What are some depression coping strategies?

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Answered by: Elizabeth, An Expert in the Living with Depression Category
When I was first diagnosed with depression in college, I didn't understand much about the disease. Through the years, I've learned many depression coping strategies that have improved my quality of life--and the lives of those I love.

The first thing I learned is to fight the stigma that is associated with mental illness. It's much easier to have a physical problem that can be seen and remedied. But I have learned to accept--for the most part--that depression is as much a disease as diabetes or cancer, and that it requires treatment. It is not a "pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps" condition. Accepting this has made living with depression easier. The second technique is to be open with others. I don't post my disease on Facebook or rent a billboard next to the freeway, but I do talk it over with sympathetic friends and family. This gives me a network of support during tough times.



Third, I had to find a good therapist. I was blessed to find one with whom I connected right away. That being said, don't be afraid to "shop" for therapists. What is good for one person may not fit another's personality or needs. One of the most important depression coping strategies is honesty. Once I found my doctor, I learned how important honest communication is. I thought my problems and feelings and thoughts were too shameful to share with anyone, even my husband.

However, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other therapists are trained to deal with the dark thoughts and feelings that accompany depression. Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others or self are nothing new. I have learned to have the courage to tell my therapist EVERYTHING, because only then can true healing begin. If I had a bronchitis, for example, I would be sure to tell my doctor about my cough.



Honesty brings me to another of the most important depression coping strategies: Realize that you are not your thoughts or feelings. As I revealed what I thought were the most shameful things on the planet to my therapist, I learned that these thoughts and feelings did not define me as a person. Everyone has fleeting thoughts and emotions that are uncomfortable. Most people just notice them, but I have a tendency to ruminate and feel guilty because I thought or felt something. But realizing the transitory nature of these feelings and thoughts has helped free me from the vicious cycle of guilt and shame.

The final of my depression coping strategies is medication. Antidepressants are not like headache medicine. They take weeks to reach a therapeutic level and in the meantime, a patient may experience side effects as well as depressive symptoms. Be patient. Once the medication takes effect, it's like the sun has come out after a month of rain. What is difficult about medication, though, is that sometimes a doctor will have to experiment with different types or combinations of medication to ensure the best treatment. Again, BE PATIENT. Depression is a very treatable disease. Help and hope are available to those who seek it.

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