To get better, you need to take an active role in your treatment. You can't be passive as a patient. You and your doctor have to work as a team.
Of course, you might not feel up to taking an active role in anything. You might have doubts that treatment will help. But push yourself. Depression can make you feel helpless. Taking charge of your treatment is one way to feel in control again.
Here are some tips.
- Stick with it. Treatment usually won't work right away. Antidepressants may not take effect for four to six weeks. In some cases, a medication may not work and you'll need to try another, or possibly a combination of medicines. Therapy can take a while, too. But don't despair. If you give them time, these treatments are very likely to help. When a depressed person gets the right medicine, at the right dose, and takes it long enough, treatment succeeds about 70% of the time. But you and your doctor may sometimes need to try quite a few treatments before landing on the right therapy for you.
- Take your medicine as prescribed. Get into good habits. Take your medicine at the same time every day. It's easier to remember if you do it along with another activity, like brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or getting into bed. Get a weekly pillbox, which will make it easy to see if you've missed a dose.
- Never stop taking your medicine without your doctor's OK. If you need to stop taking a medicine for some reason, your doctor may reduce your dose gradually. If you stop suddenly, you may have side effects. Stopping medication abruptly may also cause depression to return. Don't assume that you can stop taking your medicine when you feel better. Many people need ongoing treatment even when they're feeling well. This can prevent them from getting depressed again. Remember, if you're feeling well now, it might be because your medicine is working. So why stop?
- Make lifestyle changes. There's a lot you can do on your own to supplement your treatment. Eat healthy foods, high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugars and fats. Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs, which can cause or worsen depression and interfere with the effects of the medicines that treat depression. Make sure to get a good night's sleep. Follow a regular daily structured routine. Don’t lie in bed during the day or allow yourself to take naps. Several studies show that physical activity can help with the symptoms of depression. Start slowly. Try taking walks around the neighborhood with a friend. Gradually, work up to exercising on most days of the week.
- Reduce stress at home and at work. Ask for help with some of the stressful things in your life. See if your friends or family will take care of some of the daily hassles, like housework. If your job is stressing you out, figure out ways to scale back some of your duties.
- Be honest. Opening up to a therapist or other mental health professional isn't easy. But if you're not truthful, therapy is less likely to help. People are sometimes uncomfortable talking about sensitive topics such as sexual functioning, side effects, substance use, missing medication doses, or suicidal thoughts – but sharing such concerns openly with your doctor or therapist can only help. If you have doubts about therapy or your therapist's approach, don't hide them. Instead, talk about them openly with your therapist. They will be happy to have your feedback. Together, you might be able to work out a new approach that works better.
- Be open to new ideas. Your therapist may have suggestions that sound strange. They may push you to do things that feel awkward or uncomfortable. But try to stay open. Give new approaches a try. You may find them more helpful than you expected.
- Don't give up. You may feel hopeless right now. You may feel like you're never going to get better. But feeling that way is a symptom of your condition. If you give yourself some time and allow your treatment to take effect, you will feel better again.