Reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Depression is tough. And it’s unfortunately common.
In fact, depression has become so widely felt within the American population that it’s considered a public health issue.
Depression can take a serious toll on your health and can show up as short-term physical manifestations like irritability and lethargy, and also affect you over the long term.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to treat depression, whether it’s online therapy or communal support groups. What’s important is that you’re taking those critical first steps toward working on overcoming your depression.
Read on to learn more about how to overcome depression, so you can be well on your way to the life you want to lead.
Good news: There are plenty of options to try when it comes to overcoming depression. (And you’ve already taken the initial (and best) step — which is seeking help in the first place.)
Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular, well-researched ways to overcome depression.
Psychotherapy has proven to be an efficacious form of mental health care.
Psychotherapy consists of you meeting one-on-one with a therapist, discussing your challenges and constructing a plan to combat those challenges.
Some popular forms of psychotherapy include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which focuses on the patient’s thoughts, behaviors, emotional reactions, and how best to understand the ways in which feelings and facts align.
CBT encourages patients to recognize and reevaluate how unhelpful thoughts and behaviors distort feelings, and to then find solutions to change and improve their behaviors and thoughts.
Humanistic Therapy (HT), which involves examining the patient’s ability to make rational choices, and improves decision making. Two types of humanistic therapy include gestalt therapy (GT), which emphasizes the here-and-now, as well as existential therapy (ET), which focuses on a patient’s relative amount of free will in determining their life’s trajectory.
Integrative Therapy (IT), in which the therapist decides to blend different types of treatment practices to accomodate an individual’s unique needs.
Psychodynamic Therapy (PT), which places an emphasis on the subconscious, as well as the patient’s past, in trying to understand how the patient interacts with their present and constructs their future.
Desensitizing Therapy (DT) or Exposure Therapy (ET), which are practices that involve a therapist exposing a patient to their fears. It’s thought that fear can dissipate via exposure to it.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), which encourages someone to create concrete steps to structure life around what they can control. The emphasis on SFT is that a patient should experience a limited number of therapy sessions before independently tackling problems with the practiceslearned in SFBT.
Psychiatry is a branch of mental health care in which the mental health provider (a psychiatrist) is a trained medical doctor who has specialised in the field of psychiatry.
In fact, a psychiatrist goes through four years of medical school as well as several years of residency before they’re prepared to begin their careers.
One of the things that makes psychiatrists different from other mental health professionals is that psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
So, while psychiatrists have some of the same training as a therapist — they have to be familiar with the same forms of talk therapy as your typical therapist — they also have additional medical training and the ability to suggest and prescribe an antidepressant they think might help you overcome your depression.
While medication is generally not always appropriate for every condition, it is usually safe and effective if taken as prescribed, and this applies to antidepressants as well.
Taking medication for your depression can certainly sound intimidating, but it is important to remember that these medications have undergone years of testing and research to ensure that they do not cause serious harm to the person trying them, and that any possible side effects and warnings are well documented.
Here are some medications your psychiatrist may prescribe to reduce your symptoms of depression:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are the most common form of antidepressant. They modify the serotonin levels in your brain to alleviate your symptoms.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. Research has shown increases in both these chemicals can help alter mood and help a patient with their depression symptoms.
Tricyclic Antidepressants: an older type of antidepressant. They may cause more side-effects than your typical SSRI or SNRI. As a result, psychiatrists may not prescribe tricyclic antidepressants as often.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs is an older class of antidepressant medications that can lead to serious side-effects, so psychiatrists are careful to prescribe them. Often they require changes in lifestyle — such as diet — in order for them to be effectively and safely administered.
There’s better news: If you think psychiatry might be for you, hims offers psychiatric services. You can talk one-on-one with a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home, and address your mental health needs.
Group therapy has proven to be beneficial when it comes to helping patients overcome mental health struggles, challenges and afflictions.
But what does group therapy even mean?Typically, group therapy involves you, the patient, interacting in a group with other patients who have similar mental health challenges.
Overseeing the group is a mental healthcare professional — they can be a trained therapist or a social worker, for example.They’ll usually steer the group discussion in the right direction, as well as provide a baseline of comfort and safety for all group therapy members.
If you’re curious to know more about group therapy, hims offers free online support groups.
Depression is a common yet serious medical condition.
For someone suffering with depression, the good vibes of a sunny weekend afternoon may barely even register.
Depression affects the way you feel, how you think and how you interact with the world at large.
What’s challenging about depression is that it involves a diverse array of manifestations that can confuse, confound and pain the person who’s suffering from the depression itself.
Here’s a rundown of some symptoms of depression so you can be diligent in recognizing — and then addressing — your mental health needs. Typically, to receive a diagnosis of depression, you’ll likely experience the following for a period of two weeks or more:
Feelings of lethargy that, on first glance, don’t seem to have any origin of any kind. Simply put, you’re freaking tired and you don’t know why. Well, one reason you might feel irrationally lethargic is you’re suffering from a depressive episode.
Changed appetite, which can be a by-product of depression. Maybe you’re eating way more than before — even when not hungry — or you’re not eating nearly enough, even though you’re not trying to shed weight. Depression might be taking an emotional toll on you and impacting your diet.
Sleep troubles, which are commonly linked to depression. The quality and quantity of your sleep can greatly impact your day-to-day mood, so it’s important that you get yourself on a strict bedtime and wake up schedule to give your body the routine and care it deserves. If that doesn’t work, contact your therapist or general practitioner for other ways of addressing your sleep troubles.
Sadness. Seems self-evident, but feelings of sadness can be so persistent — and so overwhelming — you might not be experiencing a run-of-the-mill bout of melancholy. Instead, you might be depressed.
Feeling useless, worthless. While the feelings seem to come out of nowhere — and have no grounding in reality — the feelings are nevertheless potent. It’s important to get them checked out, because those feelings of worthlessness might be linked to a more serious mental health condition.
Irritability and frustration with others. Like the above, they can be linked to depression when they seem to have no cause.
Thoughts of death or suicide, which are the most serious manifestations of depression. If you’re experiencing anything even close to these thoughts, it’s highly critical you seek immediate medical attention — either by dialing 911, or by contacting a medical professional who can immediately assist in alleviating your depression.
These symptoms of depression can vary. There are also different types of depression, including:
Major Depression, which means you’ve experienced depression for more than two weeks, and symptoms of depression you’re experiencing and exhibiting are powerful and disrupting your regular routine and life.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia), which means you’re experiencing less serious depressive symptoms than someone suffering from major depression, but the depression nevertheless persists for at least two weeks.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can touch anyone whose depression rears its head as the seasons change. Typically, seasonal affective disorder affects people in the autumn and winter, as the daylight lessens and the air gets cold.
Good news: There are plenty of activities that can help reduce the affects of depression and ease depressive symptoms.
While we’ve mentioned a number of practical, effective means to assist your mental health in overcoming depression, there are plenty of changes to your day-to-day life you can make right now that can bring about satisfying, long-term healthy results.
Here are a few activities shown to help individuals overcome depression:
Exercise has been proven to be an effective way of combating depression and relieving depression itself.
Further, even if you don’t have full-blown depression — maybe your mental health challenges can be described as anxiety with the occasional depressive flare-up — all you may need to do is strap on some running shoes, find a rec league for some pickup basketball or locate your nearest gym.
Improving your sleep can have a massive effect on your overall mental health.
Research has proven that there is a strong connection between sleep and depression.
Consequently, the research shows that if you adhere to a strict, consistent schedule as to when you go to bed and when you awake, your circadian rhythm will adjust accordingly, and you’ll start getting the sleep your body and mind need.
That’s right: There is a connection between diet and depression, and research shows that what you eat can determine how you feel.
While there are many dietary fads out there, sometimes the old adages are the ones that can best help us in our moments of need: Don’t eat to excess, and make sure you’re getting a healthy fill of fruits and vegetables.
Sure, you may enjoy going out with your buds for some beers.
And, if you live in a state in which marijuana has been legalized, you might enjoy a hit or two.
It’s healthy, though, to cut back on drugs and alcohol when you’re experiencing depression.
In fact, drugs and alcohol might exacerbate the depression you’re experiencing.
Believe it or not, we have good news: You’re not alone.
Mental healthcare in this country — and globally — has undergone for centuries a particular stigma that will take time to undo.
However, the stigma is being undone — one brave patient at a time.
One brave patient like you.
It’s important to understand there are typically three types of stigma when it comes to overcoming the stigma of seeking out mental health.
The three stigmas are:
Self-Stigma, in which you experience internal shame, negative attitudes and overall pessimism when it comes to addressing and alleviating your condition.
Public Stigma, where the negative attitude — even outright cruelty and mockery — can influence your willingness to seek help. Don’t let those people get you down. There’s strength in being vulnerable, and in saying that you need help.
Institutional Stigma, in which private and public practices discourage or outright discriminate against the pursuit and use of mental health services.
After all, the effects of this very stigma can be extremely harmful on your mental health. The effects can lower your self esteem, reduce your likelihood to ever pursue treatment, worsen your depression or mental health challenges, and hurt your ability to hope for a better tomorrow.
And we promise: There is a better tomorrow.
It’s never too late — and it’s never shameful — to need help.
Just the same, it’s never too late — and it’s never shameful — to ask for help.
One of the best things you can do to overcome depression is to find the appropriate mental health care you need — to address your depression or any other mental health challenge you’re experiencing.
Know that you’re never alone in this fight.
Mary is an accomplished emergency and trauma RN with more than 10 years of healthcare experience.
As a data scientist with a Masters degree in Health Informatics and Data Analytics from Boston University, Mary uses healthcare data to inform individual and public health efforts.