Recovery from depression can be a long process. A variety of treatments for
depression exists, but they may take time before an effect is noticed. Weeks,
if not months, may pass between the time when you see a health care provider
about depression and when your mood starts to lift.
While some improvement may be seen after starting antidepressants, they can
take at least three weeks to start having an effect on your mood. What's more,
the first medication or combination of medications you try may not work for
you; in that case you'll have to start over.
You may be surprised to learn that between 3% and 6% of the population is at risk for a serious, potentially life-threatening condition known as double depression. Many of those people can lower that risk. But even after double depression develops, many people delay or avoid getting treatment that could save their lives.
In the meantime, there are things you can do, as well as things you can
avoid, to help yourself feel better, or at least keep from sinking deeper into
You are somewhat responsible -- but not entirely responsible -- for your
state of mind, says psychologist James Aikens, PhD, an assistant professor of
family medicine and psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
"You're not responsible for being depressed. Your responsibility is to make
some reasonable efforts towards feeling better," he tells WebMD.
When you are deeply depressed, you may not feel like doing much of anything
or being with anyone. But rather than hiding out and doing nothing, it's best
to be active, even though you may not want to.
Ask yourself, Aikens says, "not what do I feel like doing, but how much am I
capable of doing?" But don't overreach, or else you may end up feeling worse if
you don't accomplish what you set out to do. "Aim for 80% or 90% of that goal,"
"The tendency to take on overly ambitious goals right away is actually quite
common in people who are depressed," says Dan Bilsker, PhD, a clinical
assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in
Canada. Bilsker co-wrote a self-care guide for people with depression that is
freely available online from the university's Mental Health Evaluation and
Community Consultation Unit.
Don't assume you will be able to leap out of depression and turn your life
around immediately. "Start with some very small, detailed, specific goals,"
Bilsker tells WebMD.