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How To Overcome Depression

  • Ms. Manasa S Saralaya
  • 5 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

How to overcome depression?

Very often we find people using phrases like ‘I am feeling depressed’  or ‘I think I am going through depression’ etc., to express normal feelings of sadness or blues.

One must mindfully use such words as there is a difference between being sad and being depressed. This makes it important for us to understand the actual meaning of depression. Depression is a mental condition causing the individual to be persistently sad, to lack energy and feel tired, and to lose energy in pleasurable activities, thus interfering with the day to day functioning of the person.

According to UNICEF, 14% of Indians between 15 to 24 years are feeling depressed. Post pandemic, the numbers have increased and so has the significance of taking care of one’s mental health. Understanding mental disorders and overcoming depression or anxiety or any other mental disorders are now being prioritized by individuals. 

To overcome depression, let us first understand some of the triggers of depression:

Biological triggers:

– Gender can be a risk factor for depression. Studies show that women are more prone to getting depressed than men. 

– Genetic abnormalities can also contribute to depression

– History of mental health disorders in the family.

– Presence of chronic disorders like cancer, kidney issues, heart problems, thyroidism.

Psychosocial triggers:

– Socioeconomic factors namely financial constraints, poverty, migration, poor living conditions, wars, unemployment and technological advancements can trigger depression.

– Grief/loss in the form of death of a loved one or destruction of property through a natural calamity or war can increase the chances of depression.

– Any form of life transitions

– Dependence on drugs like marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes 

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT

Before we dive into the diagnosis of depression, let us understand the three broad categories of symptoms included for the diagnosis.

Physiological symptoms of Depression:

– Changes in eating habits.

– Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too less).

– Loss of weight.

– Drop-in energy levels, irrespective of minimal excursion.

– Feeling tired very quickly.

– Unexplained aches and pains like headache, stomach ache, etc.

Behavioral symptoms of depression:

– Anger outbursts, irritability, restlessness.

– Frequent crying spells.

– Lack of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed.

Psychological symptoms of Depression:

– Feeling sad that might worsen during the day or night or at both times.

– Feelings of emptiness.

– Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

– Self-esteem and self-confidence takes a hit.

– Pessimistic views of the future.

– Thoughts of self harm and suicide.

– Guilt laden ideas.

Cognitive symptoms of Depression:

– Lack of concentration.

– Being hijacked by persistent negative thoughts about oneself, others and the world.

– Difficulty in remembering.

Based on the type, intensity and time frame of symptoms, depression can be diagnosed as mild, moderate and severe. Clinical interviewing and use of psychological assessments aid diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is done, a treatment plan is sketched out by a mental health professional. Treatment for depression involves the combined effort of:

– Psychiatrists who prescribe the medications.

– Clinical psychologists and counsellors who provide psychotherapy and behavioral interventions.

Based on the intensity and severity of symptoms, the line of treatment will vary. Overcoming depression has a lot to do with seeking the right course of treatment. 

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION

No one chooses to be depressed in any phase of their lives. However, sometimes the challenges of life make it difficult, unbearable and one succumbs to loneliness and despair which further leads to depression. Depression can never be completely avoided. Nevertheless, “prevention is better than cure”. Hence, depression can be prevented even if one has received an early diagnosis of the same by incorporating a few fundamental changes in life.

The measures to overcome depression can be divided into two broad  categories: 

(1) SELF HELP STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION:

– Be mindful of your sleep routine and follow regular sleep hygiene.

– Eat healthy and mindfully. As per WebMD, ensuring a diet consisting of Omega 3 supplements, proteins, carbohydrates and reducing sugary and fatty food.

– Engage in more physical activities like Yoga, Brisk walking, cycling, running, cardio, etc as they will change as they will help in release of endorphins and serotonin which alters mood, helps in building resilience .

– Engage in deep breathing, box breathing and other exercises such as mindfulness, muscular relaxation. It helps to focus on the present moment. 

– Get enough sunlight, a source of Vitamin D which is shown to help in alleviating depression .

– Trying to be in close physical or mental proximity with trusted and loved ones will strengthen the individual`s support system.

– Taking time out in a day to do things one enjoys.

– Journaling has shown not just to be cathartic, but helps increase one’s awareness of automatic thoughts and emotions and helps in developing healthier coping strategies. Some of the types of journaling that one can use are

    • (a) Bullet journaling
    • (b) Mindful journaling
    • (c) Dream journaling
    • (d) Video journaling

– Practicing gratitude helps one pause for a few moments, reflect back on what one is grateful for. It could be as simple as saying “I am grateful for a roof above my head” or “I am so grateful to my parents/friends for making my birthday so special.” Another way to practice gratitude is through journaling where you write about the things you are grateful for.

– Positive self talk helps one to shift the negative narrative and tone of communication into a positive one, uplifting mood, self confidence, self reliance and hope. In depression, the negative thoughts act as an instruction to the brain and thus one accordingly behaves. But imagine what one can do, if the negative instructions are replaced by positive ones. Yes, this is where positive self statements come into picture. In mental health jargon, we call them positive affirmations. Some affirmations one can use while going through depressive phase are:

“I have the potential to overcome this”.

“I am good enough for myself and others”.

“I have the support I need.”

“This too shall pass”.

(2) PROFESSIONAL AID TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION:

– Medications as a mode of treatment: Psychiatrists prescribe a range of medications depending on the symptoms and severity. It would be advisable to take medications under supervision and to avoid self diagnosis and self medication. 

– Psychotherapy or counseling: Seeking therapy along with medications is shown to be effective. Different kinds of therapy can help individuals overcome depression. Some commonly implemented therapies are:

(a) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of  behavioral therapeutic intervention aiming at reframing one’s irrational thoughts with rational ones, teaching better coping strategies, relaxation techniques and better problem solving skills to face life challenges.

(b) Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a type of behavior therapeutic intervention aiming to replace impractical thoughts with practical ones and build healthy emotional regulatory systems.

(c) Mindfulness Based Cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a type of therapy used in case of depression using eastern practices of mindfulness and yoga along with cognitive therapy techniques, it helps the individual to manage his mood and thoughts.

(d) Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of behavioral intervention where the clinician uses techniques of mindfulness, emotional management, impersonal skill development and stress tolerance. 

(e) Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a kind of therapy which facilitates the individual to focus on their present feelings, thoughts and ideas irrespective of them being negative. It focuses on acceptance rather than distraction and what actions one can take to make life work with his present situation through mindfulness, value, acceptance and self exploration based activities; thus restoring a sense of purpose.

(f) Interpersonal Therapy helps individuals to restore relationships and their roles in relationships with the people with whom they are in conflict. It restores social adjustment and helps reduce symptoms.

Sometimes, irrespective of taking the right measures to prevent depression coming back, it might hit back. In such situations, one must identify the warning signs of depression which are already discussed, must not wait for these signs to worsen, must try to implement some healthy coping strategies. Irrespective of all these, if one is not able to handle the depressive symptoms, they must reach out to a mental health professional for the right diagnosis and assessment. 

Overcoming depression requires conscious and consistent effort, but it is achievable. Jim Carrey, Deepika Padukone, Chris Evans, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Anushka Sharma are living examples of overcoming depression.

Read the complete guide on Depression in Indians.

References:

  • https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene
  • https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763419305640#:~:text=Engaging%20in%20physical%20activity%20can%20reduce%20depressive%20symptoms.&text=Exercise%20stimulates%20several%20neuroplastic%20processes%20implicated%20in%20depression.&text=It%20also%20reduces%20inflammation%20and%20increases%20resilience%20to%20oxidative%20and%20physiological%20stress.&text=Exercise%20promotes%20self%2Desteem%2C%20social%20support%20and%20self%2Defficacy.
  • Written by

    Ms. Manasa S Saralaya

Ms. Manasa S Saralaya is a consultant psychologist at MFine. She has two years of experience working as a psychologist. Her areas of interest are working with individuals having anxiety, emotional dysregulation and children with behavioral issues, incorporating CBT, DBT, ACT and positive psychology practices in counselling.

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