How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

Symptoms of Depression

How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

Most of us feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times. It's a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or injured self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming, cause physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life.

That's when it's time to seek medical help.

Your regular doctor is a good place to start. They can test you for depression and help manage your symptoms. If your depression goes untreated, it may get worse and last for months, even years. It can cause pain and possibly lead to suicide, as it does for about 1 of every 10 people with depression.

Recognizing the symptoms is key. Unfortunately, about half the people who have depression never get it diagnosed or treated.

They can include:

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away
  • Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

There isn't a “depression test” a doctor can use to see if you have it, so figuring that ten starts with a thorough history and physical exam.

Your doctor will want to know:

  • When your symptoms started
  • How long they've lasted
  • How severe they are
  • If depression or other mental illnesses run in your family
  • If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse

You'll also be asked if you've had similar symptoms of depression before, and if so, how it was treated.

If your doctor rules out a physical cause for your symptoms, he may start you on a treatment or refer you to a mental health professional. This specialist will figure out the best course of treatment. That may include medicines (such as antidepressants), a type of therapy called psychotherapy, or both.

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Suicidal thoughts or intentions are serious. Warning signs include:

  • A sudden switch from sadness to extreme calmness, or appearing to be happy
  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • Taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends or changing a will
  • Saying things “It would be better if I weren't here” or “I want out”
  • Talking about suicide
  • Visiting or calling close friends and loved ones

If you or someone you know shows any of the above warning signs, call your local suicide hotline, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the emergency room.

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a treatment option for people whose symptoms don't get better with medicine or who have severe depression and need treatment immediately.

If your symptoms of depression are causing problems with relationships, work, or your family — and there isn't a clear solution — you should see a professional.

Talking with a mental health counselor or doctor can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if your symptoms stay for any length of time.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, get help right away.

It's important to understand that feeling depressed doesn't mean you have depression. That condition involves not only changes in mood, but also changes in sleep, energy, appetite, concentration, and motivation.

If you have physical symptoms these and find yourself feeling depressed much of the time for days or weeks, see your doctor.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5.

National Institute of Mental Health: “What are the symptoms of depression?”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Depression.”

The National Women's Health Information Center: “Depression.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Depression in Older Adults: What it is and how to get help.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association. “Recommendations for Screening Depression in Adults.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Symptoms of Depression


Clinical depression – Living with

How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

There are some key steps you can take to lift your mood and help your recovery from depression.

It's very important to take your antidepressants as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. If you stop taking them too soon, your depression could return.

Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about the medicine you're taking. The leaflet that comes with your medicine will have information about possible interactions with other medicines or supplements.

Check with a doctor first if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies such as painkillers, or any nutritional supplements. These can sometimes interfere with antidepressants.

Exercise and a healthy diet can make a significant difference to how quickly you recover from depression. Both will improve your general health as well.

A healthy diet can help lift your mood. In fact, eating healthily seems to be just as important for maintaining your mental health as it is for preventing physical health problems.

Research suggests that exercise may be as effective as antidepressants at reducing the symptoms of depression.

Being physically active can lift your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, encourage the release of endorphins (your body's feel-good chemicals) and improve self-esteem. Exercising may also be a good distraction from negative thoughts, and it can improve social interaction.

Read more about exercise for depression

It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”, and you can take steps to develop it in your own life.

Read more about mindfulness for mental wellbeing

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends “mindfulness based cognitive therapy” for people who are currently well but have experienced 3 or more previous episodes of depression. It may help prevent a future episode of depression.

Read the NICE guidance about the recognition and management of depression in adults

Sharing a problem with someone else or with a group can give you support and an insight into your own depression. Research shows that talking can help people recover from depression and cope better with stress.

You may not feel comfortable about discussing your mental health and sharing your distress with others. If this is the case, writing about how you feel or expressing your emotions through poetry or art are other ways to help your mood.

Here's a list of depression support groups and information about how to access them.

If you have depression it may be tempting to smoke or drink to make you feel better. Cigarettes and alcohol may seem to help at first, but they make things worse in the long run.

Be extra cautious with cannabis. You might think it's harmless, but research has shown a strong link between cannabis use and mental illness, including depression.

The evidence shows that if you smoke cannabis you:

  • make your depression symptoms worse
  • feel more tired and uninterested in things
  • are more ly to have depression that relapses earlier and more frequently
  • will not have as good a response to antidepressant medicines
  • are more ly to stop using antidepressant medicines
  • are less ly to fully recover

A GP can give you advice and support if you drink or smoke too much or use drugs.

You may also find the following pages useful:

  • stop smoking
  • getting help for drug addiction
  • alcohol support

If your depression is caused by working too much or if it's affecting your ability to do your job, you may need time off to recover.

However, there's evidence to suggest that taking prolonged time off work can make depression worse. There's also quite a bit of evidence to support that going back to work can help you recover from depression.

Read more about returning to work after having mental health issues

It's important to avoid too much stress, and this includes work-related stress. If you're employed, you may be able to work shorter hours or work in a more flexible way, particularly if job pressures seem to trigger your symptoms.

Under the Equality Act 2010, all employers must make reasonable adjustments to make the employment of people with disabilities possible. This can include people who've been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Read more about how to beat stress at work

If you're unable to work as a result of your depression, you may be eligible for a range of benefits, depending on your circumstances. These include:

It's not just the person with depression who's affected by their illness. The people close to them are also affected.

If you're caring for someone with depression, your relationship with them and family life in general can become strained. You may feel at a loss as to what to do. Finding a support group and talking to others in a similar situation might help.

If you're having relationship or marriage difficulties, it might help to contact a relationship counsellor who can talk things through with you and your partner.

Men are less ly to ask for help than women and are also more ly to turn to alcohol or drugs when depressed.

Read more about care and support

Losing someone close to you can be a trigger for depression.

When someone you love dies, the sense of loss can be so powerful that you feel it's impossible to recover. However, with time and the right help and support, it's possible to start living your life again.

Find out more about coping with bereavement

The majority of suicide cases are linked with mental disorders, and most of them are triggered by severe depression.

Warning signs that someone with depression may be considering suicide include:

  • making final arrangements, such as giving away possessions, making a will or saying goodbye to friends
  • talking about death or suicide – this may be a direct statement, such as “I wish I was dead”, but often depressed people will talk about the subject indirectly, using phrases “I think dead people must be happier than us” or “Wouldn't it be nice to go to sleep and never wake up”
  • self-harm, such as cutting their arms or legs, or burning themselves with cigarettes
  • a sudden lifting of mood, which could mean that a person has decided to attempt suicide and feels better because of this decision

Contact a GP as soon as possible if you're feeling suicidal or are in the crisis of depression. They'll be able to help you.

If you cannot or do not want to contact a GP, call the Samaritans on 116 123 (the helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year). You can also email

Helping a suicidal friend or relative

If you see any of the above warning signs in a friend or relative:

  • get professional help for them
  • let them know they are not alone and you care about them
  • offer support in finding other solutions to their problems

If you feel there's an immediate danger, stay with the person or have someone else stay with them, and remove all available means of attempting suicide, such as medicine.

Over-the-counter medicine, such as painkillers, can be just as dangerous as prescription medicine. Also, remove sharp objects and poisonous household chemicals such as bleach.

Read more about how supporting someone who's suicidal


8 Reasons Why Your Depression May Not Be Getting Better

How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

You’ve been to four psychiatrists and tried over a dozen medication combinations. You still wake up with that dreadful knot in your stomach and wonder if you will ever feel better.

Some people enjoy a straight path to remission. They get diagnosed. They get a prescription. They feel better. Others’ road to recovery isn’t so linear. It’s full of winding bends and dead-ends. Sometimes it’s entirely blocked. By what? Here are a few impediments to treatment to consider if your symptoms aren’t improving.

Take it from the Goldilocks of mental health. I worked with six physicians and tried 23 medication combinations before I found the right psychiatrist who has kept me (relatively) well for the last 13 years.

If you have a complex disorder I do, you can’t afford to work with the wrong doctor. I would highly recommend that you schedule a consultation with a mood disorders center at a teaching hospital near you.

The National Network of Depression Centers lists 22 Centers of Excellence located across the country. Start there.

2. The Wrong Diagnosis

According to the Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin, the average patient with bipolar disorder takes approximately 10 years to receive the proper diagnosis. About 56 percent are first diagnosed incorrectly with major depressive disorder, leading to treatment with antidepressants alone, which can sometimes trigger mania.

In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, only 40 percent of participants were receiving appropriate medication. It’s pretty simple: if you’re not diagnosed correctly, you won’t get the proper treatment.

3. Non-adherence to Medication

According to Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and author of An Unquiet Mind, “The major clinical problem in treating bipolar illness is not that we lack effective medications.

It is that bipolar patients do not take these medications.” Approximately 40 to 45 percent of bipolar patients do not take their medications as prescribed. I’m guessing the numbers for other mood disorders are about that high.

The primary reasons for non-adherence are living alone and substance abuse.

Before you make any major changes in your treatment plan, ask yourself if you are taking your meds as prescribed.

4. Underlying Medical Conditions

The physical and emotional toll of chronic illness can muddy the progress of treatment from a mood disorder. Some conditions Parkinson’s disease or a stroke alter brain chemistry.

Others arthritis or diabetes impact sleep, appetite, and functionality. Certain conditions hypothyroidism, low blood sugar, vitamin D deficiency, and dehydration feel depression.

To further complicate matters, some medications to treat chronic conditions interfere with psych meds.

Sometimes you need to work with an internist or primary care physician to address the underlying condition in tandem with a mental health professional.

5. Substance Abuse and Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who are addicted to drugs are approximately twice as ly to have mood and anxiety disorders and vice versa.

About 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, also have a substance abuse disorder, and about 20 percent of those with a substance abuse problem also have an anxiety or mood disorder.

The depression-addiction link is both strong and detrimental because one condition often complicates and worsens the other. Some drugs and substances interfere with the absorption of psych meds, preventing proper treatment.

6. Lack of Sleep

In a Johns Hopkins survey, 80 percent of people experiencing symptoms of depression also suffered from sleeplessness. The more severe the depression, the more ly the person will have sleep problems. The reverse is also true.

Chronic insomnia creates a risk for developing depression and other mood disorders, including anxiety, and interferes with treatment. In persons with bipolar disorder, inadequate sleep can trigger a manic episode and mood cycling.

Sleep is critical to healing. When we rest, the brain forms new pathways that promote emotional resilience.

7. Unresolved Trauma

One theory of depression suggests that any major disruption early in life, trauma, abuse, or neglect, may contribute to permanent changes in the brain. According to psychiatric geneticist James Potash, M.D., stress can trigger a cascade of steroid hormones that ly alters the hippocampus and leads to depression.

Trauma partly explains why one-third of people with depression don’t respond to antidepressants. In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers uncovered three subtypes of depression.

Patients with increased functional connectivity between different brain regions who had also experienced childhood trauma were categorized with a subtype of depression that was unresponsive to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Zoloft and Prozac.

Sometimes, then, intensive psychotherapy needs to happen alongside medical treatment in order to reach remission.

8. Lack of Support

A review of studies published in General Hospital Psychiatry assessed the link between peer support and depression and found that peer support helped reduce symptoms of depression.

In another study published by Preventive Medicine, teens who had social support were significantly less ly to become depressed after experiencing work or financial stress in early adulthood than those without support.

Depression was identified among conditions affected by loneliness in a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health. Persons without a support network may not heal as quickly or as completely as those with one.

8 Reasons Why Your Depression May Not Be Getting Better


Is My Depression Getting Better?

How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

If you suffer from depression, you may have asked yourself … “Is my depression getting better?”

most mental illnesses, it’s subjective. Everyone has their own experiences. No one can step onto a soapbox and proclaim what it’s for everyone with depression, just no one can step onto a soapbox and say “this is how we all feel!” Instead, we have to make due with finding similarities, general truths, and vague descriptions.

Depression comes and goes, but it can also stay. It can be mild, or severe, or anything in between.

It can be paired with other behaviors, related to coping with depressive symptoms or perhaps even the cause of them. Depression is something genetic, but it can also be environmental, or just the result of a string of really bad luck and some horrible amounts of stress.

The list goes on and on. Depression is hard to explain, but the general consensus is that when you’re depressed, you’re often in a terrible mood with little control over when or how that mood will come. You’ll be plagued with negative thoughts and you’ll lose all motivation.

So when someone asks themselves what it would be to improve from one’s depressive symptoms, the answer should generally be pretty simple: to improve from depression is to stop feeling terrible. But that’s not true at all. To improve is to improve – let’s get more specific.

Life Is Complicated

With or without depression, life comes with its ups and downs, and many would argue that life can have a lot of pretty stark downs and relatively few comparable ups.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows”, you’ll hear pretty often, and it’s not uncommon to hear about how life beats you down, challenging you to get back up.

Coming off of a depression isn’t a matter of just being happier – it’s a matter of being more capable.

When a person is depressed, their ability to deal with life and its copious challenges is diminished. Motivation is hard to come by if it ever does rear its head, and when bouts of happiness come through, it can sometimes feel your negative thoughts are just waiting for the right moment to snatch it your hands and replace the positivity with worry and regret.

When you’re getting better, the first and most obvious sign is that you’re more confident.

You find yourself not constantly worrying and doubting about what you should be doing or not doing, and instead, you find yourself actually doing. You find yourself not just feeling demotivated and worthless, but you’ll feel the urge to get up and get things done.

That urge, that needs to do something, to be proactive in some way – it’s a clear sign that things are going in the right direction. That is if you’re dealing with more severe symptoms.

you’d expect, depression is never something you just wake up with, and it’s not something you wake up without – there are a transition, days and weeks where things get harder, worse. And again, it takes the time to improve.

In cases of milder depression, it can be a bit harder to recognize when it’s finally “over”.

The Depressive Spectrum and You

As we learn more about the mind, mental health, and the best way to broach the subjective and complicated nature of a lot of mental illnesses, the current best way to describe most mental illnesses is on their own and combined spectrums of severity and occurrence.

Basically, a mental disorder anxiety will fall somewhere on the anxiety spectrum, and that includes specific forms of anxiety social anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and phobias, as well as general anxiety disorders.

In a similar vein, depressive symptoms put you on the large spectrum of depression. Simple enough, so far.

Spectrums aren’t exclusive.

You can be diagnosed with multiple mental disorders, many of which may be related to one another.

They’re not just related to that one often causes the other, but in that one can cause the other or be caused by it – or occur simultaneously due to the same factors. Because of these variations, the spectrum helps people better understand their disorder – but it’s up to the professional mental health community to provide treatment in a wholly individual matter.

Think of it all as connected – a huge network of causes and effects.

Back to you, though. No matter where you are on the depressive spectrum, improvement is always self-measurable.

It doesn’t matter if you started out with severe symptoms or mild depressive symptoms – if you got a professional diagnosis, then that same professional will be able to point you towards a few different methods of testing your levels of depression. How?

How Depression is Measured

I just talked a whole lot about how depression is a subjective experience, one wherein every case often comes with unique circumstances that affect how, why and to what degree a person is struggling with abnormally high levels of negative thinking.

When measuring someone’s depression, then, therapists usually use methods that strictly focus on the negativity of a person’s thoughts, regardless of the context. The goal of a diagnosis in cases of depression isn’t to find a treatment, but to assess how overpowering someone’s thoughts are.

That’s still pretty subjective, but since the only person you should be comparing yourself to is your past self, subjectivity doesn’t matter here. The only change in perception does.

Measuring these changes is usually done through a test. Common tests include:

All of these tests are built to be brief, sensitive to change, backed with a uniformity that allows case references and general research, and capable of assessing a patient’s severity the classic symptoms of major depression as per the DSM-IV, including measuring a patient’s suicidal thoughts, pleasure, social behavior, and more.

How to Tell When You’re Improving

Tests aside, there are other ways to tell that you’re on the successful warpath towards beating down on depression.

I mentioned feeling more confident and capable – capable being the keyword – but there’s more.

Depression affects our life in layers, making its way to our core in ways we can actually observe. In the same way, you can observe your life improving and moving away from the effects of depression by watching for distinct changes in these layers.

Take your work life, for example. Work is important to the human psyche. Work is something we do, whether or not we enjoy it, for the purpose of survival. But it’s not just because work puts food on the table.

To most people on the planet, a life without work is not actually the definition of paradise.

Human beings get easily bored, and when we’re without a purpose, without ambition, without a path, then our life becomes miserable.

Depression often first manifests itself as lowered work performance, because we lose our ambition, lack our drive, and our passion plummets. You begin to lose focus, you can’t keep your eye on the ball and your ideas and plans become hazy they’re hidden behind a veil of fog.

Instead, all that is replaced with uncertainty. Doubt. Your poor performance comes with consequences, and it reinforces the negative feelings depression brings to the table.

Naturally, when you begin to improve, so does your work. You’ll have more energy. You’ll think outside the box. You’ll want to go the extra mile.

You’ll prepare better and have the urge to start better habits of time management and efficiency. You’re not slowed by doubt.

Next, there are our relationships. While the passion for what we do and how we see our future is integral to who we are, the one thing we usually protect and seek even more than that is the connection to our fellow people: our friends, and especially our family.

When depression seeps in, these relationships become harder to care for.

Forget to forge new relationships – the relationships you already have to begin to suffer, as the depression makes it harder for you to pay attention to what others say, or to have any enthusiasm.

So when you beat away at your depression, you’ll see an improvement in your communication with others, and you’ll look forward to – and even plan – meeting up with friends and getting together for the holidays.

Finally, we get to our hobbies. We all have hobbies. Activities we seek solace in, little things we do to keep the edge off, built off stress, distract ourselves or just unwind after a hard and productive time.

From sports to knitting to gaming and more, whatever it is that might’ve kept your creative spark alive or given you a reason to look forward to your portion of “me time” will no longer seem enjoyable.

You’ll lose pleasure in the things that brought you joy.

When you’re improving, you’ll find yourself either picking up new hobbies or going back to old ones. A game you used to enjoy is enjoyable again. You pick up a book, and it’s as intriguing as the day you bought it. Drawing once more puts you in a place of relaxation, rather than becoming an activity you can’t complete because of your impatience and lack of passion.

It’s unfair to say that improving from a case of depression means becoming your old self again. Some people do bounce back in almost their entirety – but in most cases, you’ll be different.

You may have different s and diss, new hobbies, a brand-new perspective on life, a new plan for your future and new ideas for how you want to spend your time. A depression can be life-changing.

And as unique as depressive experiences tend to be, some ask whether they should be measured and compared at all.

Should Depression Be Measured?

I recounted a couple tests typically used to measure depression and gave a basic overview of what they’re supposed to be capable of. These tests typically exist for two purposes: 1.) to give you an idea of where you lie on the spectrum, and 2.) to help measure your improvement.

The problem with the first purpose becomes clear quickly. When it comes to measuring, and diagnosing depression, there isn’t a real standardized test everyone hops onto.

Professionals are often trained to either operate several different rating systems or make their own fluid judgment a patient’s symptoms and the way these symptoms relate to the DSM-IV criteria of a case of major depressive disorder.

That, combined with the fact that it’s not really helpful to compare yourself to others when taking into account the highly subjective nature of depression, means that these tests are best used to figure out whether or not you’re doing better, rather than determine exactly how bad your depression is.

While the tests aren’t perfect, measuring depression is still important. We talked about the spectrum and how many are moving away from strict definitions of different depressive disorders and are instead moving towards a more malleable definition of a depressive spectrum with different severities.

Unique But Not Alone

This helps others without depression better understand why there can be cases of a depressive diagnosis with such wildly different symptoms, personalities, and involved factors. But it also serves a different purpose – it helps promote inclusivity and a bit of solidarity.

We experience depressive symptoms in different ways, but we’re all struggling together – and given how depressive symptoms alone don’t define a depressive disorder, the spectrum also helps shed some light on how mental illness shouldn’t divide society because we’re human.

Don’t feel alone, or discouraged from seeking out the advice of others just because their journey might’ve been different. Your path towards improving will look different, and be unique, but it always helps to be open to other perspectives and experiences.

That should be the final takeaway – figuring out how you’re coping with your depression and your treatment is a highly individual journey, but it’s one many other have gone through with success.

It may take you longer than some others, or you may improve faster than most – but what matters is that you find your way, and help others find theirs as well.


5 Habits That Can Make Your Depression Worse

How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

There are a number of risk factors associated with developing major depressive disorder, including temperament, environmental factors (adverse childhood experiences, stressful life events, etc.

), genetics, and other mental health and medical disorders.1 Most of these triggers of depression are the realm of control for the depressed patient.

There are, however, some habits within the realm of control that can worsen symptoms of depression.

Depression is a serious medical condition that can be treated with counseling, medication, or a combination of the two, but people struggling with depression can also make lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms. It helps to look at choices and habits that can contribute to depressive symptoms to understand how to make healthy choices during the treatment process.

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The essential feature of a major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks in which there is either a depressed mood or a lack of pleasure in nearly all activities. 2 This can make it difficult to find the energy to do much of anything.

Depression can negatively impact employment, school, relationships, and other important areas of functioning. Depression can make it difficult to even get bed in the morning.

While depression might make you feel staying in bed all day is the only doable option, studies show that moderate exercise (walking 20-40 minutes, 3 times per week) is effective in decreasing depression and improves long term outcomes for depressed people. 3

Moderate exercise boosts the “feel good” neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. Look to your support network to find a walking buddy to schedule 3-4 walks per week to help counter inactivity.

Poor sleep habits

Sleep disturbance is actually one of the symptoms of depression, and it can set a negative sleep cycle in motion. Sleep disturbance can take the form of either difficulty falling and staying asleep, or sleeping too much. 4

To complicate matters, chronic sleep deprivation is also a trigger of depression. Sleep disturbance is both a symptom and a trigger of depression. One study of adolescents found that reduced quantity of sleep increases the risk of depression, which in turn increases the risk of reduced sleep. 5 It can feel a never-ending cycle.

Set up good sleep habits to help stop the negative sleep cycle associated with sleep deprivation and depression. Keep sleep and wake times consistent, shut off all electronics a few hours prior to bedtime, and remove all screens from the bedroom.

Social isolation

When life is overwhelming, it’s natural to turn inward. It’s difficult to reach out for social support when getting out the door in the morning feels an impossible chore. Meaningful social support is, however, exactly what you need during this time.

Research shows that social support moderates genetic and environmental vulnerabilities for mental illness by providing coping strategies and building up resilience to stress. 6

Social support is more than just a quick phone call to check in. Time spent with supportive friends or family members can help you work through your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.

Poor diet

Believe it or not, the food you eat can negatively impact your emotional health. A study in The American Journal of Psychiatry found a link between diets high in processed foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer and increased rates of depression and anxiety among women. 7

Many people reach for “comfort” foods when struggling with difficult emotions, and one of the symptoms of depression includes changes in eating habits resulting in significant weight loss or weight gain. It helps to track eating habits by journaling appetites, food choices, and emotional responses to get a baseline of eating habits.


People with depression are prone to rumination, or dwelling on negative thoughts. Negative thought patterns include dwelling on rejection, loss, failure, and other sources of stress. Dwelling on difficult problems compulsively exacerbates symptoms of depression. The best bet for putting an end to rumination is to seek professional help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help depressed people identify negative thought patterns and learn to replace them with positive thoughts and adaptive coping strategies.

Changes in habits alone won’t “cure” depression, but they can assist in the treatment process.

1. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition, American Psychiatric Publishing, Washington. D.C., 2013: Page 160-168.

2. Ibid.

3. Craft, L., Perna, F., “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed,” Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Volume 6(3), 2004: Pages 104-111.

4. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition, American Psychiatric Publishing, Washington. D.C., 2013: Page 160-168.

5. Roberts, R., Duong, H., “The Prospective Association between Sleep Deprivation and Depression among Adolescents,” Sleep, Volume 37(2), February 2014: Pages 239-244.

6. Ozbay, F., et al, “Social Support and Resilience to Stress,” Psychiatry (Egmont), Volume 4(5), May 2007: Pages 35-40.

7. Jacka, F., et al, “Association of Western and Traditional Diets With Depression and Anxiety in Women,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 167(3), March 2010: Pages 305-311.