Depression is a complex mental health condition that affects a person’s thoughts and emotions on a daily basis, sometimes for many years on end. This has a massive impact on relationships with loved ones, as well as one’s overall quality of life.
Although the best treatment plan for depression involves a two-prong approach of medication and therapy, there are other factors that come into play. For example, diet and exercise can go a long way towards stabilizing moods in several mental health conditions.
Ensuring that you are eating regularly can stabilize blood sugars, which promotes a more balanced mood. Furthermore, avoiding unhealthy stimulants like sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol is also known to support stable mental health.
However, even though science points towards the link between mental health and lifestyle factors, it isn’t advisable to rely solely on natural remedies as your treatment plan for depression. So without further ado, let’s dive right in and explore all of the options.
Causes of Depression
Depression is complicated in that there is no single cause for the disease. The condition could be caused by life circumstances such as moving to another city or the loss of a loved one. At other times, depression could be the result of genetics.
In some cases, depression could be caused or worsened by physical diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, immune system disorders, neurological conditions, thyroid disease, heart disease, and diabetes (among others). Even some medications are thought to spark depressive side effects.
Some of the medicines known to commonly cause the side effects of depression include:
- Sleeping aids
- Oral contraceptives
Of course, these are only a handful of the many culprits that might be contributing to depression, only adding to the complexity of the nature of depression itself. Because depression is a medical condition that is influenced by other medical factors, it’s important to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist holds the ability to prescribe medications. They also have the training to rule out medical issues that could be to blame for your low mood.
Choosing the Right Treatment Plan for Depression
If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, it is very important to seek professional help. You could begin by chatting to your primary care physician, but it is highly recommended to see a mental health specialist (psychiatrist) who can provide medical help for depression.
Medication or supplements
Antidepressants. Both primary care physicians and psychiatrists can prescribe antidepressants, but a psychiatrist is more knowledgeable about mental health and specializes in balancing chemicals in the brain. A psychiatrist is trained to help people with overcoming depression, as are counselors.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Zoloft are commonly prescribed for depression, but there are thousands of different drugs that the doctor could recommend. For optimal results, be completely honest about how the medicine is working, as well as any side effects.
Supplements. St. John’s Wort is often taken by Europeans for the treatment of depression, but the supplement can be fatal if taken in combination with certain prescription medicines. Never take St. John’s Wort without talking to a doctor about contraindications.
Other supplements that have been found to help with depression include omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil supplements. However, the National Institutes of Health have warned against taking omega-3s alongside oral contraceptives or blood pressure medicines.
Types of therapy
For this reason, medication alone is generally not enough to treat depression effectively. Instead, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is recommended or prescribed alongside medication. Therapists can help people overcoming depression by providing:
- Professional diagnosis. Nearly 50% of people suffering from depression have a type of anxiety disorder as well. Additionally, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and abuse can be at the root of depression, which a professional should be able to diagnose.
- Counseling. Behavioral therapies, including interpersonal, cognitive, exposure, commitment, acceptance, and group counseling, can all teach new thought patterns which can help you deal with intense emotions. These forms of therapy can also help identify and shift negative coping mechanisms that might be contributing to your depression. It is possible to benefit from both in-person and online therapy.
- Family or couple therapy. It is possible to enlist the help of a psychologist for relationship issues that arise in a family or romantic relationships. Seeing a therapist with your loved ones can help strengthen a person’s support system and deal with specific issues contributing to depression.
- Psychedelic therapy. Although controversial, this type of therapy is growing in popularity as emerging science has shown promising results. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) involves taking a psychedelic substance under supervision, in combination with talk therapy. Some of the drugs currently used include LSD, MDMA, DMT, ketamine, peyote, ayahuasca, psilocybin, and ibogaine.
- Alternative counseling. There are a whole host of alternative options that might be recommended by a healthcare professional, including biofeedback. This technique involves practicing controlling the body’s responses like your heart rate or muscle tension. It can also involve progressive relaxation, guided imagery meditations, and more.
- Online therapy. These days, online therapy is becoming a popular option for getting help with mental health problems. This form of therapy is especially useful for people with severe depression who battle to even leave their homes. Online therapy is also more cost-effective than in-person therapy, offering patients the opportunity to chat with a counselor daily.
Making Long-Term and Short-Term Goals
It is common for psychologists to create a treatment plan together with their patients. Here are a few of the more common major goals for depressed patients that form the cornerstone of a treatment plan for depression:
1. Enhanced insight into depression
- Increased understanding of emotions
- Identification of cues, triggers, and symptoms
- Development of vocabulary used to describe symptoms and cues
- Enhanced understanding of the consequences of acting out
- Identification of vulnerable areas underlying the depression itself
2. Addressing underlying issues
- Acceptance of depression as the main cause of life problems
- Linking symptoms and cues of depression to triggers and/or harmful coping mechanisms such as addictions
- Identification of contributing factors to the depression
3. Active participation in either individual or group counseling (or both)
- Support from psychologists and loved ones
- Reduced isolation and/or avoidance
4. Correction of subconscious irrational thought patterns
- Identification of cognitive distortion or irrational thought patterns
- Shifting perspective with more appropriate self-statements
5. Addressing concerns of helplessness, hopelessness, or dependence
- Introduction of healthy coping techniques for intense emotions
- Introduction of strategies towards independence
6. Decreased depressive symptoms and increased coping techniques
- Identification of appropriate responses for depressing emotions
- Introduction of relaxation techniques as a coping mechanism
- Development of new, healthier responses than addictive tendencies
Tracking Goals the Smart Way
Patients struggling with depression can often find it difficult to let go of toxic behaviors. Fortunately, there are techniques that can help with this, one of which is known as “behavioral activation.” Behavioral activation is designed to help clients replace negative conduct with positive actions.
The first step is to keep detailed records of when negative behaviors arise to notice any patterns. After this, it’s a great idea to create a schedule of replacement activities, such as gratitude exercises or going for a walk.
In time, you can train yourself to take different actions that will serve to alleviate your depressive symptoms. Neuroplasticity is the art of rewiring the automatic thought patterns in the mind, and it has been well documented.
Learning How to Cope With Depression
As mentioned earlier, therapy and medication are only one aspect of a more holistic approach to treating depression. That being said, these steps are super important and should never be overlooked! Other steps you can take alongside counseling and medicine include:
- Spend time with a support group or supportive people
- Engage in spiritual practices, including group interactions
- Find online chat rooms or message boards (designed for those suffering from depression)
- Don’t isolate yourself, as isolation breeds depression
- It has been found that building muscle reduces depression
- Any exercise is better than no exercise, and it can also increase your lifespan!
- Incorporate relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness into your life
- Spend more time doing things that relax you, such as gardening or watching movies
- Eat regular meals and avoid processed foods as well as alcohol and caffeine
- Take frequent breaks by watching comedy clips, self-massaging, or dancing
The Bottom Line
The two most important aspects of a depression treatment plan include therapy and medication. If you haven’t already sought help, be sure to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist as soon as possible.
They will be able to help you find the right combination of medicines that will help rebalance your brain chemicals. Therapy (either in-person or online) can help you develop healthy coping skills and manage your distress.
Last but not least, make sure to spend time with supportive people and eat a healthy diet. If you are interested in pursuing online counseling, we can help. To be matched to a psychologist who can help you and your unique needs, click right here.