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When we talk about depression, it’s important to note that we don’t talk about just feeling sad; it’s not a temporary situation. Depression is a long term illness that affects our emotions and our bodies. Like all invisible illnesses, it’s hard to make others understand that there is something wrong when they can’t see it for themselves. Nevertheless, it is a debilitating illness and one that sufferers struggle with daily. So how to cope with depression?
In this post, I will be discussing what depression is, how to know if you have it, how you can treat it, and how long that treatment is likely to take. I will also be offering suggestions on how to manage depression in your life.
What causes depression?
There are many causes of depression, some include:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – if you have suffered a trauma, such as childhood or domestic abuse, war or a natural disaster, you may develop PTSD. This disorder tends to cause flashbacks, (memories of the traumatic event), nightmares and insomnia, eating disorders and more. PTSD is strongly connected to depression as the sufferer deals with the daily struggle of PTSD.
- Losing someone or something you love. The natural grief process may extend beyond normal length and become depression. This would be particularly true of someone who has lost a child.
- A chemical imbalance in the brain – sometimes, there is just an imbalance in the hormones produced during normal activities that don’t elicit the same reactions as someone without depression. You may find yourself becoming angry at small events going wrong.
- Anxiety – anxiety sufferers often find depression goes hand in hand with what they are already dealing with.
- Chronic pain or illness – dealing with pain daily can lead to depression when you are feeling that there is no end in sight.
This list is by no means exhaustive, whatever the cause of your depression, it’s important to realise that it is a valid reason for you, even if it makes no sense to others. Only you experience life the way that you do.
How do I know if I have depression?
Depression has a wide range of both physical and emotional symptoms, most sufferers will experience some, but not all of the following:
- Feeling low or sad for long periods
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Low self-esteem
- Being tearful
- Feelings of guilt
- Being irritable or getting angry quickly at other people
- Having little to no motivation and losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Feelings of anxiety or worry
- Suicidal thoughts or self-harming
- Being slower in movement or speech
- Decreased appetite
- Increased appetite
- Changes to bowel movements
- Aches and pains
- Lack of sex drive
- Changes to your periods
- Sleep issues, including insomnia, waking too early or not being able to go to sleep
Other issues can occur with depression too. Many of us isolate ourselves, cutting off friends and family. We stop doing things that we love and often have difficulty concentrating at work and in life in general. Learning how to cope with depression is essential for recovery.
How to treat depression
There are many ways to treat depression, and the type and severity of your depression will often determine the best course of action for you. For those with mild symptoms, talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), or counselling may be the perfect solution. For those with more severe depression, thoughts of suicide or ongoing complex problems, a course of medication may also be required.
The only way to know for certain which course of action is going to be best for you is to see your GP. Talking through how you feel will help him or her to determine what you need to help you get well.
It’s important to note that finding the right course of action can also take time and a little trial and error. If the first thing you try doesn’t seem to help, go back to your GP and see what else you can try.
How long does it take to treat depression?
This is almost impossible to answer. Everyone reacts to depression and therapy in different ways. Sometimes, acknowledging that you have a mental health issue can be enough to set you on the path to recovery. For others, it takes years of therapy, medication and help to get there.
Whatever the case, there is no wrong or right answer. It will take as long you need it to take. So never feel bad if you get better quicker or slower than other people say it took them. You are an individual and only you know how you feel.
How to cope with depression in the long term
Along with any recommendations from your mental health team, there are some self-help techniques you can try to help you learn how to cope with depression.
Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful tools for helping you to appreciate life in the here and now. I use an app called Calm which helps me to practice breathing through my difficult times and just keeps me focussed on the moment.
Exercising, particularly walking in natural areas is a great therapeutic activity. Exercise raises our endorphins and helps to burn off anxious energy. Being in nature is a cleansing experience and can be helpful in feeling more relaxed.
Doing something creative, like dancing, crafting, or writing has been proven to be effective at helping those with anxiety and depression. It focussed your mind and helps you to feel calmer.
Reading is also a wonderful way to ‘escape’ temporarily and can help sleep problems.
Keeping a journal is an effective way to spot patterns that may help you to determine if you have triggers that start your low moods.
Having a daily planner can help you when you can’t concentrate. Making sure you have a list of activities to do to keep you moving will help you to feel less like you are wasting your day, and feel more like you have achieved something.
Spending time with friends and family – even over a video or phone call – is a great way to shake off low mood. You can vent about your feelings and you will feel more supported and less alone.
- Depression can happen to anyone, for any reason. It doesn’t discriminate
- See you GP if you think you could be suffering from depression. They will be able to help you work out the best course of action
- If the first thing you try doesn’t work, don’t give up, go back to your GP and keep trying until you find the right treatment for you
- Your feelings are valid, and the time it takes you to heal is only determined by yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others
- Trying some self-help methods can help your recovery, and aid your depression management in the long term
Have you learned how to cope with depression? Have you tried something that’s been helpful? Let us know in the comments
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