Coming to Terms With Depression
What Depression Feels Like
“There is nothing worse than depression,” says Anthony Rothschild, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Psychopharmacologic Research and Treatment at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “I’ve had patients who were cancer survivors tell me that they would take a recurrence of cancer over a relapse of depression.”
Yet, unless someone has experienced depression, it’s difficult to understand just how profoundly it can affect your life. Serious depression affects your thoughts, moods, behavior, and body. It saps your energy and makes life seem hopeless and empty.
Once those feelings build up and you start to slip into depression, it becomes more difficult to function, and a downward spiral begins. “As depression becomes more severe and long-lasting, the risk of suicide increases,” says David Brendel, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
If you have any thoughts about suicide, tell your mental health provider right away. He can work with you to help keep you safe.
The First Step: Facing Your Depression
In order to get relief and reduce the risk of worsening depression, you need to face it squarely and acknowledge that you need help. “The first step toward recovery is to accept that you have a serious medical illness that will require major effort and treatment over an extended period of time,” Allen says.
“Depression is easier to treat the earlier it is caught,” Brendel tells WebMD. “Treatment can reduce the frequency and severity of major depression.”
Depression Relief: Finding the Right Treatment
Talk with your mental health provider about your diagnosis and treatment options. “With mild depression, studies have shown that therapy or medication are equally effective,” Rothschild says. “People with moderate or severe symptoms should usually receive medication. Treatment with therapy alone usually isn’t effective, as people are often too depressed to really do the work of therapy.”
Many people respond well to both medication and therapy, especially if they have an underlying problem that they need to resolve in their personal or work life. “Therapy and medications work on different things,” Rothschild says. “Medication works on the depression itself, and therapy can help a patient deal with a particular stressor in his or her life, such as the loss of a job or relationship troubles.”