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How to Cope With Depression
Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad mood. It’s a serious illness that interferes with day-to-day functioning and can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If it’s not treated, it can cause permanent damage to a person’s health and well-being.
Depression affects people of all ages, races and social classes. It can come on suddenly, for no apparent reason or it can be brought on by a particular event such as a relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or an illness. Depression can also run in families. People with a family history of depression are more likely to have it themselves. Depression is very common and is the most treatable mental illness.
Treatments include psychotherapy, lifestyle changes and medicine. Talk therapy — called psychotherapy or counseling — may help you learn ways to cope with depression and improve your relationships. It can also teach you healthy coping skills and help you change the distorted way you see yourself and your situation. Exercise and other physical activities can relieve some depression symptoms. Getting enough sleep is important, too. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night can make depression worse.
There are different types of psychotherapy, but cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are most effective for depression. They work on changing the distorted thinking that contributes to depression and improving relationships and stress management.
If you’re having a hard time with your emotions, try relaxation techniques, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga. Joining a support group can help, too. Many communities have depression support groups and therapists who specialize in treating depression. Employee assistance programs and religious organizations also can help you find depression-related resources.
Medicine can help by restoring the balance of certain chemicals in the brain. Antidepressants can take 4 to 6 weeks to have a full effect. If you decide to take medication, follow your doctor’s instructions. Don’t stop or change your dose without talking to your doctor first.
For severe depression, other treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) may be helpful. For rTMS, doctors use magnets to stimulate specific areas of the brain. They don’t know exactly how rTMS works, but it may help people with depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments.
It’s important to get help when you’re depressed, even though it can be difficult to ask for help. Depression is treatable, and most people with depression feel better with a combination of lifestyle changes, psychotherapy and medicine. It’s best to get treatment at the earliest signs of depression, before it gets worse. But remember, depression isn’t your fault and you can’t just “snap out of it.” You might need long-term maintenance treatment to prevent a recurrence. Getting the right kind of treatment at the earliest sign can help you feel better quickly and reduce your chances of having a serious depression episode or suicide.