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Coming to Terms With Depression

What Depression Feels Like continued...

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.”

Treatment should be tailored toward the type of depression you have. For example, bipolar disorder is an illness characterized by rapid swings of mood from extreme highs (mania) to devastating lows (depression). It can be difficult to tell bipolar disorder from major depression when the person is in the depressed phase of the illness, but treating it with antidepressants alone may cause rapid and dangerous changes in mood. So getting an accurate diagnosis of your depression is important to treating it effectively.

You and your mental health provider should decide together on the best treatment plan for you. You’ll want to consider the severity of your depression and your health plan coverage, as well as your needs and preferences.

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