Depression Treatment Plan: Why am I Depressed?

Being depressed is frustrating, but there are some concrete steps you can take to help yourself get better. A good depression treatment plan is the key.   There is no blood test for depression, no easy way to “prove” that you are depressed, and sometimes you might even not fully acknowledge the reality of it yourself.  The good news is that, regardless of what you believe, there are some concrete steps you can start taking today that will start you on the road to wellness.  The bad news is that getting rid of depression is not an overnight process.  It takes time and commitment, even if you feel it is a hopeless process.

depression treatment plan

There is hope

If you are depressed, you likely will think the process is completely hopeless and that most suggestions will not help at all.  Part of getting better is realizing that this is the depressed part of your brain talking and that making some changes might actually help even if they genuinely appear hopeless.  Feeling hopeless and helpless are feelings — they do not represent reality when we are depressed.

This article discusses why people feel depressed, the key symptoms of depression, and a depression treatment plan to help you work your way out of depression.  Any treatment plan for depression depends a lot on what an individual is willing to put into the plan in terms of effort.  This makes it difficult because it is hard to make an effort when you are depressed.  However, there is good news.  According to Breaking the Patterns of Depression by Michael Yapko (a book I highly recommend), depressions tend to lift naturally after a certain period of time.

So, having a depression treatment plan is a good idea because it can help you learn how to get rid of depression more quickly and efficiently.  However, as much as you might be feeling despair or hopelessness and like there is no future while you are depressed, know that just by holding on each day — even if you do nothing else, but just HOLDING ON — you will eventually get better!  That is very important for people who are depressed to realize!

why am I so depressed

Why am I so depressed?

You may wonder, “why am I depressed?” and that is a good question.  Some people get depressed for very good reasons such as something tragic happening in their lives.  However, other people are simply genetically prone to depression.  It is no one’s fault.  It is the same as some people being prone to becoming diabetic.  Depression tends to run in families.

Depression can also be a result of the way you were raised and, consequently, the way you think about yourself and the world around you.  A lot of people who are depressed get stuck in trying to puzzle out “why am I so depressed?” rather than accepting the depression and moving on to take steps that will lead them into a better frame of mind.

It is valid to ask “Why am I depressed,” but try not to get trapped in the question or in blaming yourself or others for your depression.  Depression may be a one time occurrence in your life or it may be a recurring visitor.  The important thing is to figure out what works for you to help ease depression out the door as quickly as possible.

depression treatment plan

Symptoms of Depression

Here are the basic symptoms of depression and these usually have to go on for at least two weeks before it is considered an official “depression” for which you need a depression treatment plan.  You may have some of these symptoms or all of them.  It is worth noting that men tend to have more of the physical symptoms of depression as well as the irritability and hostility rather than sadness and crying, so it sometimes can be a little trickier to diagnose depression in men.

  • sadness or hopelessness
  • anger, irritability, and/or hostility
  • crying frequently or not being able to cry when you want or need to
  • withdrawing from social activities or family life.
  • a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • a decline in performance at work or school
  • an increase or decrease in appetite
  • an increase or decrease in sleeping patterns
  • restlessness or agitation
  • a feeling of worthlessness
  • excessive feelings of guilt
  • a loss of enthusiasm/motivation
  • a feeling of being lethargic or fatigued most of the day
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • thoughts of death or suicide (Suicide crisis lines)

If you are having thoughts of death or suicide, get help immediately: Suicide crisis lines.  You can call a suicide crisis line and follow up with a visit to your doctor, a psychologist, a counsellor, your pastor, a walk-in counselling center, or whatever resources exist in your area.  Also, if you feel you are in immediate danger, call the local emergency number.  In North America, this is 9-1-1.

depression treatment plan

Depression treatment plan

The best depression treatment plan for you and your depression may be different from the best treatment plan for depression for someone else.  This is not only because people are different, but because there are different levels of depression, and different types of depression.

For example, if you are depressed for a reason — for example, you might have experienced multiple losses or trauma — then working through those losses will likely be an important part of your depression treatment plan while for someone who suffers from a genetic tendency to be depressed, seeing a psychiatrist and getting on the right medication might be an important part of your depression treatment plan.

However, I will try to cover most of the main treatments that are known to help depression.  It is really important to do what fits best for you.  It is also important to experiment.  Some of these interventions may seems silly or pointless until you try them and then you might realize they actually work amazingly well.

Changing the patterns of your life is what will change the patterns of depression, so this is important.

So, without further ado, here is the treatment plan for depression.  Do what fits best for you, but also try to step outside your comfort zone a little:

  1. See your doctor (you could have probably figured that one out on your own).  Ask your doctor to check your thyroid and vitamin B12 levels.  If they are low, they could be at the root of your depression!  Also, he or she might refer you to a psychiatrist or might offer you anti-depressants for the short term or long term.  Whether or not to go on anti-depressants is a personal decision.  They don’t work for everyone — they tend to work better the worse your depression is.  Sometimes, anti-depressants can give your mood a boost so that you can try other things.
  2. See a counsellor.  In many communities, there are low-cost counselling options or your medical coverage might cover a certain number of psychology or counselling sessions.  Some employers have an employee assistance plan that covers a certain number of counselling sessions (and is confidential).  A counsellor can help you to navigate the icy depths of depression and not feel so alone while you are doing it.  Additionally, depending on their expertise, they can offer you various different types of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy), DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), and so many others!
  3. See a hypnotherapist.  Hypnotherapy is basically therapy that communicates directly with your unconscious mind.  It can work wonders for some people.
  4. See an acupuncturist.  This is another therapy that helps many people overcome depression and can be an important part of your depression treatment plan.
  5. Good nutrition.  Bad nutrition is a vicious circle because when we eat poorly, we feel bad, and when we feel bad, we reach for the chips and chocolate and then we feel bad and then… and so on.  I usually suggest that, rather than taking things away, you try adding things.  For example, instead of making chips and chocolate “forbidden,” add foods you enjoy eating that you can realistically prepare while depressed.Sometimes, it helps if you make a list.  For instance, it took me years to realize that I like cottage cheese because, as I was growing up, it was always considered a “dieting” food, which I only ate when I was not allowing myself to eat “yummy” foods.  Now, I realize that I love cottage cheese (you may hate it and that’s okay).  The food we eat makes a huge difference to how we feel, so make sure that you are eating well.  If you have no clue how to eat well, a good place to start is here.  Drink plenty of water!  Good nutrition is an essential part of your depression treatment plan.
  6. Vitamins and Minerals.  Even if you eat well, you may be short of certain vitamins and/or minerals.  The two big ones that spring to mind are vitamin B12 and vitamin D.  However, many others affect depression also.  I wrote an article about supplements that help ease depression here.  Two multivitamins I recommend are Centrum for Women (which has a male version too) and Lorna Vanderhaeghe’s MultiSmart.  Both have a lot of what you need in them.  You need to study the label and consult your doctor or pharmacist to determine which is best for your needs, given your age, medical conditions, what medications you are on, etc.
  7. Exercise.  Studies have shown that exercise and good nutrition alone for 10 weeks can be as effective as medication and talk therapy.  That doesn’t mean we should drop medication and talk therapy since those can be very useful!  However, it does show the power of the body to heal itself.  If you are extremely out of shape or have health concerns, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.  When you do start exercising, try to make it fun.  Are there any exercise activities you enjoy?  Dancing?  Swimming?  Walking in the park?  Start slowly.  Even if you can only do 5 minutes of exercise the first day, write that down in a log book and feel proud of yourself for having started!  Day one.  You have to start somewhere.
  8. Art Therapy.  You may have some form of artistic expression that you enjoy that you have left by the wayside.  If so, pick it up.  Singing, dancing, writing, drawing, painting — any form of self-expression!  On the other hand, you may be thinking that you are not “an artist”.  You don’t have to be “an artist” to benefit from this type of therapy.  You have probably heard of the popularity of adult coloring books.  It can be very relaxing and therapeutic to just sit and color.  Also, sometimes when we are depressed, we start to feel despair and get so caught up in that despair that it is hard to think of anything else.  Coloring is a great distraction from those negative feelings.  Many people use art of all kinds to help escape difficult states of mind.
  9. Socializing. Human beings are social creatures.  If you are severely depressed, you might not want to be around people, but it would probably be helpful for you to make at least one “date” with a friend per week so that you get out and try to enjoy yourself.  Make sure it is someone you like who is kind and supportive.  You may be thinking that you have no friends.  When people are depressed, they often feel isolated.  Sometimes this is because they truly have no friends and sometimes it is because they are discounting the positives in their lives.  If you truly have no friends, it is a little difficult if you are in a severe depression because it is a hard time to make friends.  However, you can try joining a book discussion group, or go to meetup.com and join one of their many groups.  Some are better than others.  Making new friends takes time, effort, and patience.
  10. Do online therapy.  There are several free online therapy programs as well as apps for therapy.  Why not give it a try?  One that is well-reviewed is Mood Gym.
  11. Distract yourself.  Depression tends to make us focus inwards.  Find some things to help you focus outwards either a little or a lot.  Make a list of ways you can distract yourself.  If you are severely depressed, these might be things like sudoku, crossword puzzles, watching a movie, and that sort of thing.  If you are in a milder depression, you might consider volunteering somewhere.  While it is important to “deal with” your depression, you don’t have to immerse yourself in it 24×7!
  12. Kittens and Puppies and Research, oh my!  Research shows that looking at photos or videos of cute baby animals is actually very healthy for us because it helps us release stress.  But, do you need a reason?  Spending time around real animals can also be very comforting and stress-reducing.  Here are some YouTube Kittens to start you off. 
  13. Icy Water for a shock to a better mood  Also known as “hydrotherapy”.  Cold water, particularly to the face for about 2 – 5 minutes, is said to trigger the mammalian dive reflex.  And, the important part of that is that it makes you feel better even though it is not comfortable.  I have heard it suggested that you get a basin and fill it with ice water and put your face into it for as long as you can repeatedly for 2 – 5 minutes.  However, I recently read an article that suggested a more practical version of this in which you take an icy cold shower by starting with a regular temperature and slowly lowering it to icy cold and then staying in for 2 – 5 minutes.  The nice thing about doing this as part of your depression treatment plan is that it doesn’t take long, it is inexpensive, and it is relatively easy.  For some people, it is a very fast way to a better mood.
  14. Meditation – Learn to meditate and be in the present moment.  MBCT is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which is an approach to treating depression based on a meeting between Eastern philosophy and cognitive behavioral therapy.  The ability to be in the present moment and meditate is a key to this.  I have learned most of what I know about meditation from reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk.  I find his books to be full of compassion, wisdom, and humility.  Many people who are depressed find themselves thinking terrible, self-hating thoughts on sort of a loop all day every day.  Meditation is a key to breaking that pattern, if only for a few minutes.  For some it is a difficult skill to learn because we live in a society that values multi-tasking.  Meditation is the opposite of multi-tasking.  It is sitting and focusing your mind on only one task, which is sitting and gently noticing any thought activity in your mind.
  15. Spiritual Practice – If you are not spiritual, this might not apply to you, but if you are, your faith may be a source of strength and guidance to help lead you out of depression.
  16. Make Good Plans – You may feel as though life is hopeless and you have nothing to look forward to.  Give yourself something to look forward to.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  For example, buy a small plant.  Then your plan can be to water the plant every day.  Maybe you can buy some Miracle-Gro to put in the water to fertilize the plant so it grows well.  One day, you might need to transplant the plant to a bigger container.  I am giving this example because it is something little.  When we are depressed, sometimes big plans are too much, but little plans are doable and give us the sense that we are making some progress.  (P.S.  Don’t read into it if you accidentally kill your plant — nearly everyone is bad with houseplants.)

depression treatment plan

Conclusion

So, there you have it:  the reasons why we get depressed, the symptoms of depression, and a depression treatment plan.  As I mentioned, in your treatment plan for depression, choose what works best for you and do that.  You might try some things first and add others later as you get stronger.  Or you might try some things, find they don’t work for you, and then try others.

The key is to keep on trying, and to remember that your depression will eventually lift on its own no matter what you do or do not do.  You might wonder what the point of doing anything is if your depression is going to lift either way.  However, it may lift a lot sooner if you do something to help it along and also, the items on the depression treatment plan are all designed to make you feel better — they are things that will likely help you even when your depression has lifted.

For example, having good nutritional and exercise habits are going to make your life easier and less stressful regardless of whether you are depressed or not.  Also, being in the habit of doing art therapy is a mentally soothing activity which everyone can benefit from in our increasingly hectic and fast-paced world.  Additionally, the rise of the internet has made socializing less frequent, so making an effort to make new friends and find socialization opportunities is something we all need to work on, even when we are well.

I hope your depression lifts soon and you see brighter days ahead.  It can be awful, lonely, and dark to suffer from depression.  However, remember that there is hope.  And I will end by saying what I said earlier:

If you are having thoughts of death or suicide, get help immediately: Suicide crisis lines.  You can call a suicide crisis line and follow up with a visit to your doctor, a psychologist, a counsellor, your pastor, a walk-in counselling center, or whatever resources exist in your area.  Also, if you feel you are in immediate danger, call the local emergency number.  In North America, this is 9-1-1.

Please feel free to suggest any additions or alterations to the depression treatment plan that might not have occurred to me.  I always appreciate feedback.

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