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How to cope with depression

We regularly hear people state: "Oh I’m so depressed" but the reality is that depression can be a very debilitating mental health condition. Dr Marinus Klijnsma (MBBS, MCRPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist from Priory Hospital Chelmsford provides some top tips on coping with the early signs of depression...

Coping with depression: be aware of your feelings

"I am depressed" could mean 1,000 different things. It could relate to something difficult that went on in your life or it could come out of the blue for no clear reason.

Feeling sad is an uncomfortable feeling and often we tend to push negative emotions away; try not to. Do some reflection or talk to somebody you know well and try to find out what's troubling you and what is making you depressed. Problems in a relationship or at work are common.

In addition to feeling sad, being depressed also often affects your sleep, your appetite, your weight and your ability to concentrate. Furthermore, you might lack energy and there might be little enjoyment in things you used to enjoy. Your thoughts can also get quite gloomy and you might worry more about feeling you have done things wrong, your health or the future. Sometimes the future can look very bleak and not infrequently, people then ask themselves: "what is the point of this?"

Deal with what is making you feel depressed

When you feel depressed you may have a tendency to hide away. However, the best approach is to deal with it.

Take time to recognise and think about your feelings, and talk to a relative or friend who can listen. Try to understand what's going on. Depression is often linked to regrets about the past and there might be a lesson in there on what you need to change in your life, or to simply accept if you can't change it.

At the same time, also be aware of making big changes when you feel depressed because your thinking might colour things in life more negatively than they really are. When you get caught up in negative thoughts about the future or other things, try to replace them with more realistic thoughts. Remember, depression comes but it will also go. 

Look after your physical health to help you cope with depression

Depression makes you want to hide away, but actually giving into the situation isn't helping. There is a lot of evidence that exercise helps in fighting depression. Get fresh air and do some exercise every day if possible.

If your appetite has gone, try to eat healthily. If you overeat when you're sad or comfort eat, try not to overdo it. Alcohol and drugs are often used to cope with negative emotions, including feeling depressed. However, they are counter-productive and should really be avoided. 

If you're struggling to cope with depression, seek help

If, despite your best efforts, you feel that things are getting worse rather than better, seek help. It is, of course, particularly important to seek help if you are at risk of harming yourself. Depression is a very common disorder even though it is not as visible as say, a broken leg.

The stigma around depression and other mental health problems is decreasing and you should never feel ashamed of getting treatment for depression. Coping with depression is not something you should face on your own - your GP should be your first port of call. Both medication and/or talking therapy, most likely cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), have shown to be effective.

There are different groups of antidepressants and within these groups there are different types of medication. Your GP can also refer you on to a psychiatrist or a psychiatric service.

Don't give up hope

Depression comes and goes and even for the more serious cases, there are evidence-based and well established treatments that are very likely to be beneficial in helping you to feel better.

This page was reviewed by Dr Marinus Klijnsma (MBBS, MCRPsych), Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, in February 2019

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