It is normal for people to occasionally feel “the blues” and the mild depression that comes from adversity. A death in the family, loss of a job, a major illness – all of these lead to normal feelings of melancholy. In other cases, the feelings of listlessness and meaninglessness do not go away. It is what to do when depressed for long periods outside the norm that may make the difference between living and dying.
The biggest risk for anyone who is depressed (whether temporarily or long-term) is suicide. For those suffering normal depression associated with Life’s little bumps in the road, what to do when depressed could be as simple as applying distraction techniques. Not dwelling upon the negative event is the first step. Physical or mental activities not related to the setback are distracting. Reading, crossword puzzles, or socializing with others is all good tonics for the soul.
However, there is another form of depression that cannot be literally “walked off”, and that is chronic depression. This is also known as major depressive disorder, and it affects millions of people. The risk of suicide is greatest among this group.
The depressive feels hopeless, listless, and worthless. A normal sense of purpose or place in the world does not exist. Despair and loneliness are constant companions, and the simple act of getting out of bed daily can be monumental. Other symptoms of major depressive disorder include appetite loss and disruption of sleep patterns. Chronic depression can lead to insomnia or, ironically, to sleeping too much (as much as 14 hours a day). The sufferer may self-medicate by becoming drug or alcohol abusers.
The depressive will probably not seek help on his or her own. It most often falls to those around him or her to recognize the symptoms. Help can be had, but it is a process, and there is no overnight cure. Many people with milder chronic depression can benefit from psychiatric therapies. Most, however, since the cause is now believed to be a chemical imbalance in the brain, probably need medically supervised drugs.
A combination of therapy and medication can be effective. Anti-depressants on the market are popularly known. The two more effective ones are Zoloft™ and Prozac™ (which is readily available inexpensively in its generic form, fluoxetine). These drugs do not produce euphoria or elation; they simply help restore the serotonin balance in the brain, allowing the depressive to get on with Life. Even niacin for depression has been suggested.
What to do when depressed, especially for a period much longer than seems appropriate? Start by consulting a mental health care professional and get answers to your questions about depression. Many depressives on medication stop taking it when they feel improvement. Within a short time, though, almost all revert to their former depressive state. Once a treatment protocol is recommended, it is important to stay with it. Drug dosages may have to be raised or lowered until the proper amount is found. The object is to stick with the program.