How to Fight Depression: What can I do about Depression and how can I Prevent it?

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man at a lake

When you’re deep in depression, it’s often hard to get up. You lose your appetite, you can’t get out of your overthinking and negative thoughts. Thereby, you often don’t see any way out of the depression and no way to escape it. Yet depression is one of the most widespread mental illnesses. The probability that we ourselves or someone close to us will suffer from it is very high. Worldwide, the risk of developing depression in the course of a lifetime, i.e. the lifetime prevalence of depression, is around 16-20%. But what helps with depression?

What helps with depression and what can I expect from psychotherapy services?

Often depression is misdiagnosed with other diseases due to its manifold symptoms. It’s overlooked or deliberately ignored due to the existing stigmatization in our society. However, depression can be treated very well nowadays. The earlier we recognize a depression, the better we can help those affected. 

There are various ways to treat depression. Often, depression is treated with a combination of psychotherapeutic interventions and psychopharmacological (medication) treatments. There are also additional interventions that can alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Psychotherapeutic interventions include discussions and exercises with a therapist. The therapy goal is always worked out together with the therapist. There are different types of psychotherapy. The most common therapy for treating depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Cognitive behavioral therapy is about becoming aware of one’s thoughts, attitudes and expectations and recognizing and changing stressful beliefs as well as adapting behaviors. Teaching and learning new patterns of behavior and thinking are key so that one’s mood can normalize over the long term. CBT usually takes place on a one-on-one basis, but it can also take place in group sessions.

Psychopharmacological treatments for the treatment of depression include various antidepressants. Most antidepressants rebalance the imbalance of various neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin or monoamines, so that the signal transmission between nerve cells is improved. Caution: The effect of antidepressants does not occur immediately after taking them, but often after two to six weeks. For this reason, close supervision by the treating physician is advisable, especially at the beginning of taking an antidepressant. This is because there are forms of antidepressants that initially increase drive but do not yet improve mood or reduce brooding. Therefore, the risk of suicide increases during this phase, and close supervision is highly recommended. 

Besides, many patients need to test several antidepressants first to get the desired effect as well as to have as few side effects as possible. When selecting the appropriate medication, the effect on one’s drive plays a decisive role above all else. Some antidepressants have a calming and sedating effect, which can improve the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Other antidepressants have a more active effect and can help to regain drive and become more active. 

Acute depression is treated with antidepressants for about 4-6 weeks. To avoid a relapse, the intake is often extended for another 4-6 months. The intake of antidepressants helps especially with severe depression (major depression) and, if necessary, also with moderate depression. For mild depression, one should first start with psychotherapy.

Additional interventions: How to prevent depression?

Exercise: Exercise has a positive effect on well-being, as sport stimulates the release of endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These have a positive effect on our mood. Also, sport can structure the day and strengthen our self-esteem. Further, sports can distract from negative thoughts, especially in cases of depression. Together with others, social contacts can also be promoted and help to improve mood, motivation or activation. In this way, sport can help in several ways to reduce the symptoms of depression. According to studies, however, sport alone is not enough to combat depression but should be done in combination with other measures. However, sports can have a preventive effect against depression.

Sufficient and controlled sleep: Sleep disorders are a common side effect of depression. A lot of brooding, overthinking, insufficient exercise, and insufficient daylight are just some of the many reasons for a disturbed sleep-wake rhythm, which in turn can result in fatigue and listlessness. Therefore, it makes sense within therapy or beyond to work on one’s own sleep behavior, rituals, and thus on the sleep-wake rhythm in order to optimize sleep and to start the day fitter and more refreshed. Want to know how to get out of bed in the morning and fall asleep in the evening in a controlled way? Background information on sleep as well as methods to optimize your sleep can be found here.

Daylight and light therapy: Too little daylight can promote depression, especially on dark winter days. In the darkness, the sleep hormone melatonin is produced. This hormone makes us tired. To produce melatonin, our body breaks down the neurotransmitter serotonin. A lack of serotonin is in turn linked to depression (serotonin hypothesis). So if more melatonin is produced by darkness, more serotonin is broken down. Therefore, plenty of light is helpful to produce less melatonin and thereby counteract the increased breakdown of serotonin and the development of depression. In winter, for example, a daylight lamp can help to avoid winter blues or winter depression. In light therapy, the entire retina of affected individuals is illuminated with a required distance and a special light, so that the affected individual is exposed to more and brighter light to stop the melatonin production and thus promote serotonin production. The earlier the light therapy is applied, the earlier the melatonin production is stopped so that the mood can change positively.

Where can I find help if I have signs of depression?

We have summarized all the important information about the process as well as the places to go at the end of our article on the topic of depression.

Self-care Challenge

Try to take a relaxing walk today – even if your day is scheduled or you don’t want to get up or go out of the house at all. This way you’ll activate your body and also soak up daylight to improve your mood.

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