In my last article on this topic I laid out what depression is and also what anxiety disorder is. Signs, symptoms, risk factors, as well as a bunch of other information was given to show what it’s all about and why it’s so important for us to be aware of it and talk about it. Now, in this part of the article, I’d like to show what can be done if someone does have depression or anxiety disorder. Remember, this is all taken from the professionals and experts.
There are various treatment options for depression and anxiety, and the road to recovery may not be easy. I’d like to illustrate that by giving you a brief example of a situation I encountered a few times. This was back when I, as well as a few others, visited my sister Julie when she was over at a rehabilitation center to help her get better. This place was off a couple dirt roads and tucked back in the woods—beautiful setup! I remember driving on those dirt roads and not driving very fast at all—if you did you’d be jarred teeth-less! The roads, at times, were extremely bumpy and even had big holes that sometimes were filled with water so that you didn’t know exactly how big they actually were. We did all we could to navigate through the holes and bumps and make it to our destination—to see Julie! The roads were not the exact same every day, but we always knew it would be at least a little rough.
You can expect the same type of travel down your road to depression or anxiety recovery. You may not know what lies ahead or how tough it may be, but you should still stick it out and keep going, because, by the grace of God, you will reach your destination. You can get better! You just need to know where to start and where to go next and how badly you want to get better. I hope this article may help pave the way to your recovery. Let’s get started!
When Do I Seek Medical Advice?
It is perfectly normal to occasionally feel sad or upset, or to be unhappy with situations in your life. However, with depression, those feelings linger for weeks, months or even years. Those feelings also are much more intense than “just feeling a bit down” and can interfere with relationships, work and daily activities, and even your ability to eat and bathe.
Depression is not like an upset stomach and will not likely get better on its own. In fact, it may even get worse if left untreated.
Talk to your primary care doctor about your depression symptoms. If you do not have one, then try to seek help from a mental health provider (do not feel threatened by the words “mental health,” after all, they do specialize in your area of suffering). If you, for whatever reason, are not willing to seek treatment, try to work up the courage to confide in someone about your feelings, whether that be a friend or loved one, a health care provider, a pastor or someone else you may trust. They are able and most likely willing to help you take the first step to successful treatment for depression.
As I mentioned in the previous part of this article, suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with depression. Are you considering suicide right now and have the means available? If so, it’s imperative to talk to someone now. The best choice is to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to do that, you do have other choices for reaching out to someone: contact a family member or friend; contact a doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional; contact a pastor or someone in your faith community; go to your local hospital room; call a crisis center or hot line.
Examining Your Depression Options
Many people suffer through depression and are not necessarily affected the same way. That is also true for the treatment of depression—there is no “one key for every lock” treatment that cures depression. What works for one person might not work for another. The best way to treat depression is to become as informed as possible about the treatment options, and then tailor them to meet your needs.
How About Some Depression Treatment Tips?
Here are some helpful tips when considering and dealing with depression treatment. (1) You should learn as much as you can about your depression. It’s important to determine whether your depression symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition. If so, that condition will need to be treated first. And remember, the more severe the depression, the more intense the treatment is likely to be. (2) It does and will take time to find the right treatment. It very well might take some trial and error to find the treatment and supports that works best for you. Just be sure to be open to change and a little experimentation. (3) Medications are not the only answer. Granted, it is hard to escape the ads about medication as a treatment for depression. Although medication can be quite effective for severe depression, studies have shown that therapy can be as effective or even a more effective treatment for many types of depression. Therapy and/or lifestyle changes may very well be all you need, and they come without the side effects of medication. If, however, you do decide to try medication, remember that medication works best when you pursue therapy as well. (4) You should get social support. The more you cultivate your social connections, the more protected you are from depression. Asking for help is not a weakness but a sign of strength. (5) Treatment does take time and commitment. All of those depression treatments do take time, and sometimes it might feel overwhelming or frustratingly slow. That is perfectly normal. After all, recovery does have its ups and downs. There is a peak to every valley.
Lifestyle changes are an essential part of depression treatment.
Lifestyle changes are simple but powerful tools in treating depression. Sometimes these changes may be all you need. You may need other treatment as well, yet lifestyle changes can go a long way towards helping lift depression. They can also help keep depression at bay once you are feeling better.
Lifestyle changes can treat depression.
There are some lifestyle changes which can help treat depression: regular exercise; nutrition—eating a regular, balanced diet is important for both your physical and mental health; sleep—poor sleep has a strong effect on mood; social support—strong social support networks reduce isolation, which is a key risk factor for depression; stress reduction—too much stress aggravates depression and puts you at risk for future depression.
Medical causes of depression can be ruled out.
If you suspect that you might be depressed, and lifestyle changes haven’t worked, you should make an appointment to see your primary care doctor for a thorough checkup. If your depression is the result of medical causes, therapy and antidepressants will do little to help, and the depression won’t lift until the underlying health problem is identified and treated.
What about finding a therapist to treat my depression?
If there is no underlying medical cause for your depression, the next step for treatment is finding a mental health specialist. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a therapist is your connection with this person. The right therapist will be a caring and supportive partner in your depression treatment and recovery. Do not worry if you do not find “the one” right away, for it may take a few tries to find the right one. Also, a good therapist will not pressure you into treatment, and encourages questions about his/her qualifications and patient-therapist compatibility. You should also make sure your therapist is licensed and has credentials.
There are many benefits of therapy to help treat depression.
Talk therapy is an extremely effective treatment for depression. Therapy gives you tools to treat depression from multiple angles. In addition to that, what you learn in therapy yields skills and insight to help prevent depression from coming back.
There are many types of therapy available. I will not be going into them all in detail, but will only mention them. Three of the more common methods used in depression include; cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Often, more than one method is used.
One of the hallmarks of depression is feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing. With therapy, it allows you to take a step back and survey what might be contributing to your depression and how you can make appropriate changes. Some of the bigger topics that therapy can help with include: Relationships, Setting Healthy Boundaries, and Handling Life’s Problems.
Choosing between individual and group therapy.
When you hear the word “therapy,” do you automatically think of one-on-one sessions with a therapist? Well, as effective as individual therapy can be, group therapy can also be very useful in depression treatment. In individual therapy, you are building a strong relationship with one person, and may also feel a bit more comfortable sharing some sensitive information with one person than with a group. You will also get individual attention.
Do not rule out group therapy, however. Listening to peers going through the same struggles can be tremendously beneficial and help build self-esteem. Many times group members are at different points in their depression, so you might get tips from both someone in the dog-fight and someone who has worked through a difficult problem. You can also get inspiration and ideas from hearing from others, and are of course increasing your social activities and network.
Therapy—Not Always the Most Comfortable Way to Go
Therapy may and likely will seem difficult or painful, but do not let that give you reason to give up. After all, a lot of difficult and painful things that we go through in life just end up making us stronger than we were. This also may very well be one way God is reaching out his hand of help to you. Discussing your feelings and reactions in an honest way with your therapist will help in your moving forward rather than going in reverse to your old and not as effective ways. Remember one thing about therapy: the foundation of good therapy is a strong trusting relationship. You do not need to be worried about seeing a therapist, for they are placed on this earth by God to help those who need it. Pray to God that he will guide you in your search for the right therapist, and that when you find him or her, you will likely start to feel better. May God be with you on your journey.
Considering Medications for Depression Treatment
What about medications for depression? Should I take antidepressants? What medications should I take? These, and many more questions are often asked, and rightly so. You should know that, even though depression medication may be the most advertised treatment for depression, it does not mean that it’s the most effective. Yes, medication is a helper in the relieving of the symptoms of depression, but it does not cure the underlying problem, and it’s normally not a long-term solution. Side effects and safety concerns are also associated with antidepressant medications, and withdrawal can be quite difficult. It’s important to learn all the facts when considering whether antidepressant medication is right for you. It will only benefit you and help you in making an informed and personal decision about how best to treat your depression. However, it’s important not to ignore other treatments. Want to know of ways that can help speed recovery from depression, and can also provide skills to help prevent a recurrence? That can be done with lifestyle changes and therapy.
While family doctors can be the first professionals to recognize your depression, it would behoove you to explore your options with other mental health professionals who specialize in depression. It may be that you end up working with a therapist and not need medication at all.
Tests, Diagnosis and Diagnosis Criteria for Depression
When doctors suspect someone has depression, it’s typical that a set of medical and psychological tests and exams are run. These are done to help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. A physical exam, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation are generally included.
There are several other conditions whose symptoms may include depression. In order to get the appropriate treatment, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor or mental health providers’ evaluation will help determine if you have major depression or one of the other conditions, but feel free to check into it in more detail on your own.
There is various diagnostic criteria for depression, therefore, make sure you understand what type of depression you have so that you can learn more about your specific situation and its treatment.
Available Treatment Options
There are many treatments for depression that are available. Standard depression treatment includes: medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Also, brain stimulation, complementary and alternative treatments are among the emerging and less-studied treatments for depression.
There may be some cases in which your primary care doctor can treat your depression. However, in other cases, treatment with a qualified mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker may be of great benefit to you.
It would be good if you were an active participant in your depression treatment. Working with your doctor or therapist, you can decide which treatment options may be best suited for your situation, depending on your symptoms and their severity, your personal preferences, insurance coverage, affordability, treatment side effects and other factors. However, it may be that depression is so severe that someone, such as a doctor, loved one or guardian may need to guide your care until you’re well enough to participate in decision making.
What About Anxiety?
So, that is all regarded to depression, but what about the treatment with respect to anxiety? Well, it’s important to note first that we’ll be looking at both anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders.
There Is Treatment for Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorders
Are you starting to avoid certain situations or places because you’re afraid of having a panic attack? If so, it’s important to seek help, and I will show you some ways you can do so. There is good news though. And that is that anxiety attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5–8 treatment sessions.
I encourage you to look into more about anxiety disorders and the six major types, each with their own distinct symptom profile. Those six types are: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Because of the amount of information on the various types, I will not be going into them, but recommend that you do so in your spare time. It will help you become more informed and aware.
There Are Ways to Help Yourself with Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
It’s important to know that not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. It’s possible that you’re just anxious because of a very demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at work or home, or even from too much coffee or one of those ever so popular yet extremely unhealthy energy drinks (stimulants) out there today (“heart attack in a can”).
The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you’re likely to feel anxious—whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. So if you feel like you worry too much, be sure to take some time to evaluate how well you’re caring for yourself. Here are some questions to help in your evaluation: Do you make time each day for relaxation and fun? Are you getting the emotional support you need? Are you taking care of your body? Are you overloaded with responsibilities? Do you ask for help when you need it? It’s okay to ask for help; it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of growth. It is very important to take proper care of our bodies in all areas. For, we read in I Corinthians 6:19-20 “that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Are your stress levels through the roof? Then think about how you can bring your life back into balance. If you’re feeling a bit isolated or unsupported, you should find someone you trust to confide in. Just talking about your worries can make them seem less frightening.
You can also reduce your anxiety levels by challenging the irrational beliefs, pessimistic attitudes, and rigid mental habits that trigger and sustain worry. One great book that can help with that is, What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. We all talk to ourselves, but what do we really say when we do? The more positive thoughts we can fill our mind with the better off we will be. We will be that much more inclined and capable to weed out those bad thoughts—it all starts with proper thinking. Helmstetter says in his book, “Whatever ‘thoughts’ you have programmed into yourself, or have allowed others to program into you, are affecting, directing, or controlling everything about you.” With depression and anxiety, how many of those “thoughts” are overly positive? Most likely it’s more negative, so let’s start changing that by washing out those bad negative thoughts with some good positive thoughts. It won’t be easy, but just think how rewarding it will be!
Seeking Professional Help For Anxiety
If you’ve experienced any of the worries and fear mentioned above and they are beginning to disrupt your daily life, it’s quite necessary to seek professional help.
Are you experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms? If so, you should start by getting a medical checkup. This way your doctor can make sure that your anxiety is not caused by a medical condition, such as thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since it is the case that certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, you should also tell your doctor of any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you’re taking.
Let’s say that your physician rules out a medical cause. So, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders. Why? Because the therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your anxiety disorder and devise a course of treatment.
Various Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders
You may be comforted to know that anxiety disorders do respond well to treatment—and often in a relatively short amount of time. In general, most anxiety disorders are treated with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. I encourage you to look into this in more detail some time on your own.
One thing to be aware of when it comes to medication is that, how often a medication is needed can depend on the type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety medications can be habit forming and cause unwanted side effects, so be sure to research your options. It’s very important to weigh the benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision about whether medication is the right treatment approach for you.
There are several new anxiety treatments which are showing promise as compliments to both therapy and medication. In mild anxiety disorder cases, these treatments may provide adequate relief on their own. Exercise—A natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. Research shows that as little as 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week can provide significant anxiety relief. Relaxation techniques—When practiced regularly, these techniques can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional happiness. There is also biofeedback and hypnosis.
Remember, it will help to get the treatment by the doctor but the more motivated one is to help oneself, all the more successful one will be.
Exercise Can Ease Symptoms With Depression and Anxiety
As much as we all know how good exercise is for us, it is equal or better for someone suffering with depression and anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even a little exercise helps. Even just using the stairs a couple times a day can be beneficial.
“It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety,” says Kristen Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
How Does Exercise Help Depression and Anxiety?
A growing volume of research shows that exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. It’s also said that exercise may also help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety.
Although it’s suggested by research that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to greatly improve depression symptoms, it’s likely that smaller amounts of activity—as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time—can improve mood in the short term. “Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it’s initially too hard to do more,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
It is not known just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, some evidence suggests that exercise raises the level of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. The boosting of feel-good endorphins, releasing of muscle tension can be an effect of exercise, as well as helping you sleep better, and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temp which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.
This is not to say that exercise is meant to replace medical treatment of depression or anxiety. So, if you do exercise regularly but depression or anxiety symptoms still interfere with how you live, you should seek professional help.
Benefits of Exercise for Depression and Anxiety
There are some great benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety. One benefit is confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Another benefit is distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it’s quite easy to dwell on how badly you feel. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise. Interactions is also a benefit. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it’s just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood. After all, smiles can be very contagious. One other benefit is healthy coping—Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
Of course, as we all know, knowing that something is good for you doesn’t make it easier to actually do it. Just as with many things in life, it may be easy to do but easier not to do. That’s why, if you can even get started, then you’re that much further ahead. Way to go!
So, How do I get started on this exercise? you may ask. Well, according to the staff at the Mayo Clinic, here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety. Remember, as always, be sure to check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.
1) Get your mental health providers’ support. 2) Identify what you enjoy doing. What are you most likely to do? When and how would you most likely do it? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it. 3) Set reasonable goals. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. 20 minutes? 10 minutes? Start there and build up. 4) Don’t think exercise is a burden. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate with failure. 5) Address your barriers. What’s stopping you from exercising? If you think about what’s stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution. 6) Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn’t always simple and joyful. It’s also tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don’t fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that does not mean you’re a failure and may as well quit completely. Just try again the next day. It’s all part of success. And if you do stick with it, just think how much better you’ll feel, and how worth it it will have been.
Sticking with Exercise When You Have Depression or Anxiety
Anyone who has ever started an exercise program knows that it can be difficult. However, sticking with it can be even harder; partly because how much work it actually is. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can’t or don’t want to exercise. It’s quite a refreshing feeling once you start seeing and feeling the results you were after. It’s certainly true for myself!
“What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn’t start?” Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. She goes on to say how you’d likely start [quickly] listing ways how to handle it or work around it, such as calling a friend or a tow-truck or some other form of transportation. “You instantly start problem solving.”
However, most people don’t approach exercise that way. Dr. Vickers-Douglas says, “With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it, forget it.” Too many people take that approach with exercise as well as many things in life. They fall victim to the Excusitis (ex-cus’-i-tis) disease (continually making excuses). Granted, it’s not an actual medical disease, but many fall victim to it. Good news is that there is a cure, and that cure is finding a way to work around it by finding a way to do that which you don’t want to do or “can’t” do. You need to problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. By the grace of God you can. Working through one obstacle can in turn start a ripple effect to the breaking down of other obstacle walls. It all starts with one small step. Remember, little things do matter.
“Some people think they need to wait until they somehow generate enough will power to exercise,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. “But waiting for will power or motivation to exercise is a passive approach, and when someone has depression and is unmotivated, waiting passively for change is unlikely to help at all.” She goes on to add how the focusing on a lack of motivation and will power can make you feel like a failure. Instead, you should recognize your strengths and skills and use them to help you take your first steps toward exercise.
It is my prayer, now that you have a little better understanding of what you can do if you suffer with depression and/or anxiety, that you can take the appropriate steps and measures to getting better. Also, you may better be able to help those around you who may not even know where to start.
It won’t be easy but it will be greatly beneficial to you and all those that you care about and who care about you. By God’s wonderful grace, may you find the right medication or professional help or other source of help you need.
Not sure what to do or if you can even do it at all? First of all, do your research—be an honest skeptic. Secondly, for what it’s worth, I know you can do it. But don’t just take my word for it, take these words from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Or the words found in Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
In the final part of this article series, I will get into what others can do for someone who has depression or anxiety. There are certain things which should be said and which should not be said. I will also point out other helpful information that I have found from my research as well as from those I talked to (whose names will be withheld for privacy matters, respectfully).
I’d like to leave you with a poem that is taken from I Corinthians 10:13 and is written by Helen Steiner Rice.
No problem is too intricate
And no sorrow that we face
Is too deep and devastating
To be softened by His grace,
No trials and tribulations
Are beyond what we can bear
If we share them with our Father
As we talk to Him in prayer.
“God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (I Cor. 10:13).