In this lesson, we’ll talk about some coping strategies that can be helpful for individuals who are dealing with depression. We’ll also talk about some of the ways that family members or friends can cope with a loved one’s depression.

What is Depression?

Do you ever feel sad or blue? Almost all of us at some point experience feelings of sadness or ‘the blues.’ But for people experiencing depression, these lows are felt more acutely and last longer. Depression is a mental illness that, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, impacts about 1.5% of the U.S. adult population.

The symptoms of depression can vary a lot among different people, and are more or less severe in different cases, but depression is generally characterized by lasting feelings of sadness or hopelessness, difficulty sleeping or eating, or over-sleeping and overeating, and a loss of interest in activities you used to really enjoy.

People suffering from depression might have difficulty with their personal relationships and might find that their job or home life is impacted negatively by depression. Depression is not always easy to treat, and many people find their symptoms are reoccurring. However, there are ways to deal with depression. Let’s talk about some of the coping strategies that might be used.

Coping with Depression

When a patient is experiencing depression, some experts emphasize the importance of a daily routine to help create structure. Daily exercise can be an effective way to deal with depression. Mind-body techniques like meditation can also be helpful in easing symptoms of depression. Some experts also suggest that patients with depression should try and simplify daily schedules. Avoid taking on too many tasks or activities as this might create more stress if you are unable to complete them all, worsening mood and feelings of worthlessness.

Support groups can also be an important coping strategy. Finding and talking to people who are experiencing the same thing as you are can help ease the pain and isolation of depression. It is important to try and find ways to interact with others, as spending too much time alone can worsen symptoms of depression.

Negative thinking or patterns of negative thought are common in patients with depression. One important coping mechanism involves trying to change these thinking patterns. Patients with depression should try to think more positively about the future and should avoid dwelling on the negative thoughts that might be causing depression in the first place. Dwelling in our own negative thoughts can actually have the effect of making depression worse.

Self-care, or daily activities that allow us to take better care of ourselves, is important in combating the symptoms of depression. This entails things like eating regularly and getting enough sleep, as well as exercising regularly. Alcohol can also worsen the symptoms of depression so it is important to avoid drinking too much. Too much alcohol can make you feel sadder and more anxious, and feeling hungover after drinking too much can also worsen negative feelings about yourself.

It’s important to note that strategies for coping with depression are not always the same as treatments for depression. Often, these coping mechanisms will need to be used alongside psychotherapy and/or medication. It is important to recognize when coping strategies alone are not effective enough to treat depression.

Coping Strategies for Friends and Family

What should you do if you have a friend or family member who is suffering from depression? There are a few things you can do in this situation. First, you should suggest that a loved one seek treatment from a medical professional. It is also important to intervene early if a friend or family member seems to be experiencing symptoms of depression that are worsening quickly as this will require treatment. Worsening depression could lead to suicidal thoughts.

It can be extremely helpful to act as a good listener to people in your life who are struggling with depression. It is important to make sure you are not being judgmental but are simply willing to listen to a loved one’s thoughts and feelings. You should not offer strong or overbearing opinions. You should remind your friend of his or her good qualities, as depression often makes people feel worthless.

People are sometimes ashamed of depression and thus avoid seeking treatment. But you can help by letting a friend or family member know that you recognize depression is a clinical illness. This can help reduce some of the stigma of depression. You might also offer to attend therapy sessions with a friend or family member to show your support.

Lesson Summary

Depression is a mental illness that impacts many people. It is characterized by feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Depression is different from occasional bouts of sadness that we all experience from time to time.

Although depression can be difficult to cope with, there are a number of things that can be done to help ease the symptoms of depression. Self-care is an important component of coping with depression. Exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep can ease symptoms of depression. Alcohol and drugs can worsen depression so it’s important to avoid drinking too much. Sticking to a daily routine is helpful.

Depression can be isolating, but it’s important to try and spend time with others. Talking to friends, loved ones, or finding a support group is very important to avoiding isolation that can make depression worse. This can also help patients think positively, which can help.

If a friend or loved one is experiencing depression, it is important to listen to their feelings and concerns without judgement. You might suggest seeking treatment, and you should watch a friend or loved one for symptoms of depression that seem to worsen and then actively encourage treatment.

Symptoms of depression vary widely, but there are things that can be done to ease them. It’s important to remember that coping mechanisms might need to be practiced in conjunction with more formal mechanisms of treatment, like therapy or medication.

The contents of the Study.com Site, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the Study.com Site (‘Content’) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Study.com Site.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Study.com does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by Study.com, Study.com employees, others appearing on the Site at the invitation of Study.com, or other visitors to the Site is solely at your own risk.