We all experiences emotional highs and lows in life. Sometimes we have periods of longer lows or lows that seem more difficult, but if your life has felt like a continual low period for more than two months, it might be time to consider whether clinical depression is the culprit.
Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by persistent sadness. When most people talk about depression they are referring to clinical depression or major depressive order. There are other depressive disorders, like persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression and bipolar disorders.
The main feature of major depressive disorder is extreme sadness but is accompanied by many other symptoms. If you’re unsure whether you are experiencing clinical depression or something different, look for the following symptoms.
- feeling empty or hopeless
- decreased interest in activities you formerly found enjoyable
- social withdrawal or isolation
- frustration over things that would normally feel small or insignificant
- irritability that feels out of control
- trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- sleeping too much
- poor diet or not eating enough
- low energy
- poor concentration
- inability to make decisions
- increase in risk-taking behaviors
- anxiety or restlessness
- fixating on past behaviors
- feeling shameful or guilty
- reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide
- somatic complaints (like headaches, stomachaches, etc)
If you’ve noticed that your interest in life has waned and you’ve pulled back from friends and family, it’s time to consult a professional to start treatment and learn how to cope with depression.
Self-help for depression
Trying to manage depression on your own might feel impossible. If you’ve tried to address the sadness you’re feeling and seemed to make no progress, it’s likely that the clinical depression you’re facing is too severe to heal on your own.
While some people face depression that requires clinical intervention, others who may feel down from time to time or have made some progress in recovery may benefit from self-help for depression. Try out the following tips on your own.
- Take stock of your symptoms: consider using the symptoms listed above to determine the extent of the depressive mood you’ve been experiencing. Decide which symptoms you can work to heal on your own and which ones might need a higher caliber of care from a doctor or therapist.
- Analyze your triggers: it’s likely that feelings of depression escalated at certain times during the day, week or year. Consider the factors that contribute to the ups and downs of your mood and see what you can do to minimize negative triggers.
- Engage in self-care: one of the best tools for self-help for depression is to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Self-care is any activity or practice that is designed to boost your mood and prioritize your mental well-being. Aim for half an hour a day on a consistent basis.
- Plan for social time: one of the hallmarks of depression is withdrawing from family and friends, which makes one of the best antidotes to depression spending quality time with those you love. While it might feel hard to get out of a rut and make social plans, you’ll find you feel better when you have that important interaction.
There are plenty of additional self-help tools for depression that a professional can recommend to you if you find that your feelings of depression aren’t manageable on your own. You’ll find that personalized suggestions may be more effective, too.
Types of therapy for depression
If you’re thinking you’re ready to engage in professional care for major depressive disorder, you may be wondering what exactly treatment entails. Here’s a short guide to the types of therapy for depression and how they’ll help you learn how to cope with depression.
Format of therapy
There are two main formats or schedules for therapy. The first is inpatient, meaning residential, treatment. This treatment is for individuals who are dealing with depression that has escalated. If you’ve attempted suicide or are struggling to manage self-harm or substance use, inpatient is generally the most appropriate type of intervention.
The second major avenue for treatment is called outpatient (non-residential) therapy. Outpatient can occur for several hours a day, or for a few hours a week. Outpatient therapy is much more common to hear about and is the course that most people find effective for handling symptoms and finding inner healing.
Framework of therapy
In addition to different structures of therapy, there are also different frameworks and modalities that are used to treat major depressive disorder and similar conditions. Most treatment regiments will use the following.
Therapy is the term for any treatment designed to heal a disorder. Therapy comes in several forms (art therapy, play therapy or animal-assisted therapy) but is most well-known and widely used in psychotherapy (talk therapy).
Different clinicians used different evidence-based frameworks of treatment such as cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, person-centered therapy, systems theory and so forth. Brain stimulation therapies may also work for some individuals when other therapies have proven ineffective.
While therapy is generally the first line of defense when working to manage depression, medication can also be used in combination with treatment. Individuals are never advised to use solely medication without professional counseling.
Medications that are used in the treatment of depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants and others. Often a combination of medications will be used, especially if someone struggles with more than one mental health condition.
No treatment regimen is complete without necessary adaptations to a person’s lifestyle. While this often happens unconsciously, oftentimes our behaviors and lifestyle choices actually serve to exacerbate our symptoms and contribute to depression.
Lifestyle changes could include changes to diet, sleep habits, exercise or stress exposure. Your therapist can help you determine the most disruptive habits and find replacement behaviors. For example, you may find that you have trouble sleeping at night and a counselor would recommend a nightly meditation or a hard stop to screen time a few hours before bed.
The care you need for depression
If major depressive disorder or even mild feelings of depression have kept you from living the life you want to live, you deserve professional care. At The Light Program, you can be assured that you’ll be matched with a program that fits your needs, whether it’s high-intensity care or weekly counseling.
Call the Light Program today to find out more and start your healing journey.