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Help Yourself out of Depression

Experts give advice about steps people can take to help ease their depression.

Seek Clarity

When you're depressed, you likely have all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself and your life -- that you are a stupid failure beyond all hope, for example.

Should you transform your worldview and self-image by "positive thinking" instead? Scratch that, Aikens and Bilsker say. What you need when you're depressed is to get back to clear thinking.

"Our aim is not to give you some other kind of distortion," Bilsker says. "We just want you to think about yourself in a fair way and a realistic way."

Of course, you are not stupid or a failure, and there is hope for you yet. Right?

"You can encourage the return of accurate thinking by asking yourself questions," Aikens says, such as:

  • How can I test whether this idea is valid or not?
  • Was this always true?
  • Are there any exceptions?
  • What's the missing part of the picture?

Actions to Avoid

Depression sometimes drives people to drink, and sometimes alcohol abuse leads to depression. In any case, drowning your sorrows now will not help you feel better later. The same goes for other kinds of substance abuse.

Also do not rashly make major life changes while you are still feeling depressed, like leaving your job or your spouse, unless the situation is really dicey. A bad job or relationship may very well be making you depressed, however, you could be taking a bleak view.

"When you're deeply depressed, you're not in a good position to make this judgment. You need your symptoms to lift so that you can see these situations more clearly," Aikens says.

That's not to say depression renders you incapable of making any decisions for yourself.

"You're just as smart when you have depression," Browning says. "But make sure you're not reacting to symptoms."

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Reviewed on August 22, 2005

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