You will also want to have a conversation about whether your health insurance will cover your treatment or if you’ll pay out-of-pocket or by some other means.

Do I Need To Work With A Therapist Or Can I Do It On My Own?

You may be inclined to try to work through your depression on your own. You might even be successful. That said, there are many benefits to working with a qualified therapist. A therapist will let you know whether your symptoms meet the clinical criteria for mental illness. Also, they are the best people to help you understand how your brain is working and what you can do to help it work better. Also, they’ll be able to go over all the possible treatment options with you and help you to choose the ones that you’re willing to try.

Remember that your therapy sessions won’t be forever. You and your therapist will jointly decide when you’ve successfully reached your treatment goals. You’ll have a pretty good idea of whether you can take what you’ve learned and managed on your own. Your treatment plan may include some exercises for stress management. Don’t worry, if your symptoms reappear or worsen, you can always restart your sessions.

Alternative Treatments For Depression And Stress Management

The most common treatment for depression is therapy. For very serious cases of depression, a person may also get some relief by taking medication. Your therapist will help you to make a decision on whether you need medication. Many people find that their depression symptoms improve with regular therapy and by using stress management techniques in between appointments.

Experiencing feelings of depression can make you feel helpless. It doesn’t always take much to start turning around those negative thoughts. Sometimes all that it takes is adding in some physical activity, changing your lifestyle, or working on improving your way of thinking.

Some things to consider when trying to manage your depression and stress on your own are doing them regularly and tracking your moods so that you’ll know when you’ve made progress. A lot of the things that you can do to improve our mental health and well-being are things that you know that you should be doing and have put them on the back burner. When addressing your symptoms of depression, it’s important to make your overall health a priority.

Here is a list of basic things that you can do to get started:

  • Establish a daily routine and stick with it.
  • Set some goals for yourself every day, even if they’re small and attainable at first.
  • Build time into your schedule every day for some exercise.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.
  • Consider doing some volunteer work to give you a purpose and help you feel accomplished.
  • Do your best to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.

These tips aren’t a cure-all, but they work in tandem with therapy and with each other to help you improve your symptoms of depression. Many people find that online therapy works nicely for them because it’s convenient, and they’re more comfortable receiving services in their homes.

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Overall, you may be able to manage depression on your own, but you’re apt to have faster and better success when you work with a licensed therapist who is trained in treating depression.


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