Depression is a common, treatable condition that affects an estimated 1 in 5 adults. While we all experience sadness or “feeling low,” depression is when those feelings persist for weeks or months and impact your day-to-day life.
Symptoms can include a combination of sadness you can’t “snap out of,” feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, physical aches and pains, and changes in sleep, appetite, and energy. However, with the right treatment, many people experience a full recovery. Here are some important things to remember when seeking help for your depression.
- educate yourself on your depression
- make a safety plan
- your research on therapists
- remember your health insurance
- consider combining medication with psychotherapy
- let yourself go through this alone
- forget to exercise
- give in to negative self-talk
- use drugs or alcohol
- forget holistic approaches
Depression affects every person differently. For some, their depression is closely tied to a stressful situation (e.g. major life change, declining health, financial difficulties). For others, it is related to a hormone or chemical imbalance and isn’t dependant on situations. As a result, coping strategies and treatment vary from person to person. This means that you are the expert on your depression, since you are the one who knows it best.
In some cases, depression can cause individuals to feel suicidal or homicidal. Please, get help immediately if this is the case. Work closely with your doctors, therapist, and trusted family and friends. Create a safety plan for yourself for when you’re feeling depressed and could be in danger of harming yourself or others.
Your plan should include calling 911 immediately or 1-800-SUICIDE —a national suicide prevention hotline— if you are having thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or someone else. Add other items to your safety plan that are specific to you, such as a list of reasons to live, a list of friends/family and professionals to call, and a plan for making your environment safe (e.g. removing items that could be used as weapons, going for a walk, etc.).
As you look for a therapist, familiarize yourself with their background, approaches to treatment, and areas of expertise. For example, if your depression is related to a new cancer diagnosis, seeking out a counselor who is trained to work with oncology patients may be very helpful for you. Alternately, if your depression is negatively impacting your marriage, you may find maximum benefit from a Marriage and Family Therapist or other therapist trained to work with couples.
Contact your insurance company to confirm what kind of coverage you have for both inpatient (hospital-based) and outpatient (community-based) mental health care. This can help you prepare for your out-of-pocket costs related to treatment. Remember that in-network providers will most likely be covered at a higher percentage than out-of-network providers or providers who don’t accept insurance at all. Also, don’t neglect your Employee Assistance Program through your job, as that could provide you with short-term therapy at little to no cost to you.
Some people are very willing to take medication, but aren’t on board with talking to a therapist. Others would rather talk to a therapist than take a pill. Neither option is necessarily bad, but in many cases, people have found the combination of both to be very effective in managing their depression symptoms. It’s worth the looking into it.
Depression can make you feel isolated, lonely, and hopeless. It is vital for you to identify a support system that can help you get through this difficult time. When identifying your support system, remember that each person will fulfill different needs. Include your doctor, therapist, partner, trusted friends, and spiritual mentors.
Regular exercise is not only good for your body, it can help boost mood, as well. Don’t worry if you aren’t a fan of the gym, though. Start with a leisurely walk around your neighborhood 2-3 days a week. From there, consider adding a dance class, yoga, running, or just about anything that gets your heart rate up and makes you happy!
People suffering from depression and anxiety are prone to negative self talk (that inner voice that tells you that you’re “worthless,” “stupid,” or “hopeless.”) Remember that it is possible to change your self talk. When you notice it happening, shift your attention away from the criticism and towards creating a goal. For example, if you’re feeling worthless because of a poor performance evaluation at work, spend your energy on creating a goal to boost your future performance.
The only drug you should take is any prescription medication your doctor prescribes you for your depression, and do not take more or less than the prescribed dose. Other drugs (both illegal and prescription) and alcohol can mask, mirror, or increase your depression symptoms. Although it may feel like they boost your mood in the short term, using drugs and alcohol while depressed can put you at higher risk for addiction, dependence, and unsafe behaviors. If you suspect you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, talk to your doctor to create a plan to safely stop using them. Depending on your level of use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that require medical attention.
Holistic approaches to depression range from nutrition support to exercise and meditation. Connect with your therapist, doctor, or local community mental health clinic to find resources on these areas. As you try them, remember that it may take you a few tries to find the approach that works best for you.
Although depression can be very overwhelming, finding the right help from both professional and personal supports is important to your recovery. Remember to never give up hope or listen to that negative self-talk. Depression happens to the best of us, and it’s something that can be treated as long as we get the help we need. Talk to your doctor and find a therapist with whom you feel you can open up and be honest, and you have any thoughts that will hurt you or someone else, call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE — a national suicide prevention hotline.