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Depression Health Center

Diagnosed With
Depression: Now What?

A diagnosis of depression can be overwhelming. There are many choices to make about treatment, which can be daunting when you are depressed.

Successfully treating depression depends on your attitude toward your disease. Here you will learn to better understand:

  • What depression is and what causes it
  • How to choose the right doctor and treatment options for you
  • Which daily habits can minimize your symptoms
  • The importance of talking to others about what you are going through

That may feel like too much right now, but keep in mind that some of those feelings are a symptom of your depression. By taking things one step at a time, you can start to feel better and take back control of your life.

At the end of this article you will find a list of more in-depth articles on many of the topics we discuss here.

What Are You Feeling Now?

Being told you have depression can either be a relief or hard to hear -- or both. You finally have a reason for your feelings. But unfortunately, there is no quick fix to make you feel better.

Many people have a hard time accepting that they're depressed. They may feel ashamed or weak. But there's no reason to feel bad or to blame yourself. Depression is a disease -- just like heart disease or diabetes.

Some people can point to a specific trigger for their depression. But others can't.

In the U.S., almost one in 10 adults -- young and old, men and women -- has depression right now. Almost 2/3 of them never get appropriate help. That's tragic. Depression is a serious illness, but it's a treatable one.

With treatment, you can beat depression and feel as good as you did before.

How to Find the Right
Treatment for You

We now have more effective, proven treatments for depression than ever before.

Antidepressants and psychotherapy: Your doctor will probably recommend antidepressants and/or therapy first. Studies have found that combining therapy with medicine usually works better than medicine on its own, depending on your symptoms. If your depression is hard to treat, your doctor may combine other medications with antidepressants.

Adopting healthy habits: Finding ways to manage stress, get enough sleep, and exercise have all been shown to help. You can talk to your doctor about the possibilities.

It's important to know that there are many options. If one medication or treatment approach doesn't work for you, there are always others you can try.

Medications

Antidepressants are some of the best treatments for depression. They seem to work by making nerve cells form stronger and healthier connections in parts of the brain.

Some of the most common drugs for depression are Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Pristiq, Prozac, Remeron, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft. Doctors may try one of these drugs first. By discussing your most troubling symptoms and how side effects may affect your life, you and your doctor will work together to find the best medication and dosage for you. This can take some trial and error.

Which one is right for you? Unfortunately, doctors can't yet predict that. If you're not feeling better after a few weeks, your doctor might try another type of antidepressant or a combination of medicines. There are many options with different benefits and side effects.

Counseling and Therapy

Therapy is a key part of depression treatment. While it might not work as quickly as medication alone, some studies show that certain types of psychotherapy may help your medication work faster and have more lasting benefits.

How it works: You may need to talk to several therapists until you find the perfect fit for you. You can take part in therapy either one-on-one, with your spouse or family, or in a group. Your therapist will help you determine what is right for you.

Types of therapy: Several types of therapy may help with depression. Among them are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy

Types of Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works on the assumption that negative thinking affects your mood. It helps you see how your own thought patterns can contribute to your depression and teaches you practical ways to change them.

Psychodynamic therapy helps you understand and cope better with problems by identifying and talking about unresolved conflicts that may be contributing to your depression.

Interpersonal therapy focuses on helping you improve communication with family and friends and increase your self-esteem so you can interact with them in a healthy way.

Common Concerns About Treatment

You might have worries about trying treatment for depression.

Antidepressants will change my personality. Depression can be like a fog that hides the real you. Antidepressants don't change your personality, but they can help to restore your true personality, unclouded by the effects of depression.

I'm worried about side effects. Antidepressants may cause side effects, but not everyone experiences them. If you do, many times they will fade with time. If they don't, your doctor can change your medicine or dosage or suggest other ways to manage side effects.

I don't want to be in treatment forever. Getting help now doesn't mean you're signing up for lifelong treatment. Many people just need medicine or therapy for a short period to get through their depression. Others may need treatment that lasts longer and helps prevent depression from coming back.

Exercise Can Help

When you're depressed, just getting out of bed can seem hard enough. The idea of starting the day with a walk or jog might seem impossible.

But exercise is a great idea if you're depressed. It releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which boost your mood. Studies have shown that regular exercise -- even just walking -- can make you happier, build your stamina, and boost your self-esteem.

Getting Started: Start with something simple, like a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood every morning. It's much easier to work your way up from there instead of setting goals that seem impossible to reach.

Tips for Success: To help you stick to your goals, set dates to exercise with someone else. Meet a friend at the gym a few times a week or take after-dinner walks with a neighbor.

What You Can Do

Depression is too serious to cope with alone. You need medical treatment. But there are some things you can do to manage stress and help you feel better while you start treatment.

These steps will move you in the right direction:

Sleep: Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, although some people may need as little as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours a day. Make sure you get as much sleep as your body needs.

Diet: There are no specific foods that will help make your depression better. But eating a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains may help you feel healthier overall.

Relaxation: Getting on a daily schedule and setting simple goals will ease you back into the rhythm of your life. Learning ways to relax -- with yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises -- will help, too.

Talk to others: Choose a few close family members and friends and tell them how you're feeling. This can help you feel less isolated. You may find that they have had bouts of depression and can share what helped them, such as a name of a good therapist or an exercise class that they enjoyed.

Finding the Right Doctor for You

Right now, the prospect of getting help -- finding the right doctor and therapist -- may seem like more than you can handle.

But take a first step. Ask your family doctor for a recommendation for a psychologist, social worker, or counselor. While many family doctors will prescribe antidepressants, ask your doctor if it might be best for you to work with an expert, like a psychiatrist. They have more experience with depression medicines and with psychotherapy.

You also can ask friends or family for recommendations and you can get names from your insurance company. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have online locators. Call a therapist to learn a little about her approach before you meet.

If you ever think about hurting yourself,get help immediately. Call your doctor or an emergency hotline or go to the ER right away.

It is important that you take the time to get treatment. The sooner you do, the sooner you'll be able to manage the feelings of sadness or fatigue that seem overwhelming right now.