Self-Treating Depression? / Can I treat my own Depression?

Is it possible to Treat Depression Yourself? Many people experience depression and anxiety at different levels, oftentimes based on situations they face in their lives. People tend to get depressed when they aren’t able to achieve what they want in life. This is normal, but when the sadness or depression does not lessen and persists long-term, it goes from feeling depressed to the actual mental health diagnosis of depression.  Approximately sixteen million cases of depression are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and the number of people diagnosed with depression has increased with each passing year.

The longer a person dwells on failures and difficult times, the deeper they fall into a depressive state, until sometimes they may not even want to come out of it. This is where they subconsciously want to stay, where they feel comfortable and sometimes they start to believe they belong in this state- all alone, in self-destruction mode trying to make the reality of their world look like the way they feel inside.

There is no antidote for depression.  While sometimes it is possible to recover spontaneously on their own given time, in most cases it requires intervention and assistance by friends or loved ones at a minimum and most often professional help such as counseling or medication.  From a personal perspective, they need to:

  1. Listen to the pain they are suffering from, recognizing it is real and valid.
  2. Ask themselves why they are depressed and try to understand it themselves.
  3. Understand it is not their fault.
  4. Try to figure out what or when it all started to be able to address the issues that caused the depression.

Many times the help of a counselor is required to find the real though less obvious answers to these things. Answers like “because my life sucks” are not real answers, specifics are needed. More to the point, even a specific answer may not be the “real answer” because the way depression works is to alter our reaction to things. Things in life may or may not be bad, but the depression is caused by the reaction a person has had to things going badly (or even going well in some cases, if that includes a fear of losing what they have or of things getting worse again).

If you do want to try to coach yourself out of depression on your own, there are some things to try. They are not automatics that make everything better, and they absolutely are not an instant cure. In fact, when dealing with depression they can sometimes be nearly impossible to do, but putting forth the effort to continue doing them can lead to good results for some.


1# Gratitude & Seeing the Good

If you are suffering from depression, you will have to force yourself to accept good things and count your blessings for what you have got in life. You may not feel appreciative of what you have and it almost certainly feels like there is nothing good or worthwhile, but the fact you are reading a computer screen or mobile device to see this is ample evidence that not everything in your world is gone. It may be health, it may be family, it may be a pet, or perhaps it is just the fact that you have a warm dry place to sit at the moment, but look for and learn to recognize the good.

You need to allow for the fact that no, not everything is horrible. You also need to see good things for other people as being good- not something to be jealous of or to cause further pain. Until you can admit to yourself and realize that there are still a lot of good things in the world you will never be able to find “hope” which is needed to defeat depression.  You need to develop the habit of offering thanks for the many things you already have and accept the kindness that people offer as opposed to bemoaning what id too little or not enough.

Sound hard or nearly impossible? That is because when suffering from depression this type of thing is nearly impossible. Remember from above, depression is less about the way a person feels and more about the way they react to things. The reaction is caused by the depression and so long as battling depression reacting in a positive way is going to be very difficult. Just recognizing that you should react differently or be able to do this is a great first step.

2# Taking good care of yourself:

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another thing you can do to fight depression. Daily exercise, proper diet, and sound sleep can result in a more positive state of mind. Get into a routine and try to follow it always, but it is especially important to follow the routine on the bad days (when it is hardest to even get out of bed or move).

Adults should have 7-9 hours of sleep at night. You should do exercises or yoga for 30 minutes to one hour each day. Regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise will result in the best condition to improve mental health. Walking and meditation can rejuvenate energy. Better food choices that are home-made for a healthy diet is imperative. Diet and exercise cause a multitude of positive changes within the body and mind that can both help to prevent a return to depression as well as offer need strength to come out of depression. You can start a healthier life style any day- at any time.

3# Social interaction:

When you are feeling depressed and want to spend all your time alone,  that is when it is most important to socialize with family, friends, classmates or workmates, or even just be around places with lots of people so you are not physically alone. When you are alone the negative thoughts always build and deepen. Listening to sad music because you feel like it “fits your mood” is in reality intentionally adding to your depression.  If you feel disconnected, connect yourself again by being around people and involved in life. It will seem impossible or like punishing yourself to spend time with people instead of alone by yourself, but that is how you remain connected to the world and to your life.

Intentionally isolating from everybody and everything, then claiming that nobody cares or pays attention to you and your needs is a classic hallmark of depression. Unfortunately, suffering from depression does not relive us of all social responsibility. It is our own responsibility to stay out in the world and participating in it if we want to feel like we are in fact wanted and accepted. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do if trying to treat depression on your own but is also essential.

4# Hobbies and constructive use of time

An easy way to help depression is by making better use of free time with things like reading books, playing musical instruments, art, painting, indulging in games, etc. These kinds of interests can help with socializing with other people as well as prevent time that would be spent dwelling on problems or dealing with racing thoughts. Free time spent with inactivity often increases depression. By keeping both mind and body active you lessen the amount of time spent suffering from feelings of despair as well.

Aside from just keeping the mind and body active, things like volunteering with charitable organizations, helping others even if it is just family or friends and neighbors helps make you feel wanted or needed and like you are contributing to the life of others. This helps to repel the thoughts of being a burden and useless. Receiving recognition and thanks from helping others fosters higher self-esteem and a higher sense of personal value, all crucial to defeating depression.

Using the time for self-help is also beneficial whether through reading self-help books and motivational material, or through actual actions to improve your life or situation. Cleaning the house and making needed repairs improves both mood and actual situation. If dealing with financial issues then getting a part time job or following money saving techniques like couponing and bargain hunting allow you to earn or save money while staying busy plus the added benefit of giving you feelings of empowerment.

5# Cognitive restructuring:

An essential part of how you feel is what you are thinking in your mind. What you say to yourself has a strong effect on your feelings and self-perceptions. The things you believe to be true tend to materialize as a reality, so negative thoughts tend to result in negative outcomes. Strongly held convictions about whether you are a good person, or what other people think about you can alter your perception from reality.

When dealing with depression, people tend to increase their negative beliefs and thought processes. Even if they are aware they are being negative, they are unable to act or respond to things in a more positive manner. It takes a conscious effort to respond to the world around you in a positive or even neutral manner while dealing with depression. Responding with positivity or at least neutrality is not “faking it” or “putting on a fake smile”. It id the conscious realization that the negative feelings are a reaction being caused by a chemical shift in the brain and the conscious choice to instead treat things in an objective or positive manner.

Cognitive restructuring is a primary aim of cognitive behavior therapy. While CBT is practiced with a therapist or counselor, it is also possible to try to follow its principles on your own. The goal is to identify your negative thoughts or perceptions and then to replace these thoughts or perceptions with more positive or balanced thoughts based on realism as opposed to a negative perception.  Cognitive behavioral therapy works well in treating depression, and applying the principles of it can be done on your own with training and practice.

Just as trained therapists can guide somebody with depression into better and healthier thought patterns, an individual that is willing to honestly assess their situation and thought processes can identify negative or self-defeating thought patterns and replace them with healthier ones.


Is Going it Alone the Right Approach?

When dealing with depression, it is always easier to face it and defeat it with the help of others- friends, family, support groups, etc. If you are determined to try to do it on your own, the above methods make a good approach to individual or self-treatment. The fact that many of them may seem impossible to you while depressed is simply testimony of why it is typically recommended to not try to do it all by yourself and to get help from others.

Self-discipline, motivation, and self-esteem all take a huge hit from depression making it just too difficult to identify what are actually  negative perceptions and negative thought processes from reality. People substitute “cannot” for ‘do not want to” or “do not feel like” and convince themselves of the impossibility of the situation. If you are able to force yourself “to do” even when you do not want to or do not feel like it, then it is in fact possible to self-recover from depression. If you are unable to muster that level of willpower, you will likely need help in recovery.



Clara Decker is an expert small business consultant, free time writer and full-time internet surfer. She likes to work on making in-home life better in society. She lives like an entrepreneur to support her husband at the month ends.


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