Struggling with Depression? 4 Ways to Get Help
June 24, 2018
Depression can be one of the most painful experiences we can have as human beings. I have sat across from clients who couldn’t muster up the energy to get out of bed in the morning, thought they were worthless, and considered ending their lives. I haven’t personally experienced clinical depression, but I have definitely gone through times in my life where I have been down in the dumps, having serious doubts that life was going to get better. It’s not a fun place to be.
What is Depression?
What is depression, and how can we work through depression to get to a better place? Depression involves cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components. People who struggle with depression often have negative thoughts about themselves, other people, and the world. They might believe they are worthless, feel guilty, and have difficulty concentrating. All of us have some negative thoughts from time to time, but for depressed individuals, these thoughts dominate their experience. The thoughts may or may not be accurate, but they are very real to the person who experiences them.
Depression also impacts one’s emotions and feelings. Depressed individuals often feel sad, empty, or hopeless. They might cry throughout the day. They often have low interest in everyday activities, and struggle to feel happiness or pleasure. Again, all of us get sad from time to time—this is part of the normal ups and downs of what it means to be human. But people who are depressed tend to feel sad or down most of the day, nearly every day.
Finally, depression impacts one’s activities and behaviors. People who are depressed might experience significant weight loss or changes in appetite. They might struggle with insomnia (difficulty getting to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much). They might experience fatigue or loss of energy, and not want to engage in their normal, day-to-day activities. Finally, they might have thoughts of death or suicide, and may even try to end their life.
4 Tips to Navigate Depression
If you are feeling depressed, what can you do? How can you get help so you can get back on track to live the life you really want? Here are 4 suggestions for how to navigate depression:
- Get help. Depression can be serious, and it’s important to get the help you need. Especially if you are thinking about ending your life, get help right away. No matter how bad it seems right now, there is hope that things can get better over time. If it is an emergency, call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255. It’s important to get connected with a good mental health professional who can work with you to develop a plan of action. Don’t tackle depression alone.
- Consider cognitive-behavioral therapy. Probably the most well-researched treatment for depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. In order to cause a change in your mood, CBT targets problematic thoughts (e.g., “I am worthless) and behaviors (e.g., staying in bed all day). The idea is that if we can create some changes in the problematic thoughts and behaviors, changes in the depressed mood will follow.
- Use principles from behavioral activation. Behavioral activation tries to increase your daily engagement in activities that are reinforcing. A simple form of behavioral activation is to make a list of activities you find pleasurable. For example, if I were doing this exercise, I might write down (1) going to CrossFit, (2) reading a book, (3) going out to dinner with my wife, and (4) going to the movies. Then I would pick one thing per day from my list and do it.
- Consider medication. Medication for depression has come a long way. Medication is quite effective for treating depression, and you can usually work with your doctor or psychiatrist to find a medication that is effective and has manageable side effects. Medication can be especially helpful for people who are feeling so down that it is difficult to implement the behavioral activation principles discussed earlier. Sometimes you need a jumpstart, and then you can try some of the other things on the list. Some people might be hesitant to try medication, but I think it’s a good option, especially if you are really struggling.
Take Home Message: Depression can feel like it is totally dominating your life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many people have struggled with depression, received help, and gone on to live happy, productive lives. If you are struggling with depression right now, don’t stay stuck in your despair. Pick up the phone and get some help. Get on the road to recovery today.
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