by Sherry Obenauer M.A., M.Ed.

Each year millions of people suffer from some form of depression. Researchers estimate as many as one out of every three people will develop depression at some point in their lives. Although the average depression lasts around six months, those with severe major depression or constant dysphoric depression may have symptoms that last for years. Some depressed individuals resort to suicide as a way of alleviating their anguish. Given the frequency with which depression occurs in our society, the length of time it can last, and the extent of debilitation that can result, methods for coping with this illness are essential. This article will provide several steps one can take in order to manage and overcome depression.

One of the most common treatments for depression is medication.

There are several different drugs on the market that function by preventing the re-uptake of serotonin, dopamine, or some combination of neurotransmitters believed to be associated with depression. Different drugs have different effects on different people. One drug may work well for one person and have absolutely no effect for another.

Each medication can cause various side effects including, but not limited to, dry mouth, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, apathy, heart palpitations, and headaches. Some people may experience several side effects while others experience none. The more recently developed antidepressants typically produce fewer side effects. Usually, side effects dissipate in a few weeks after the body has become adjusted to the medication. Consumers are advised to start at the lowest dosage with small increments over a period of time until improvement is noticed. An antidepressant's effect may take several weeks before a positive result is noticed.

As antidepressants have to be prescribed by a psychiatrist or a physician, one should follow the drug regimen as advised. If a drug is taken irregularly or at the improper dosage, its effects may go unnoticed and side effects may appear. Once the proper medication at the most effective dosage has been obtained, drug therapy is typically maintained for a period of six months. However, some individuals may need to remain on the medication for a longer period of time or indefinitely. Regular appointments must be kept with one's doctor in order to monitor the drug's impact and one should never suddenly stop taking an antidepressant as this often results in drastic withdrawal reactions.

Contrary to popular belief, antidepressants are NOT addictive. Many depressions are either caused or result in an imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitters and medication is a necessity for improvement to occur. They do not miraculously cure depression, instead, they raise an individual's functioning level to a point where other forms of therapy can benefit (e.g., "talk" therapy).

Psychotherapy or counseling is another common treatment for depression.

Oftentimes, medication and psychotherapy are used together for optimum results. Psychotherapy involves meeting with a professional regularly in order to examine the possible causes of one's depression, to alter one's negative way of thinking, and to actively engage in activities that promote a healthier way of living. Most depressed people have negative thoughts about themselves and hold a very narrow view of the world. A therapist can assist an individual in identifying such negative self-talk and replacing it with positive self-talk, learning to view the world differently, and brainstorming solutions to his or her issues.

Group therapy is another avenue of treatment for people with depression. Such therapy provides structure and a sense of belonging in addition to allowing the exchange of participant ideas and feelings. Group therapy is typically lead by a professional counselor and the group size varies. Number of sessions, length of each session, and participant age and gender varies between groups.

There are also support groups available to help those with depression.

Such groups allow members to openly share their feelings and receive acceptance from other group members. There is no leader (professional of otherwise) to direct such groups and there is no maximum number of sessions that one can attend.

Some people have found reading various self-help books to be of benefit in overcoming their depression. There are dozens of books out there and some even contain workbooks. One needs to be cautious regarding the qualifications of the author and of the "advice" given. Further, simply reading a book or two is unlikely to be of any assistance if the depression is severe or prolonged.

One cannot separate the mind from the body and treat them individually.

Instead, a thorough treatment regimen should examine all aspects of a person's life. For instance, excessive amounts of caffeine consumption or otherwise poor eating habits may be a contributing factor in one's depression. Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are depressants that should be avoided. Restricting one's food intake will inevitably negatively impact one's mood and state of mental health as food is essential for proper brain and body functioning. Hence, developing a healthy eating plan (NOT diet) may also help with one's depression.

Lack of exercise is also associated with depression. Regular exercise causes the brain to release endorphins and other chemicals that naturally help elevate mood. One need not run 20 kilometers a day or lift weights six hours a day to reap such benefits. Simply scheduling to go for a brisk walk 30 minutes a day four days a week will help a person's overall health.

For some, seeing a professional, taking medication, or going to group sessions are out of the question for whatever reason (typically pride). Such individuals insist on doing it all themselves. Unfortunately, this attitude only serves to deepen the depression and often is a precursor too. That's not to say there is nothing one can do to help him-or herself.

Positive self-talk goes a long way as does listening to uplifting music or self-help tapes, avoiding people who are negative or abusive, volunteering, reaching out to supportive people and sharing feelings, and taking time off from work (or perhaps leaving a job is needed if it's the primary cause of the depression). Writing a list of short- and long-term goals with specific steps for achieving each goal, journaling, creative writing/painting, adopting a pet, listing one's positive qualities (ask those who know you too), and engaging in activities that used to bring you joy. Further, deep-breathing exercises, reviewing prior accomplishments, post positive messages around the house, and watch humorous shows/movies.

Depression may be caused by one or a combination of factors and can take many forms. Depression often leaves sufferers immobilized and helpless as to solutions. Help is available in several forms with much success. All it takes is for you to initiate the first step for you are the only one responsible for your health. There was a life before depression and there can be a better life after it. If one avenue doesn't help, try another one and don't stop until something does. Remember, don't allow depression to depress you. Take control of your life and depress your depression!


Sherry Lynn Obenauer is 33 years old and resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She has a masters degree in gerontology and counseling psychology. Her thesis in gerontology was titled, "Relationships Between Health, Occupation, and Cognition." She has completed a comprehensive writing diploma from Quality of Course, Ottawa, Ontario.

Sherry currently works as a freelance writer and has published a articles on a number of topics including, aging, poetry, psychology, politics, pets, humor, teen issues, short stories, and biographies.

Sherry can be contacted at 403-239-8965 and leave an email address where you may be reached.

Articles written by Sherry Lynn Obenauer for SelfHelp Magazine:

Depress Your Depression
How to Get a Great Job
How to Communicate More Effectively
Stress Stoppers
How to Get a Great Job
Single and Satisfied


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