• Don’t drink or use illegal drugs. The temptation to do so often is compelling. After all, people use alcohol and illegal drugs because they do affect mood. However, this type of self-medicating often has serious “side effects” like addiction, trouble with the law, and occupational and relationship failures. If you need medication, see a doctor and get the real thing.
  • Consider medication. Consult your health care provider or, better yet, a qualified psychiatrist to see if medication might give you some relief. Often people find that depression makes it tremendously difficult to get up the energy and desire to do the things that might help. With a little relief, you may find that you have the emotional and physical energy to begin to take steps toward helping yourself.
  • Yes, medications are a “crutch,” but there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with using a crutch when you are emotionally limping. Just as people with leg injuries gradually wean away from their crutches as they do their physical therapy and get physically stronger, chances are you can wean yourself away from a medication crutch as you do your emotional therapy and get mentally stronger.

    There are many different medications that can have a positive impact. The past decade has seen the development of medicines with fewer and less serious side effects than the older medications. Sometimes, however, the older medications are more effective for some individuals. Your psychiatrist will help you find the right medication at the right dosage for you.

    Be aware that it can take three to six weeks for most antidepressants to begin to work. It’s extremely important that, at the same time, you also use other strategies to relieve the depression.

    • Do something—almost anything—active. Physical activity releases endorphins, a natural chemical reaction in your body, and that will make you feel better. Take a short walk. Make the bed. Get on that fancy “clothes rack” in your room called an exercycle and actually put in 10 minutes or so. Not only will you feel physically better, but you will also feel a little better about yourself for having accomplished something with your day.

    • Do something—almost anything—every day. Here’s how the negative cycle of depression works: You feel too depressed to do anything. So you don’t. At the end of the day, you feel miserable because you haven’t done anything worthwhile all day. Your self-esteem drops another notch. All this makes you feel even more depressed. So the next day it’s even harder to do anything worthwhile. It’s depressing!

      Halting and reversing the process takes effort. Even if all you do today is get up, take a shower, and get dressed, you will feel better for it. At least you got up and got clean and dressed. This will bring your self-esteem up a notch so that, maybe tomorrow, you can take a walk or call a friend. Step by step, a more positive cycle can be put in motion to move you gradually out of depression.