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Helping Yourself

Depressive disorders make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings make some people feel like giving up. You should realize that these negative views are part of depression, and typically do not accurately reflect your life situation. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive psychotherapy, is specifically designed to change the negative thinking associated with depression. 

In the meantime:

  • Do not set difficult goals for yourself, or take on additional responsibility.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Do not expect too much from yourself too soon, as this will only increase your feelings of failure.
  • Try to be with other people; it is usually better than being alone.
  • Force yourself to participate in activities that may make you feel better.
  • Try engaging in mild exercise, going to a movie, a ball-game, or participating in religious or social activities.
  • Don't overdo it or get upset if your mood is not greatly improved right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • Do not make major life decisions, such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, without consulting others who know you well and who have a more objective view of your situation. In any case, it is advisable to postpone important decisions until your depression has lifted.
  • Do not expect to snap out of your depression. People rarely do. Help yourself as much as you can, and do not blame yourself for not being up to par. 
  • Remember, do not accept your negative thinking. It is part of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Get help from a professional.  No matter how much you want to beat it yourself, a psychologist can help you recover faster.

Helping the Depressed Person

The most productive way to assist a depressed person, is to help him or her get appropriate treatment. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until the symptoms begin to abate (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to appointments with the psychologist. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication, if prescribed.

The second most important way to help is to offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always report them to the depressed person's psychologist.

Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, to the movies, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in some activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities, but do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure. 

Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her "to snap out of it." Eventually, with treatment, most depressed people do get better. Keep that in mind, and keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better. 

Depressed People May Need Help to get Help

The very nature of depression can interfere with a person's ability to get help. Depression saps energy and self-esteem and makes a person feel tired, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Therefore,

  • Seriously depressed people need encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment to ease their pain. 
  • Some people need even more help, becoming so depressed, they must be taken for treatment. 
  • Don't ignore suicidal thoughts, words or acts. Seek professional help immediately.

Where to Get Help

A complete psychological diagnostic evaluation will help you decide the type of treatment that might be best for you. You can consult the National Directory of Psychologists on this website to locate a psychologist near your home, or contact the Psychological Association in your state to receive a referral. Contact information for all State Psychological Associations can also be found in the National Directory of Psychologists.