If you’ve been struggling to smile, enjoy your usual activities, feel energized, concentrate, and combat negative thoughts recently and notice the issue is getting worse, you may be suffering from depression. Some other symptoms include changes in appetite or weight and difficulty socializing.
It’s helpful to know that if you’re depressed, you’re not alone. Depression is one of America’s most common mental disorders, and millions of people struggle with it every year. The effects of a global pandemic, civil unrest, financial uncertainty, and other stressors only compound the rates of depression in 2021, too.
This “black dog” is a tough health issue to deal with, but there are multiple strategies you can test out to feel better. Different things work for different people, and there’s no one correct way of treating this mental health disorder. Everyone’s symptoms, chemical imbalances, brain structures, lifestyles, trauma, etc., are different. As such, it pays to test out strategies to see what works best for you.
For many people, the first and best step for treating depression is medication. Antidepressants come in numerous types, strengths, and brands, so you’ll need to discuss options with your prescribing physician. You may find you need to trial a few different options to find the medication that helps you the most and causes the fewest side effects.
SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most commonly used option for depression. Some well-known brands in this area include Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, and Paxil, but there are many more. Plus, there are five other key antidepressant categories: serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), atypical antidepressants (those which not falling into any other category), and tricyclic antidepressants.
Your doctor may also prescribe you another type of medication instead of or on top of antidepressants. For instance, some people use antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, stimulants, or anti-anxiety meds for depression.
Another standard treatment option that you might use in conjunction with medication or instead of it is therapy. Speaking with a professional about your struggles and feelings can help you deal with the down times. In particular, talk therapy is often seen as enough for those with low or moderate levels of depression.
While it’s standard to work individually with trained therapists, you can also participate in group therapy sessions. Some people find that a mix of both suits them well. Plus, these days, it’s simple to speak with specialists via videoconference or phone calls, so you don’t have to be in person for all or any of your appointments.
Also, you’ll need to choose what type(s) of therapist to consult with. There are psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and other mental health practitioners, and they can all utilize different therapy types. Many depression sufferers have great results from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which helps patients identify how they think and act and how these patterns and triggers affect their feelings.
Practitioners assist people in determining the behavior that makes them feel worse and exacerbates and contributes to their depression, then come up with strategies to avoid these approaches and trial more positive, problem-solving options instead. To treat depression, therapists may also use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and behavior therapy, among other solutions.
Make Changes to Your Diet and Lifestyle
There are numerous changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to address your depression, too. It pays to make small changes in multiple areas to boost your mood. For example, eating nutritious meals so you get plenty of the necessary vitamins and minerals into your diet is essential.
It’s worth getting blood tests and chatting with a medical professional about any vitamin and mineral deficiencies you need to address to feel better. For instance, if you’re low on vitamin D, this may be making it harder for you to regulate your mood. You could take a quality organic vitamin D supplement to get your levels right.
You’ll also likely see benefits from staying active. Regular exercise can increase mood-lifting endorphins, boost energy, help you sleep better, feel better about yourself generally, and provide a social outlet when done with other people. All these factors can aid with depression.
Some other tips for managing your depression include using relaxation techniques like meditation, mindfulness, deep-breathing, and stretching, avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs, and making sure you get enough sleep. It’s also essential to have a support network of people in your life who you can not only lean on during tough times but have fun with, too.
Depression is a challenging condition that can be a long-term battle for many. However, you can be proactive and take the steps listed above (and others) to help yourself gradually manage and improve your mental health.