- Best Practices for Recovery
to Know the
If either you or a loved-one has been
depressed, you are not alone.
Fact #1 - Depression is a very common problem that affects millions of
people and their families. One out of ten adult Americans currently
suffer from depression (according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention - CDC). Over the course of a lifetime, about 16 percent
of Americans will experience depression.
I have lots of first-hand experience with depression. I know what it’s
like to live with depression because I grew up with depressed parents.
I also know what it’s like to live in depression because I was
depressed on and off through much of my adult life. Additionally, I
have the perspective that comes from having helped hundreds of clients
who were depressed. And I know the joys of living without depression!
Fact #2 - Depression is treatable! This is the single most important
fact about depression! With the help of modern medications, life
and life-style changes, depressed people can heal and enjoy productive,
If you want to help yourself or a loved one
must get past your own denial about depression. Well-intentioned
advice, self-help books, and
“band-aid” approaches won’t help and may only delay getting more
Family and friends can be a big help, but first they must understand
that depression is a serious illness that requires treatment—it won’t
just go away by itself.
Depression can be difficult to recognize
and diagnose. The
each person, and not all may be present. It is possible that in some
individuals chronic anger (irritation) may be the main symptom. Or they
may just feel unmotivated or tired.
In order to get help for yourself or a
loved one, it is important to
recognize some of the common symptoms of depression. Regardless of
are present, it is important to get a medical evaluation by a physician
because many medical illnesses can cause or contribute to these
- Depressed mood most of the time or chronic
- Low energy, physical and mental tiredness or
- Loss of interest and enjoyment of normally
- Inability to concentrate and make decisions
- Excessive guilt, shame, and/or self-criticism
- Feelings of sadness, emotional emptiness, and/or
- Feelings of low self-esteem and/or worthlessness
- Sleep problems: unable to sleep/rest well or wanting
too much sleep
- Appetite problems: either loss of appetite or
- Thoughts of death and/or suicide
Fact #3 - Depression is a serious disease
involves all areas of a person’s
life. It’s not just about your thinking or emotions. It's not just
something happening in your brain—every
part of your body and your life is involved. Therefore, treatments and
that only address one part of the person are not likely to be effective
long-term improvement. Recovery requires a holistic approach that deals
with all areas of life: body, mind, spirit, and social interaction.
Fact #4 - Depression has a biological
component. Depression is about
lack of energy. Some of the chemicals that your brain needs to work
properly are not there. It is not situational
nor the result of “stinking thinking”. This means getting a change of
scenery, taking a nice vacation, working out in the gym, or buying new
clothes, etc. are not
likely to bring long-term relief. It also means that you can’t simply
depressed person into feeling better. It's not a matter of
better problem-solving. With depression, the most immediate and
effective way to get the chemicals your brain needs is to take the
Fact #5 - Depression has psycho-social
components. Certain patterns of behavior and thinking can have a
big impact on your ability to access and focus your energy, and can
also waste vital energy. For example, worry and
anger waste energy and don’t produce positive results—you are just
your wheels, which produces exhaustion and more discouragement.
Learning to reduce stress and conflicts in relationships can help
reduce the loss of energy. Healthy, loving relationships increase
energy and pleasure, while destructive relationships drain energy and
Fact #6 - Depression comes with lots of
shame. Shame and self-criticism are symptoms of depression that drain
energy and motivation. When you
feel deeply ashamed and/or worthless, it is hard to be around people or
to ask for help. The greater your shame, the greater your disconnection
from people. Isolation is a part of the problem, not part of the
solution. Part of the solution is to connect with trustworthy people.
Fact #7 - Depression has spiritual
components. Listen to yourself
deeply—your desires, your emotions, your body, and your soul. Do this
as a regular practice. All the
answers are there! Listen
with an open mind and heart—don't censor what you hear. Most of us are
not good at this
deeper listening and will need help to learn. Prayer and meditation can
to Get Started
1. Get help—you can’t do it alone!
So even though it
may be hard to talk about your feelings and to ask for help, do it
anyway! Start by seeing your doctor, psychiatrist, life coach and/or
health professional. Be
honest about your symptoms and concerns. Your first contacts are just
first steps—don't expect instant relief.
2. Be willing to take anti-depressant medication to help with the
biochemical part of depression. If your doctor suggests an
anti-depressant medication, take it! The right medication can be a big
Anti-depressants can help you think more clearly, rest better, regain
your energy, relieve worrying, and feel better. With the correct
medication and dose you won’t feel drugged or intoxicated, you will
just begin feeling more normal.
If your symptoms have been intense or overwhelming, or if your current
medication is not helping, it may be best to see a psychiatrist because
they are the experts in treating depression with medication. You may
need a different medication or dosage, or you may need more than one
medication. Don’t give up if the first medication or dosage doesn’t
help. And don’t give up if you have side effects—talk with your
doctor/psychiatrist about them. There are lots of effective
anti-depressant medications, so there is no reason to feel stuck with a
causes side effects.
3. A big part of healing from depression is learning about your energy.
comes from breath and movement—anything you do that gets your body
moving and breathing more will help. Even mild, regular exercise will
the brain chemicals you need for energy and pleasure.
4. Reducing stress decreases loss of energy. Life coaching or
counseling can help you learn
new ways of problem-solving, reducing stress, resolving conflicts, and
communicating more effectively within
relationships. Meditation can be a big help with clearing your mind so
you feel refreshed.
5. Improving self-care is important for long-term recovery—anything you
to improve your physical health will help. Getting exercise and
improving your diet are key parts of good self-care.
6. Because depression impacts all areas of
your life, you will need skilled help from multiple health care
professionals, including such specialists as a life coach, counselor,
psychotherapist, minister, physician, and/or psychiatrist. As a life
coach with extensive experience working in the mental health field, I
can help you find and coordinate an effective team of professionals,
skills necessary for recovery, and fine-tune all treatment and recovery
7. Respect your energy! Follow
more of what energizes you and less of what drains you.
[PLEASE NOTE: This article offers helpful
information, but it is not
intended to diagnose or treat depression. Depression is a serious
illness that requires appropriate diagnosis and treatment.]