If you have feelings of sadness, emptiness, or feel overwhelmed by daily tasks, then you may be depressed. Losing interest in activities and people that used to bring joy, loss of sleep, fluctuations in weight all are signs you may be afflicted by a treatable mental illness.
How is Depression Diagnosed?
A mental health disorder often results in denial. People will casually brush away symptoms like worry or fear as related to a work project gone south, or concern that their high school senior won’t get into her preferred college of choice.
How is depression diagnosed? Here’s what Harvard Medical School says: “A primary care physician or a mental health professional usually can diagnose depression by asking questions about medical history and symptoms. By definition, major depression is diagnosed when a person has many of the symptoms listed above for at least two weeks.”
Get Help for Yourself
Besides working with a doctor, people seeking help for their depression are empowered to make progress on their own. Eventually, one step becomes two, then the steps and positivity increase even more. Here are some tips from the National Institute of Mental Health to follow:
- If you’re on a treatment plan, stick with it. Any medication that’s been prescribed should be taken as directed, but you may not see results until you’re about two weeks in.
- Go to all scheduled appointments and see your therapist as planned.
- Stay active and get some exercise.
- Set priorities for yourself, dividing goals into smaller chunks you can accomplish in a short time.
- Interact with family and other loved ones, and trust in their confidentiality.
- Important life decisions can wait a little bit until you feel better.
- Medication prescribed for depression can’t be mixed with alcohol or other drugs, so stay away from both.
Get Help for Someone Else
Depression affects nearly 300 million people globally, so even if you’re not depressed, you may know someone who is. Getting help for a person in need is a sign of compassion so help him or her find a mental help professional to talk with. There are other things you can do:
- Be supportive, offering patience, understanding, and faith.
- Comments about suicide are serious and should be reported immediately to your loved one’s doctor or mental health care professional.
- Spend time together, sharing in activities like shopping trips, walks, or something else your loved one may be interested in.
- Offer encouragement and gentle reminders about upcoming therapy sessions or times when prescribed medication should be taken.
- Offer transportation if needed to and from therapy sessions or to the pharmacy for prescription refills.
- Be the voice of compassion, offering kind words that symptoms of depression can be minimized and managed over time.
Coping with Depression
A clinical diagnosis of depression isn’t a death sentence, mark of weakness, or a sign that you’re a bad person. Events and circumstances sometimes accumulate over time, creating low moods and issues that can be controlled. Here are some tips for coping with depression:
- Build and maintain a support network. Find supportive family members and other loved ones and lean on them if needed. Strong ties need to be nurtured, so don’t only call someone when you need help – support goes both ways.
- Minimize stress. No one’s perfect, and you don’t need to be, either. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by personal and professional commitments.
- Get quality sleep. If you need room-darkening window treatments to help you sleep, buy them. The same goes for an eye patch, pillow, weighted blanket, maybe even a new mattress. Mental health professionals also recommend turning off or putting down electronic devices one hour before bedtime.
- Pay attention to diet. Eat a balanced meal, minimize your intake of caffeine and sweets, and add foods with brain-essential nutrients to your meal plan.
- Get control over negative thoughts. Self-help books are available, not to mention smartphone apps and websites to strengthen your resolve and turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
- Don’t procrastinate. Set a daily schedule and stick to it.
- Get your house in order, literally. Clean up the kitchen, take out the trash before it piles up, and minimize clutter.
- Build a wellness toolkit. This could be things as simple as cuddling with a pet, reading books by a favorite author, or other activities that allow you to decompress.
Other Treatment Options
According to mental health professionals, depression won’t go away. Symptoms that contribute to it can be managed, allowing you to have a normal, fulfilling life. Regular visits to a therapist may always be helpful, not to mention prescription or other medications, such as ketamine.
Ketamine for Depression Treatment
Used across the planet as an anesthetic and pain reliever, ketamine is also what institutions like Harvard are calling an important and innovative new tool for depression treatment. Research shows that up to 70% of patients can find relief from their symptoms of depression after a series of IV ketamine infusions.