When it comes to depression I pretty much wrote the book on it. I was first diagnosed with depression when I was five and in that time I’ve gone through a range of flavours from low level unhappiness with the world to full blown suicidal self-destructive mayhem and everything in between.
According to depression.com the first step to dealing with depression is understanding and I would definitely agree with that. It is much easier to cope with when you recognise your symptoms for what they are.
- constant feelings of sadness, irritability, or tension
- decreased interest or pleasure in usual activities or hobbies
- loss of energy, feeling tired despite lack of activity
- a change in appetite, with significant weight loss or weight gain
- a change in sleeping patterns, such as difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
- restlessness or feeling slowed down
- decreased ability to make decisions or concentrate
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- thoughts of suicide or death
If several of these symptoms are experienced over a period of 2 weeks or more then depression is usually diagnosed.
Another related mood disorder is Dysthymia. The primary symptom of dysthymia is a feeling of mild depression over a period of two years or more.
There are many available treatments for depression ranging from various forms of therapy to medication.
From my experience, therapy can work without medication but medication rarely works long term without therapy. Antidepressants are sort of like painkillers. They mask the symptoms but they won’t fix the underlying cause and unfortunately they stop working over time. Your best bet, particularly if you suffer severe depression is therapy.
That said, whilst I have had therapy on and off over my life, it’s not really the answer for me. At a certain stage you come to terms with the fact that you’re going to have down periods and you learn to cope with them.
So here are my solutions.
- Exercise – the endorphins do wonders and going for a good long cardio session really helps you clear your head.
- Learn to recognise depressive thought patterns and climb out of the hole before you’re in too deep. If you find yourself being pessimistic about life try to shake it off. Do something you really enjoy and remove yourself from whatever is stressing you out. This is one major skill that therapy can teach you.
- Keep a journal if you are so inclined. Personally I’m not. I’m just not a fan of journals but if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life then try to express your emotions through creativity. Write poetry, paint, anything. It can really help if you create and see a physical manifestation of your emotions.
- Play loud music… Well it helps me anyways…
- Talk to someone you trust about it. Talking about your fears and anxieties helps to put them into perspective. That’s basically what therapy is about and whilst therapists are highly skilled in pointing you in the right direction it doesn’t take a therapist to listen.
- Indulge yourself in a little escapism. Trashy novels and video games have their place.
- Do something childish. Even better, if you have young relatives hang out with them. It’s almost impossible to stay miserable when you’re chasing them around with a bucket on your head.
Obviously there are plenty of other things that can help but this is what helps me.
Finally a disclaimer: I’m not a shrink I’m just a garden variety sufferer of depression with some helpful handy hints. If you think you have depression please see your doctor blah blah blah etc etc