Here’s an interesting article I found that is quite comprehensive in how to deal with ever-recurring depression. It’s rather lengthy, but worth reading.
One reader posed this question about his attempts to stop frequently recurring depression:
“How can I know if I am doing the right things and doing them enough to get well?”
At first glance, you might think the answer is straightforward. Feeling better is the measure. If there’s no change in the depression, then the treatment isn’t working and you should try something else.
There are several reasons why it’s not that simple.
1. There is a confusing range of possibilities: medications, medical procedures, psychotherapies, life-style changes, self-healing methods, spiritual practices, relationship therapies, expressive arts – and the list goes on. How do you know which ones or which combination might work. You can’t possibly try them all.
2. The length of time each one takes to work is different for each individual.
3. In my experience, no single treatment or practice can help with all the varied symptoms and life dysfunctions that depression brings with it. The signs of progress will differ depending on what each therapy is designed to do.
4. Depression itself makes it hard for any type of treatment to work because of attitudes and beliefs you may have about yourself:
- You’re getting what you deserve. If you were a capable person you’d be able to get rid of this by self-control.
- You know that nothing will work. Nothing has ever worked for long in the past, and new treatments will be just the same. (This is the opposite of the placebo, called the nocebo effect.)
- You’re just a burden on everyone and won’t ever get anywhere, so what’s the point of trying to get well.
- If a treatment doesn’t work wonders immediately, you toss it and despair that anything can work.
To overcome difficulties like these, I’ve tried several strategies that have worked for me.
1. Some treatments or therapies prepare you to get well. They don’t change anything permanently but give you a short-term boost, improve physical well-being and help you feel more positive. They can also teach you skills that are important in more focused therapies.
– Lifestyle changes – like exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep – can help you maintain your health, increase your energy and strengthen your ability to stay with treatment over time.
– Meditation teaches you to gain a perspective on your awareness and physical being that is not dominated by depression. It helps with healing in a non-specific way by deepening your consciousness of your inner flow of beliefs, feelings and thoughts.
– Activities and hobbies that you like to do and that bring out a more expressive side can help you feel better. Many also have therapeutic value. Writing of certain kinds has been shown, for example, to help with expression of feelings. The process of opening up in this way can improve mood and has also been shown to reduce susceptibility to many diseases.
2. There is no single treatment that will remove all symptoms of depression. It’s important to learn about the specific effects each therapy or practice was created to bring about. You can evaluate its effectiveness in helping you in those specific ways.
– Antidepressants are designed to alter the availability of neurotransmitters specifically linked to mood. They can help get you out of despair and generally take the edge off painful feelings. They are less likely to help with other problems, like mental focus or attention, short-term memory, sleep and eating patterns or behavior and relationship issues.
– Cognitive therapies help you identify destructive ways of interpreting your experience and overall self-concept. They go beyond that to help you change the behaviors linked to those negative ways of viewing yourself.
– Couples counseling can give you tools to overcome the tendency to isolate yourself in depression and to restore meaningful communication and responsiveness in your closest relationships.
– Therapies helping you find purpose in life can provide motivation to reconnect with the larger community outside your immediate family.
3. To help choose the right treatments, I’ve done well by tracking my illness over time. This method helps me identify exactly which symptoms are having the worst effects on my life and how often they recur. Then I can prioritize which ones to address through treatment. (I’ve written a series of five posts on Storied Mind that offer several suggestions on how to do this.)
4. The information that tracking provides helps me choose the therapies designed specifically to deal with each of the symptoms.
5. Mapping out a plan for recovery in this way helped me realize that treatments can’t do all the work while you wait for them to take effect. You need to mobilize your own healing powers by becoming an active partner in defining an approach that fits your unique circumstances.
6. I’ve found it especially important to change my view of recovery as a whole. Focusing only on ending symptoms can still leave you with an unsatisfying life. I think of ending symptoms now as one important phase of a larger process to restore general well-being. There are newer therapies that take this approach, such as Positive Psychology, Well-Being Therapy and Tom Wooten’s Bipolar In-Order.
I can’t give a direct answer to the question about how you can know which therapies and practices will work best or how much of each one is enough. Both depression and we as individuals are far too varied to allow a single answer.
Hopefully, these ideas can at least give you some starting points in getting out of the rut of ever-recurring depression.