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Lifestyle Tips for Treatment-Resistant Depression

How you live can help support expert medical care.

Treatment-Resistant Depression: Changing How You Think and Act

Stop assuming the worst. When you're depressed, you begin to see the world -- and yourself -- in the worst possible way. You might "catastrophize" -- you come to the most depressing and terrible interpretation of any given situation.

"When you're depressed for a long time, you learn to expect the worst out of life," MacKinnon says. Adjusting that negative outlook isn't easy. Some people find that even when the overt symptoms of depression have lifted, that distorted way of seeing things lingers on. It's like a bad habit, says MacKinnon, and it can be hard to break.

So what should you do? The first step, experts say, is to start paying more attention to your thoughts. Try to catch yourself when you're making those assumptions. Before you get carried away and leap to a conclusion, reason with yourself. Is there a less depressing -- and more likely -- interpretation?

Have fun (even when it doesn't feel fun.) Friends and family might keep encouraging you to have some fun. But there's a problem: nothing feels fun anymore.

"When you're depressed, you might stop doing positive things because you don't have any faith they'll turn out well," MacKinnon says. "You don't go to the party because you know you'll have a bad time. You don't try anything new because you know that you'll fail."

MacKinnon says that your problem is simple: when it comes to fun, you're out of practice. And to recapture that feeling, you have to work at it. Start by doing the things that you used to enjoy, even if you're convinced you won't enjoy them now. In time, you might find that just by doing these things again, you'll regain the sense of pleasure you lost.

Reach out. Living with treatment-resistant depression, you might have isolated yourself from your friends and family. But you really do need their help to get through this. Even if it's hard -- even if you feel that they don't want to hear from you -- try to reconnect with people you care about.

"I really encourage people who are depressed to be around other people, to be engaged socially," says MacKinnon. "Sometimes it’s a necessary first step toward recovery."

You might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of seeing a friend and having to explain everything, of having to delve into the terrible things you've been feeling.  But if you don't want to get into the subject, that's fine. Sometimes getting a break from thinking about treatment-resistant depression -- just having coffee with a friend and talking about something else -- is the best idea.

Join a support group. Depression is isolating. Even if your family members are sticking by you, and even if they're sympathetic and well-intentioned, they still might have trouble understanding what you feel. Joining a support group will get you in touch with people who will.

While you might know that adopting these suggestions could help, it might still seem too hard -- or even impossible -- to act on them right now.

But remember that just making an effort to change -- even if it's small and even if it's not completely successful -- is the real point. Modest changes to your life can still give you back a sense of control and accomplishment. In time, those minor victories will give you the confidence to make bigger changes.

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