When you’re treating any illness, making mistakes is inevitable. After all, making mistakes is how you learn, grow and get better.
Depression is a difficult illness, which colors how you see and feel about yourself. So, if you find yourself making the “mistakes” below, try not to judge yourself. Rather, view these mistakes as stepping stones, as signposts that lead you in a more helpful direction.
Below are five beliefs or behaviors that are ineffective in managing depression, along with insights into what works.
- Telling yourself to snap out of it. “When you’re depressed, it’s common to think that there’s no good reason that you’re having trouble getting out of bed, struggling to concentrate, or feeling so low,” said Lee Coleman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.So you might try to motivate yourself by being self-critical or using shame, he said. After all, when you’re depressed, it can feel like you’re swimming in negative, shame-soaked thoughts.
- Not revealing what’s going on. When you have depression it’s also common to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Depression “can feel like a fundamental flaw with who you are,” said Coleman, assistant director and director of training at the California Institute of Technology’s student counseling center.Consequently, you may cover up how you’re feeling, which might lead others to get frustrated with you or simply become confused about what’s going on, he said.
- Underestimating depression. “While many appear to realize that depression has a medical origin, some underestimate exactly how depression impacts their life,” said Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the books Living with Depression and Depression and Your Child. Some of Serani’s clients don’t realize that depression affects their “personal, social and occupational worlds.” But depression affects all facets of a person’s life.
- Getting lax with treatment. When clients start to feel better, they may become “too casual with their treatment plan,” Serani said. This may start with missing medication doses or skipping therapy sessions, she said.Serani often hears clients say: “Why do I have to keep coming for therapy if I feel better? What’s the big deal if I miss a dose of my antidepressant?”
- Not being self-compassionate. Being compassionate to ourselves is important every day, and it’s especially vital when we’re sick or struggling. However, as Coleman said, “Unfortunately, because depression casts a negative light on our thoughts, it’s easy to see compassion as just feeling sorry for yourself, or as giving permission to lie around all day.”On the contrary, genuine self-compassion involves being honest with yourself and responding to your needs. It means acknowledging that you’re currently struggling, accepting that you’ll need time to feel like yourself, and realizing that it’s absolutely OK to lower your expectations of yourself, he said.
Again, depression is a serious and difficult illness. But remember that you’re not alone, Serani said. “Depression can often leave a person feeling hopeless and isolated, but there are many out there who know your struggle and can support you along the way.”
She suggested connecting with a “health professional, a mood disorder organization, support group or a compassionate friend who understands you.”