The effects of depression, whether in the form of major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder (PDD), or perinatal depression can ravage a person’s spirit and effect the emotional well-being of an entire family. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 7% of adults in the United States are likely to experience a depressive episode over the course of one year. Worldwide, approximately 350 million people suffer from depression (World Health Organization), fighting symptoms such as…
- overwhelming anxiety, anger, sadness and/or fatigue
- loss of engagement in once-enjoyable activities;
- loss of appetite;
- lack of focus;
- feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, or “emptiness”;
- regret over past decisions or missed opportunities;
- and difficulty remembering events, people, or places.
Depression interferes with the lives of children, adolescents, and adults—and is prevalent moreso in women than in men. The severity of depression can range from a teenager’s withdrawal from friendships that once fulfilled her, to a mother’s melancholy and inability to care for her newborn, to a high-performing professional’s unexplained urges to hurt himself. Most medical experts agree that a person who wrestles with depressive symptoms every day for a period of at least two weeks is at risk for a diagnosis of clinical depression.
It is impossible to characterize any one individual with a pre-determined set of personality traits, physical attributes, or life goals. Similarly, no one treatment for depression provides a perfect solution for all. While depression is one of the leading mental disorders in America, it can be caused by unique combinations of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological influences (NIMH). Consider the vulnerability of an adult whose family line shows a history of depression. Think about the adolescent who has been sexually abused, or who faces a seemingly interminable road of cancer treatments. A person who has undergone major trauma and feels as though he cannot recover is also prone to depressive episodes. In addition, many medications for chronic illnesses might cause depression as a side effect. The most common treatment for depression includes a prescription for antidepressants and a regimen of therapy. In some cases, more intense approaches might be necessary. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic stimulation to activate the parts of the brain that contribute to mood, and normally requires sessions five days per week for six weeks (healthline.com). Even more severe cases of depression might warrant electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
But how can someone with depression help herself, or rely on a loved one for support, day-to- day? No matter how crucial a physician’s expertise can be to the success of a person’s long-term treatment, someone with depression must still figure out ways to manage her daily struggles with the disease. Of course, setting realistic milestones is an important element of an individual’s road to revival. Expecting too much of oneself too quickly can bring on feelings of pressure, and even failure, all over again. Nobody should expect a trying situation to transform miraculously overnight, whether she is battling with depression or not. As with any life challenge, seeking relief from depression is a process that takes patience, careful decision-making, and self-love.
Here are some steps that a person living with depression may take to alleviate the symptoms of the disorder:
Exercise. Regular physical activity releases endorphins into the bloodstream, enhancing
immunity, lessening the perception of pain, and lifting mood (Harvard Health Publications).
Sleep. At least eight hours of shut-eye can help to have a more positive outlook.
Eat well. Supply the body with good nutrition for higher energy. Dark, leafy greens are immune-
boosting superfoods. Berries contain antioxidants, which lower a person’s risk for cancer and
depression (Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 2009). Folic acid, in citrus fruits,beans, and breads, can prevent an overproduction of homocysteine, which restricts the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (everydayhealth.com). Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, can benefit mood as well. Steer clear of sugary snacks and fried foods that can decrease the body’s efficiency.
Avoid isolation. Rely on a trusted friend or family member for companionship and a listening ear.
Accept help. For some, accepting help is a sign of weakness; for those suffering from depression, it is a fundamental strategy for getting better.
Join a support group. When a person is ready, he might entertain the idea of attending meetings
outside of the home with others who are trying to cope with depression.
Get some sun. A little dose of vitamin D each day can brighten one’s whole demeanor.
Adopt a pet. Cuddling a cute, furry animal can increase the body’s production of stress-reducing oxytocin.
Postpone major life-changing decisions. Changing careers, getting married, or spending savings
on a six-month trip through Europe are all choices that deserve objective consideration.
Keep learning. Keep up with the most current research on depression.
Finally, maintaining an even-keeled, balanced, rational mindset as much as possible is a core method for reducing the effects of depression. Though this task may feel daunting to an individual in the midst of an emotional and psychological crisis, it is integral to setting the stage for the accomplishment of his goals.
He should refrain from jumping to conclusions, making broad assumptions, and belittling himself and his efforts—and instead, focus on valuing his gifts and the small treasures in life.