What is the Best Way of Coping with Depression?
Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness Depend on Curing this Disease
This article is in answer to the question, "What is the best way of dealing with depression?" asked by JKenny on 1/17/2010
Clinical Depression is a Multi-Faceted and Potentially Life Threatening Disease
Clinical Depression is No Laughing Matter
Depression can be a life-threatening disease--hopefully you don't have that form or that bad of a case of depression.
Do NOT let others, your family and friends or even your family doctor or another doctor, try to downplay the seriousness of it. (Time to get a new doctor, too.)
And, if your family doctor needs to approve your use of a specialist, insist that she do so. No offense to family doctors, but they have a statistically proven very low percentage of success at curing or even improving depression. Psychiatrists are much better (but still have a long way to go) in their success rate. If your doctor won't refer you to a psychiatrist, call your health insurance company and ask them if a referral is necessary: if not, find a psychiatrist and make an appointment.
Have You Ever Had Depression?
Have you ever had clinical depression (including SAD or postpartum depression)? (Results are anonymous!)
It's Probably Not Going to Go Away On its Own
For a long time, psychiatrists, and most other doctors, and virtually all non-doctors believed that depression was normal and would go away on its own.
That's a nice fairy tale to believe, and it comes from the fact that depression is so common in all age groups, but it's only wishful thinking: clinical depression may seem to go away, but likely it is hiding and exhibiting its symptoms as anger, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, substance abuse, and other diseases.
Get every case of suspected clinical depression evaluated by a real psychiatrist, not a psychologist or family doctor, and be open to the idea that you may actually have it and that it might need treatment for several months before it will go away.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Need for Sunlight
Given the time of year, it's possible you might have SAD: seasonal affective disorder, which is a form of depression that occurs typically during the winter months (there are exceptions) when your body doesn't get enough sunlight (they suspect).
If you think this might be the case, you can get a nonprescription light box designed specially to help cure SAD. If so, sit right in front of it for at least 1/2 hour to 1 hour a day for your self-prescribed "light therapy".
This has been the subject of several recent studies and researchers are finding that it may even help people with regular, rather than seasonal, depression.
I'll warn you, though, that light boxes for depression are ridiculously expensive and it is uncomfortable to sit that close to them for that long: but just remember, you want to get rid of this disease, this isn't a game or an option. Stick with it for 2-3 weeks at least.
Time to Switch Doctors
IMPORTANT: if you ever find you don't "click" with a doctor or therapist/counsellor/psychologist, make sure you shop around for another one and then when you find one you like make the switch. It's important that you feel completely comfortable and safe to share your deepest, and sometimes embarrassing, feelings and symptoms with: you and your healthcare professionals should be partners in this.
Recommendations for Treating Depression
So, knowing nothing about you or your depression and not being a doctor myself, I would in general recommend attacking it aggressively from many fronts:
- Seeing a real psychiatrist and asking (if she doesn't volunteer it) if you should be on medication(s) and, if so, what is the best kind to fit your symptoms.
- Seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist (psychologist with a specialty)--cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is (to the best of my knowledge) the only one currently scientifically proven to give statistically significant benefits.
- Whether you have "Seasonal affective disorder" (SAD) or not, sit right in front of or next to a high-powered, full-spectrum (hideously expensive) light box first thing every morning for 30-60 minutes. Don't stare directly at the light, but you should be within a couple feet of it so that it will be very bright but don't wear sunglasses or sunscreen. Read the paper, do a crossword/sudoku/or whatever to pass the time.
- Try any other treatment(s) that you feel might work and that you can afford and that will "do no harm": accupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, exercise (whether you want to or not, at least walk around the block a few times a day), take a daily multivitamin, have your diet assessed by a dietician and make recommended changes, reduce your stress level as much as possible, ditch the negative people in your life--make new friends who are normal or positive, and so on.
- Get a copy of the inexpensive book and read it cover-to-cover. Take the Feeling Good, the New Mood TherapyBurns Depression Checklist/Inventory which can be found in the Feeling Good book and many places online. I have included a link to a document that contains both the depression checklist and an anxiety test.
These self-tests take just a few minutes to complete, and I encourage you to take these tests weekly to measure your progress and mark your progress on a calendar.
I Think My Depression Treatment Stopped Working
If Your Depression Treatment Isn't Working...
If one medicine or other treatment for depression isn't working for you after being on it for a while, ask your doctor if it is time to change to a different medicine. Don't wait more than three months or so to ask for a change!
History: Doctors used to (and many still do) keep patients on the same medicine for 6 months or more before admitting that this particular medicine wasn't going to work for the patient and switching to a different one! A few months at most is all you should need to see sustained positive results. Would you wait 6 months to see if your allergy medicine was going to work, suffering in the mean time?
Bring your Burns checklist results with you so the doctor can see, good or bad, how you're doing. Even better, graph your results of both the depression and anxiety tests.
Australian Psychiatrist on Coping with Depression
There is more mis-information about clinical depression out there—even among medical professionals—than there is accurate information. You need to be proactive and study up on the disease, your symptoms, and potential "cures" (or at least controls) that will best work with your kind of depression. And, just because you have a different serious disease doesn't mean that the depression shouldn't also be treated: it should.
Be your OWN advocate, and become knowledgeable about everything to do with depression, treatments, and alternative treatments.
About the Author
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