Originally Answered: I'm really depressed. What do I do?
I'll give you my standard advice on this:
First, don't turn to antidepressants! Antidepressants function no better than a placebo in most patients, research shows. For each new drug developed, the drug companies would run a dozen studies to get two showing their drugs were a little better than placebo and submit those studies to the FDA. The other 10 studies wouldn't get published, and they showed the drugs didn't help depression or even made it worse. Furthermore, antidepressants are well known to cause manic episodes in people who have undiagnosed bipolar, possibly forever worsening the course of the illness. There is no way to know if you have bipolar or unipolar depression. There is a question, in fact, if antidepressants may be worsening the course of depression also, in the LONG TERM (see “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Robert Whitaker). Why take the risk of long term harm when it is becoming generally accepted that antidepressants don't help most people? Even the Abilify ad points this out – that drug company wants you to take a much more toxic antipsychotic that will shave years off your life, because their antidepressants don't work. Besides that, if you are an adult, you should know that most antidepressants will destroy your sex life, and in rare cases, it can be permanent. Most people won't stay on the drugs long term because of this side effect.
If you have severe problems, I don't know what to tell you. The drugs really don't help most people very much, but people will jump up and down and swear that they do help – Lots of “research” papers show that the meds work, but almost all are written by psychiatrists who are paid by drug companies to say that, and they must sign an agreement to not publicize any bad study results before they get their research grants, just in case they should get an attack of conscience. Patients often respond to placebo effect, or naturally cycle out of their illness, and there is not way an individual or their doctor could know if the drug helped them or not– that is why studies are required. The whole psychiatric profession has been so corrupted by money, it is hard to trust anything they say. If your problems are severe, and not due to a trauma history, you will have to decide how to weigh the risks. It's worth talking over with a therapist. ** If you cold-turkey your meds, you are likely to get severe withdrawal, so if you decide to stop, you MUST taper off them.**
Generic Depression tips (PRINT THEM OUT):
Could a prescribed or over the counter medication be causing or worsening your depression? Many meds are culprits, including birth control pills, blood pressure, pain meds, etc. Alcohol and illicit drugs can cause serious problems too.
Get your thyroid levels checked – hypothyroidism is a depression mimic.
If your depression is worse in winter, try to get more sun. You may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or your depression could be partly seasonal. Use a light box (10,000 Lux (light intensity) at about 20” - about $300 online, don't get locally, they charge more, you don't need full spectrum, it needs a UV filter, the Sunray is a good brand). I have extra windows, painted the walls peach & yellow & have a skylight. There's a link to a cheaper lightbox at psycheducation.org. Also take 1000 to 2000 IU of Vitamin D in winter – if you live in the north, you are deficient in this vitamin & need the supplement anyhow, so you may as well see if it helps the depression.
Try meditation like progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery. See The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne for examples. Free 15 minute guided imagery download at healthjourneys.com.
Go out with friends, & if you don't have any, join a club & MAKE yourself go until you look forward to it. “Isolating” makes depression worse!
Exercise 1/2 hour a day, & anytime you feel depressed. Exercise is a great mood stabilizer & reduces anxiety. LOTS OF RESEARCH SUPPORTS THIS.
Insomnia?: Go to bed & get up the same time each day, even weekends. Don't use your bedroom to watch TV, read or use the computer. Don't do stuff that revs you up before bed, like exercising & using the computer. Light from computer screens & TV wakes you up. Use that last hour to wind down-take a bath? Make the bedroom very dark, even cover up the alarm clock. Use a noise machine (makes wave sounds etc.) to cover up disturbing sounds. Avoid caffeine in afternoon & evening. Try soundsleeping.com for free relaxing sounds downloads.
Put colorful, happy things around the house. Do nice things for yourself. Make a list of things that make you happy, like: bread fresh from the oven, the scent of Jergen's cherry almond lotion, the crisp sound of a saltine cracker breaking, fresh sheets on the bed, standing in the boat flicking topwater lures onto the water, etc. Use all your senses & read that list when you are breaking down
Work on time management if you are overwhelmed. Cut back on other responsibilities so you can spend more restorative time with friends & family. Ask for help if depression makes it hard to keep up with chores.
Spend more time with your pet, if you have one. Both of you will appreciate the time.
DON'T listen to sad music! It makes things worse! Listen to upbeat stuff- same with movies & novels.
DISTRACT yourself when you are hurting. Read a novel, watch a comedy, go out with friends, play cards or a video game, whatever is mentally all-consuming. This is VERY helpful in a crisis!!
Volunteer. Helping others makes you feel better about yourself. It also keeps you more involved in the community. Many people find comfort being involved in religion. Get help from your pastor. Some pastors from conservative faiths don't “believe” in mental illness & tell you to just pray more – don't go to such a pastor for “help.”
Put a half-smile on your face. Changing your expression is proven to help change mood.
If suicidal (not just “suicidal ideation,” but you are impulsive or have a plan), find a community hospital with inpatient behavioral health (yellow pages). Don't call 911 unless you have already hurt yourself, because if it is just psych symptoms, the police come & they will take you to the closest place & that could be a horrible state hospital.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy is the most effective kind of counseling. Try free computerized CBT at moodgym.anu.edu.au. Computerized therapy appears to be almost as effective as counseling, research shows. If you have an abuse history, it is likely to be a major cause of your depression.