Treat Depression: Don't Let the Blues Hang Around
Everyone feels down in the dumps from time to time. But you may have clinical depression if a feeling of sadness or loss of interest in life and friends lingers for two weeks or more.
"Depression is similar to other biological diseases in that in many cases the condition is chronic," says Madhukar H. Trivedi, M.D., a Dallas psychiatrist. "But thanks to years of research, there are multiple medications and several psychosocial therapies that can ease the pain of depression."
A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about events and the world in general.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years, and can lead to substance abuse and suicide. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer with the condition. And it often results in full remission of the symptoms.
Depending on a person's diagnosis and severity of symptoms, a doctor may prescribe medication and/or provide one of several forms of psychotherapy that have proved effective; or he/she may refer you to a psychotherapist. And some people with the mildest forms of depression may get better simply by sticking with a regular exercise program.
"Being an active participant in your treatment by learning about depression and being in touch with your doctor and psychotherapist continually regarding changes in your symptoms—both physical and mental—can both speed and maintain your recovery," says Dr. Trivedi.
The following treatments and self-help strategies can help you enjoy life again, free from depression.
Take your medication
A variety of antidepressants is available to treat depressive disorders. These medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Whichever medication is prescribed, you should continue to take it even after you feel better. It's important to continue your medication for at least six to nine months to prevent a recurrence of the depression.
"Never stop taking an antidepressant without consulting your doctor for instructions on how to safely discontinue the medication," says Dr. Trivedi. "People who stop taking these medications abruptly can become more severely depressed or suicidal."
Talk it out
Many forms of psychotherapy can help people who are depressed. The right therapy for you will depend on your symptoms. Your therapy may include one or more of the following:
"Talk" therapy. This helps people understand and resolve their problems through discussions with the therapist.
Behavioral therapy. This helps people learn how to get more satisfaction and rewards through their actions. It also helps a person unlearn any behaviors that contribute to or result from the depression.
Interpersonal therapy. This focuses on improving the person's troubled personal relationships that cause or increase depression.
Cognitive/behavioral therapy. This helps people change the negative styles of thinking and behaving that are often associated with depression.
Psychodynamic therapy. This focuses on resolving conflicted feelings and relationships that lead to depression.
The following self-help ideas also can help you recover:
Take an active role in getting better. Work with a qualified therapist or doctor. Once you are in treatment, don't hesitate to ask questions in order to understand your illness and the way treatment works.
Don't give in to negative thinking. Depression can make you feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless, making you want to give up. Remember, these negative emotions are part of the depression and will fade as treatment takes effect.
Exercise regularly. Walking, bicycling, jogging, dancing, and doing other aerobic exercises can improve your mood.
Be good to yourself while you're getting well. For example, spend time with positive people and get active, perhaps by exercising and taking up hobbies.
Set realistic goals for yourself. Assume a reasonable amount of responsibility for attaining them.
Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Don't be tempted to stop your medication or therapy before it has a chance to begin to work. That can take anywhere from four to eight weeks or more
Don't abuse substances. Alcohol and illegal drugs are closely linked to depression. Their use can contribute to or worsen your condition.
Confide in someone. Talking with a friend or family member about events and situations causing your depression can help you gain perspective.
Join a support group. Talking with other people who are suffering with depression can be very useful. Many hospitals and community mental health centers sponsor self-help support groups, or you can ask your doctor to recommend one.