Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Over 15.7 million American adults have suffered at least one depressive episode. And it is not just Americans. In fact, more than 322 million people worldwide have had or do have some form of depression. But what can we do about it?
What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?
Depression is a mental illness that makes you feel sad for an extended period of time. Although several types of depression, such as major depression, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, many of the symptoms are the same or similar. The most common signs and symptoms of depression include:
Feeling helpless or hopeless.
Losing interest in favorite activities
Lack of concentration and memory
Difficulty making decisions
Chronic fatigue no matter how much you sleep
Eating more or less than usual.
Gaining or losing weight
Moving or speaking slower than usual
Aches and pains for no apparent reason
Thoughts of death and/or suicide
There Is No Cure For Depression
Even though there is no cure for depression, there are medications and therapy that can help. But since depression is different in every person, finding the right treatment can be difficult, often taking the time. Unfortunately, there is rarely anything that can relieve depression right away—no magic pill or therapy.
How To Manage Depression
Talking To Someone Is The First Step
Many medications can take one to two weeks to start working. However, there are certain things you can do while you are in treatment that can help alleviate your symptoms of depression. Talking about it is one of the things that can help.
Whether you talk to a therapist, your doctor, or a loved one, just letting out some of those feelings can be immediate relief. It will not cure you, but it can get you on the road to recovery. You may be wondering how talking can help. Once you start talking to someone about your illness, it takes a big load off your shoulders, for one thing.
They always say that talking about things makes you feel better, and admitting you have a problem is the first to get help. These are true statements. Once you tell someone how you feel and let them know that you need help, you immediately feel relief because you are not holding it in anymore. It is like a secret you have been hiding, and once you let it out, you feel better.
Talk Therapy And Group Therapy
We already discussed how talking can help your depression, but another part of that equation can be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy. CBT is a way for you to analyze your own thoughts and feelings to see how they affect your behavior. With the help of a therapist, CBT lets you recognize how your past shaped you and how you can change your present and future.
Group therapy is also beneficial in helping you learn how to make yourself feel better. Talking to others who have the same or similar issues gives you the feeling of camaraderie and friendship that those with depression need. Others who have been through it can also help by sharing what helps them feel down.
Another way to start feeling better right away is to do something. Some of the most common depression symptoms are losing interest in things, isolating yourself, and chronic fatigue. So, it can be difficult to get up and do anything. But if you force yourself to get up and do something, anything, you will be surprised at how much better you feel.
One of the reasons this works is because just getting up and moving gets your endorphins flowing. Your endorphins are those hormones that make you feel good. This is one reason why they say exercise is good for depression and other mental health disorders. Endorphins are similar to morphine in that they give you a euphoric feeling that spreads throughout your body.
In fact, this is so effective that many doctors and psychologists are “prescribing” an exercise regimen for those with depression. This is especially helpful for those who are just starting treatment because of the instant gratification you get from exercise and endorphins.
Since most antidepressants take about two weeks to start working, the feelings you get from just taking a walk or getting out in the garden can be good motivation. This is also extremely beneficial for those with medication-resistant depression. While trying to find the right treatment for your depression, exercise can keep you motivated.
Another benefit of exercise is the physical side of the equation. By moving around and getting physically fit, you can increase your self-esteem. Because one of the symptoms of depression can be weight gain, working out and getting in better shape can help combat that problem. Some antidepressants can also cause weight gain, which exercise can help alleviate.
Eating Right Is Also Important
Everyone knows that eating healthy is good for you physically, but many do not know that it is also good for your mental health. The better you treat your body, the better your body will treat you. But that does not mean you need to go on a diet or anything. Just eat good food full of protein and low in carbs and fat. Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and candy. However, eating dark chocolate is a good thing since it helps increase endorphins.
Try Other Things Too
Some of the other quick pick-me-ups that can help depression include taking a hot bath, reading a good book, or listening to music. Also, aromatherapy and essential oils have been shown to decrease depression and anxiety. Better yet, turn on the music, light some scented candles, and read a book while taking a hot bath with essential oils in it to benefit from all of these at the same time.
Get Some Sleep
Sleeping right is also important. One of the symptoms of depression is fatigue, but it seems like no matter how much you sleep, you are still tired. Put yourself on a schedule or routine. It may sound boring or mundane but try to have a daily routine and stick to it. Get up at a set time no matter whether you have to or not and go to bed at a set time. Pretty soon, your body will get on that schedule, and you will feel better.
Set A Schedule For Yourself
Along those same lines, try making a daily routine for other parts of the day as well. For example, get up at a set time, take a shower, eat breakfast, do some daily chores like walking the dog or taking out the trash, and follow that same routine every day. It may be difficult at first, but once you get used to doing the same thing every day, you may be surprised at how more accomplished and satisfied you will feel.
Vitamin Supplements And Herbal Remedies
Certain vitamin supplements and herbal remedies have also been found to help some people with depression. It may take a few days, but taking a supplement could be what your body needs to feel better if you are low in certain vitamins. You may not even need antidepressants or therapy if your depression is caused by a vitamin deficiency. However, you should see your physician first before trying anything new. Some of the herbal remedies include:
- John’s Wort is a wild plant with edible flowers that help increase noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. These are some of the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. Talk to your doctor first because this supplement can affect other medications you may be taking.
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep. If your body is not producing enough melatonin at the right times, you can have trouble sleeping or want to sleep during the wrong times of the day.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil, nuts, seeds, and certain fortified foods) can help you in many ways, from reducing cholesterol to lowering blood pressure. Although it is still being studied, research shows that omega 3s can interact with your brain’s chemicals to decrease depression.
- SAMe, or S-adenosyl-L-methionine, is a natural compound made by your body. It has been approved by the FDA since the 1990s for treating depression and anxiety. It works by increasing dopamine, melatonin, and serotonin.
- 5-HTP, or tryptophan, has always been known to make you sleepy. That is why people always say they get tired after eating turkey at Thanksgiving. This helpful protein is also found in pumpkin, potatoes, greens, sunflower seeds, milk, and chicken.
Some alternative treatments for depression are not usually used unless you have tried other things like medication and psychotherapy. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is one of the newest treatments that work without drugs or therapy. It does not hurt and is completely safe. It uses magnets to send magnetic energy to certain areas of your brain.
Another choice, albeit controversial, electrotherapy can make a big difference in those with severe chronic depression. But this is usually a last resort. First, try talking to someone about your depression. Try taking an online depression test to figure out what type of treatment may be best for you.