If you have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, it can feel overwhelming. Even though you may have known for a long time that something was wrong, hearing the diagnosis can feel like the end of the world, but it’s not.
There are ways you can learn how to overcome major depressive order and live a thriving life.
What is major depressive disorder? What about the misconceptions people may have about it?
Major depressive disorder is classified as a mood disorder. Someone with major depressive disorder, also called depression or MDD, may experience ongoing feelings of sadness as well as a loss or lack of interest in hobbies they used to enjoy.
Depression can affect thoughts and feelings as well as behavior and functionality. It’s not uncommon to have trouble doing daily activities when you live with major depressive disorder.
Key points to remember when you are diagnosed with major depressive disorder include:
- Depression is an illness and not a personal failure or weakness
- You can’t just get over it or snap out of it when you have clinical depression
- Depression is treatable, but treatment is often an ongoing, long-term process
- Most people with depression do have multiple episodes during their life
The exact causes of depression aren’t fully understood. Researchers believe there are differences in the brains of people with depression versus people who don’t have it. One specific example of brain differences is neurotransmitter levels.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that may be a factor for depression. Due to this possible connection between brain chemicals and depression, certain medications can be beneficial for treating symptoms.
Hormones may be involved with depression and there is likely a genetic component as well. Researchers are working on finding specific genes that play a role in developing depression.
One of the most important things someone with major depressive disorder can realize is that it’s a serious disorder. Depression can affect every part of someone’s life and physical and mental health. As with many chronic disorders, untreated depression tends to become more severe over time.
Complications of untreated depression can include substance abuse, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
With treatment, the risk of these complications is significantly reduced and someone’s quality of life can drastically improve.
Learning how to overcome major depressive disorder first relies on receiving treatment. Once someone does that, they can learn more self-help and coping strategies focusing on how to overcome major depressive disorder.
How Is Major Depressive Disorder Treated?
Different treatment options are available for major depression. A combination of medication and psychotherapy tends to be the most effective approach for many people, although everyone’s situation is unique.
Medications for depression can help alleviate or decrease many of the symptoms and visiting a therapist can provide additional benefits. For people with severe depression, a hospital stay may be required initially until symptoms improve.
Some of the medications for depression include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This type of medication is considered relatively safe and have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).This class of drugs includes Cymbalta and Pristiq.
- Atypical Antidepressants. This type of medication can’t be classified into other drug groups. Atypical antidepressants include Wellbutrin and Remeron.
Other types of medicines for depression are tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and in some cases, mood stabilizers are an option.
It can take time to find the right medication or combination of treatment options that will effectively treat major depressive disorder. Often a healthcare provider will try several options before finding the right fit for a patient. If you are wondering how to overcome major depressive disorder, a significant component is being patient through this process.
In addition to finding the right medicines and combinations, antidepressants usually require several weeks to take full effect.
When you have medications that are working and you’re receiving the appropriate medical care, what else can you keep in mind in terms of how to overcome major depressive disorder?
6 Tips for Coping with Major Depression
Explore these tips on how to cope with major depressive disorder and improve your quality of life.
1. Follow Your Medication and Treatment Plan
When you have major depressive disorder, along with initially receiving treatment, it’s essential to follow your treatment plan and take medications as instructed. If you don’t, you run the risk of developing severe complications.
If you were to stop taking a prescribed medication abruptly or without medical supervision, you could experience withdrawal or worsening depression symptoms.
In addition to following your medication and treatment plan, empower yourself and be an active participant in your treatment. Learn more about major depressive disorder so you can ask relevant questions and share input with your healthcare providers.
2. Surround Yourself with Positivity
When you have even, well-managed major depressive disorder, you may find yourself being overcome with dark or negative thoughts. You can work to combat this by finding positivity in your life.
For example, surround yourself with people who support and empower you. Learn to find ways to remind yourself of the positives when it’s difficult. You might write affirmations that you can refer to if you find yourself slipping into a negative place.
Keeping a gratitude journal can be an excellent way to remind yourself of the positive things in your life.
3. Develop a Support System
People with major depressive disorder often face social isolation for several reasons. They may feel like they aren’t worthy of having people who love them or they may be ashamed of their disorder.
Work through these feelings and develop a strong support system you can rely on. Maybe you join a support group so you can connect with other people who are also sharing similar challenges to your own.
Confide in a few close friends or family members and let them be there for you. That sense of vulnerability can be hard at first, but valuable as you work on how to deal with major depressive disorder.
If you have specific thoughts or feelings you aren’t comfortable sharing with anyone, consider writing them down. You can journal your feelings as a way to express and work through your emotions. Another mechanism some people find helpful is writing letters or emails to loved ones, but not necessarily sending them.
4. Develop a Healthy Lifestyle
If there is one aspect you prioritize in terms of learning how to deal with major depressive disorder, it should be a healthy lifestyle. Mental and physical health are very much linked to one another.
The healthier you can be physically, the more improvements you’re likely to see in your depression symptoms.
Although exercise isn’t a cure for depression, it can reduce symptoms when used with treatment. Find exercise and physical activities that you enjoy. It’s good for your health and also to reduce stress.
A healthy diet is important, as is getting enough sleep. Not having enough sleep can trigger anxiety and symptoms of depression. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning.
5. Simplify Life
Life will also include stress and complications, but when you have major depressive disorder try to simplify it as much as possible. Cut out toxic people or situations that aren’t necessary. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at home or work, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s much better to proactively ask for help than to let the situation spiral into something worse.
Don’t commit to too many things, whether at school, home or work. It’s okay to say no and this will help you maintain more control over how you’re feeling.
Develop strategies to cope with stress in healthy ways if it does occur. For example, mindfulness or meditation are excellent coping mechanisms for stress and feelings of anxiety.
6. Develop a Plan
Even when your major depressive disorder is actively treated, a slip is possible. When you are feeling good, create a plan for what you’ll do if this happens. Be specific and write your plan down so you’ll have it when you might not be as clear-headed.
Include information about which health care providers you’ll contact, the strategies you’ll take on your own and the loved ones you’ll reach out to. Include what you’ll do in case an emergency arises as well.
If you are struggling with substance abuse and a co-occurring disorder like major depressive disorder, contact The Recovery Village. We can provide you with more information about addiction treatment and treatment for major depressive disorder and other mental health disorders.
Aroshas, Talia. “This Is What Living with Major Depressive Disorder Looks Like.” Healthline. July 9, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2019. Sharecare. “Overcoming Major Depressive Disorder.” Accessed January 18, 2019. Haelle, Tara. “6 Life-Changing Tips from People Living with Depression.” Everyday Health. November 4, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2019. NIH National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression.” Accessed January 18, 2019. Mental Health Foundation. “Physical Health and Mental Health.” Accessed January 18, 2019.
Aroshas, Talia. “This Is What Living with Major Depressive Disorder Looks Like.” Healthline. July 9, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2019.
Sharecare. “Overcoming Major Depressive Disorder.” Accessed January 18, 2019.
Haelle, Tara. “6 Life-Changing Tips from People Living with Depression.” Everyday Health. November 4, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2019.
NIH National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression.” Accessed January 18, 2019.
Mental Health Foundation. “Physical Health and Mental Health.” Accessed January 18, 2019.