Take the disease seriously. Do not hesitate to seek medical help if you suffer from depression. Depression is a true disease of the whole person and not just a mood disorder. It involves changes:
- Experiencing (sadness, hopelessness, insult, denial, frustration),
- Thinking (disasters, negative generalizations),
- Behavior or drive (social withdrawal, inactivity) and
- Of the body (nervousness, insomnia, heart trouble etc.).
Severe depression can change one’s entire life, involve the environment and, in extreme cases, trigger suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
The medical “depression” is to be distinguished from the common term in colloquial language, which among other things also describes a temporary mood depression. Some also use terms such as “blues” or (seasonally) “winter blues”.
Think of depression as a severe exhaustion, as it can be described as the image of a “nervous breakdown” or a feeling of “having nerves in the end.” A depression has nothing to do with “craziness”, “brain destruction” or a fault. Frequently, the body lacks “messenger substances” that transmit information in the nervous system.
Sometimes the depression even appears to be “reasonable” if it causes the patient to freeze, thus protecting him from further self-harm (in the form of pathological behavior) and, at the same time, making the environment more vulnerable. Depression can be understood as a long-lasting loss, insult and defiance reactions, in which the thoughts revolve around disappointment, anger and grief.
Sufferers suffer from severely impaired self-esteem (“worth-nothing”, “nothingness”) and are emotionally over-burdened (after attention, understanding, love and symbiotic closeness.) People dare not share or communicate their desires, fantasies or expectations in a direct way.
Seek Professional Help
Describe as soon as possible all your symptoms to your general practitioner or specialist (especially the mental and those that affect taboos, such as sexuality). Do not be shy to even address suicidal thoughts.
Get rid of the prejudice that mental illness is an expression of weakness. If you suspect a depression as the cause of your symptoms, express your suspicion without reservation. In this way, you gain valuable time and save yourself unnecessary suffering because depression can be treated very well.
Your doctor knows that depression is neither a “fashion phenomenon” nor an expression of laziness or indignity. The therapist takes them seriously and knows how skillfully, sufferers can sometimes hide behind physical symptoms.
Detect Your Triggers
Although sometimes a particular stroke of fate appears as a trigger (loss, insult, failure of plans and opportunities for life), many depressions are the culmination of a long chain of burdens in which the last drop overflows.
Unfavorable habits of thinking, rigid patterns of behavior and one-sided expectations of the environment persistently keep the depression alive. Depressed people usually complain of a “lack” (often in the form of affection and genuine appreciation).
This can’t be subsequently compensated by family members and therapists in the form of a “compensation”. As far as there is a solution, it usually consists of mourning the missing and replacing it with one’s own (new) behavior.
Depression can also be understood as an invitation to realize previously unrealized possibilities in the future (to develop yourself personally, to become more independent, to enjoy, etc.).
Trust that your suffering is very good, even if you see everything black at the moment. Countless people in front of you have coped successfully with depression.
Depression comes and goes rarely out of the blue. Often, they have a longer history and lead to a feeling of complete exhaustion or great emptiness. As one gradually fills up an empty tank, it takes time for depression, until sufficient energy is available again through medication and unlearning power-consuming behaviors. Recharge your batteries with the knowledge “It’s better to move forward slowly than not to move forward at all.”
It’s Okay To Get Help
Protect yourself from personal and foreign pressure. Be aware that depressive people usually have high expectations of themselves. Often, they are perfectionists who want to do everything 200 percent and put themselves under massive pressure to perform. The environment is amplified by appropriate appeals like “Pull yourself together”.
So, understand your mental illness as an invitation to rid yourself of pathogenic behaviors, attitudes and sources of stress. Accept that at the moment you can’t meet many requirements anymore and expressly allow yourself to be depressed (to complain, to cry, etc.).
Give yourself a temporary sick leave to recharge your batteries and improve your lifestyle in peace. Sometimes a hospital stay can be the best way to escape the internal and external stress.
“Treat yourself to relief” does not mean that you should now crawl into bed and have it completely taken care of.
This is fine for a start. In the long run, however, you will have more of it if you commit yourself to become more efficient and physically and mentally resilient again.
Do not “fight” your “depression” (and therefore a part of your person). Depressed people are often far too aggressive against themselves. Prefer to be more depressed, especially as it can sometimes be very helpful to others. Since 10 to 15 percent of all people suffer from depression at least once in their lives, the corresponding predisposition apparently belongs to the human race.
Also, be aware of the strengths and benefits of depression. Thus, depressed people are often very persistent and reliable. They are performance-related, are oriented towards social ideals and appear modest, since they rarely openly aggressive.
They are very sensitive, warmhearted and capable of deep experience. As a partner, they are affectionate and close to each other. They don’t rush, but re- and over consider much from caution rather multiple times. They are very self-critical and stand by their own “guilt”.
They are the classic helpers who don’t hesitate to take responsibility for others and to sacrifice themselves if necessary. Therefore, they are often appreciated in their families and their jobs.
How Depression Affects Others
Through persistent complaints (from the other’s point of view: “eternal whining” or “complaining”) depressive people express their aggressiveness.
Although it is directed against the sick, it can provoke other people’s impatience and rejection (counter-aggression). The constant self-accusations, a hurt-defiant behavior, the appeal to help and the simultaneous failures of the helper make the helper eventually angry and disappointed.
He feels the intensity of his feelings, while the depressive often does not feel anything. The often-repeated statement “I do not help,” the helper then understands as “You can’t help me either”.
Thus, depression often severely tests the frustration tolerance of family members, friends, acquaintances, physicians and other helpers.
In many cases, they have to endure the annoyance that the depressive actually has towards other important caregivers. Not infrequently, people in the environment are literally “infected”, so that they also feel temporarily devoid of emotions, value, interest and will.
When depressive people cling to themselves, they often take “air” away from others. In order not to suffocate, the latter then go at a distance and thus reinforce the fear of the depressive, rejected and left alone.
In your own interest, put yourself in the person of your helpers again and again, even if this is difficult for you.
Depressed people tend to see everything black (they generalize to their own disadvantage). Even if some things work out in the daily routine and for others a tendency for improvement becomes visible, the depressive continues to experience “everything as terrible and hopeless”. In this situation, you help yourself if you rate your condition several times a day and note the result.
With the help of such a “mood calendar” you keep a mirror in mind. It counteracts the danger that in retrospect, you perceive things much distorted. At the same time, make it easier for your doctor to check the treatment effect.
Get Active; Do Something
Mood and behavior influence each other. You notice it yourself: Because of your depression you have nothing to do and would prefer to crawl somewhere and stay there. You may hope that you will catch up again as soon as you feel better.
It is better to do the reverse: Do something at all and let yourself be surprised that it is going uphill again. Leave your bed and get out of the chair. Because like fire and water, healthy activity and depression are hardly compatible.
In addition to your mood, also keep an activity calendar. If everything goes well, your mood will increase with increasing activity. Examples of activities are: walking, cycling, tidying up the house, gardening, reading, calling friends, getting dressed, making-up, etc.
Create a comprehensive list of well-managed activities that are personally pleasing to you and that can be stimulating on a daily basis.
The Role of Exercise
Take advantage of the anti-depressive effect of athletic exercise. Obviously, sport releases messengers in the body that relax and improve mood.
Endurance sports such as walking (fast walking), jogging, cycling, swimming, etc. have proven to be particularly successful. Bicycling has the advantage of opening up new spaces and possibly a sense of freedom through excursions.
Your family doctor will be happy to advise you. Sport is also good for reducing anger and fury in a healthy way.
Depressed people are often mastering in helping others and putting themselves back. They claim to have to “please everyone”. Conversely or unconsciously, they often expect the same thing, namely that others are fully committed to them.
To the chagrin of many depressives, this bill does not always work out. Also, depressive people like to transfer the entire responsibility for their healing on their doctor (“You are the doctor”).
They are happy to seduce him to believe that they can “save” this patient in any case. Accordingly, they are even more disappointed, even if the doctor “fails”.
Avoid the impending “disappointment trap”. Do not rely exclusively on outside help, but actively contribute to your recovery. Take responsibility for the healing process.
The Power of Thinking
Some therapists believe that depression is particularly a disease of “thinking”. Because depressive people tend to see everything black (especially themselves, the future, the environment and the previous own experiences).
They generalize in excess (“No one loves me”, “Nothing can do more” “Everything was in vain”). According to the “all-or-nothing principle” they often expect to be “completely healthy” again.
At the same time, those affected overlook the fact that they manage to get dressed, to prepare breakfast and to close the apartment.
But none of this applies or is hidden. Depressed people think very schematically, have intrusive “automatic thoughts”, to which they are brooding. They suffer from the idea that events and situations can’t be influenced by their own behavior.
Failure is attributed to one’s own person, successes to chance (“all happiness only”) or other external factors. Especially for depressed people, it has therefore proven to be consistent to practice how to describe facts precisely, meaningfully researching causes, creating relationships and thus thinking realistically.
A corresponding training offers the cognitive behavioral therapy.
Recognize Self-Esteem Issues
Depressed people often feel “too short-lived” in life. They keep this feeling of “too little” alive in different ways (in the form of “nothing worth being”, “no one’s being”, “nothingness”).
They experience themselves as people who constantly must fight for everything, that they can’t never get something without problems or even own things in abundance, they can’t take anything and nothing is given to them.
Therefore, depressive people usually suffer from low self-esteem, which is particularly dependent on their own performance associated recognition (“I am what I do”). Any threat to performance threatens their self-esteem.
In addition, they tend to constantly devaluate themselves and their achievements. Hungry, they wait for confirmation from others, from whose opinion they make themselves dependent.
At the same time, however, they are suspicious of the confirmation of the environment (which they themselves demand) because they unconsciously see through the vicious circle.
Improve Your Self Image
Solve the dilemma described by asking other people for positive feedback (observations) on your person. Thank you for compliments and refrain from further comments.
Get rid of the shame-based thinking automaton “What will others think or expect of me?” Take less care of others and more about yourself. Distinguish between your value as a human being and the value of your accomplishments.
Embrace Healthy Aggression
Often people with depression are aggressive towards themselves, which can be expressed for example in the form of head, stomach, muscle or joint pains and in extreme cases even in suicide.
Don’t close your eyes to aggressive thoughts (“I’d like to kill him”). Thoughts and fantasies are harmless and natural.
They are neither reprehensible nor do they make the person guilty. Also accept anger and fury as feelings that every human being may have. Such emotions are at best problematic if they lead to thoughtless acts.
However, aggressive thoughts alone will not make you an “aggressive person”. Try to express your anger, even if it’s hard for you. Your environment will be even more willing to accept your ideas the less reproachful you formulate them.
Describe how you feel about certain experiences and refrain from indicting others. Those who are charged must first of all take care of their own defense and will therefore no longer come up with the idea to help you.
Depressed people often cling to others. They have not learned to part without falling into uncertainty, fear and despair.
In conversations and encounters they can sometimes be difficult to draw a line (they still remember something worth sharing).
Also, of things many depressives can hardly separate from. It’s like clinging to something. In general, depression could also be counted as “addiction”.
If you recognize yourself in this description, your healing will progress even faster if you manage to be yourself and more on your own.
Beware of Life-Changing Choices
Beware of making basic decisions (marriage, moving, divorce, having children, dismissing, changing your job) in a state of severe depression or having others take you.
If you later regret such decisions, you may become even more depressed.
It is also usually unpleasant for those involved when you learn that your decision (marriage, childbirth) is primarily about self-healing.
A combination of drug and psychotherapeutic treatment works best against depression. Therefore, treat yourself to psychotherapy if you are suffering from depression, whose end is not in sight.
Ask the psychotherapist beforehand what experiences he has with depression treatments and if he can handle them.
After all, it is by no means easy to treat depressive people because they complain a lot and overly devalue themselves and others, preferring to focus on failures.
Also, a therapist must be able to constructively deal with the anger of depressive patients, who sometimes direct them to the therapist, even though they are actually considered to be other important caregivers.
Group therapies have the advantage of providing more than one caregiver (the therapist). This is especially important if you are very lonely.
Antidepressants normalize a disturbed metabolism in the brain by influencing so-called messenger substances (in particular norepinephrine and serotonin). They do not make you dependent and are ineffective in healthy people. Their effect is usually delayed (at the latest after two to three weeks). That’s why you should not end their intake too soon.
Take Antidepressants Responsibly
Antidepressants take a few days to develop their effects noticeably. The antidepressants available today are not the same for all patients. Therefore, it may be useful to replace one antidepressant by another with insufficient effect.
The same applies to the case that an effective antidepressant unfolds unpleasant side effects. Only if after three to four weeks still no significant improvement has occurred, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about the change of the drug.
Look forward to such a step with trust and hope. Unfortunately, there are still no tests that can predict which antidepressant a particular patient will respond to best. Do not change the dosage by hand, especially if your condition fluctuates.
Maintain the dosage especially if the antidepressant helps you. This is a convincing reason to continue the treatment and not a reason to stop it.
For recurrent depression, even a long-term therapy may be appropriate.
If no side effects are observed, you can see this as an expression of pleasingly good drug tolerance and not as an indication of lack of efficacy.