Coping Strategies for Depression

Affecting approximately 1 million Australians each year, depression is one of the most frequently reported disorders nation-wide (Beyond Blue, 2015). Despite this, the symptoms of depression are commonly misunderstood. The Australian Psychological Society (2015) defines depression as a cognitive, emotional and physical state that is both chronic and intense. This booklet hopes enhance your understanding of depression through both building on this definition and discussing the various treatment options available for depression.


Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterised by either a chronic and persistent depressed mood or a loss of interest in almost all activities (or both). Other symptoms of depression include significant changes in weight or appetite, insomnia or excessive sleeping, fatigue or a decrease in energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, diminished concentration and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (DSM-V, 2013).

Not to be confused with general sadness, grief or moodiness, depression is neither a functional nor healthy emotional response to a particular stimulus. Rather, depression is a chronic and persistent illness that significantly impairs the sufferer’s ability to live their life (Australian Psychological Society, 2015).

It is important to understand that depression presents differently between sufferers; there is no one way to experience depression and depression does not have one particular cause. Whatever your feeling is completely normal and, most importantly, it can be treated. Depression is not permanent and chances for recovery are excellent (Australian Psychological Society, 2015).

Self-help Strategies for Depression

The following are a list of self-help strategies that may assist you in taking control of depression at home (Australian Psychological Society, 2015):

  • Always write down any problems that are causing you to worry. For each individual problem, write down a list of different solutions and address and examine all possible outcomes (positive and negative) that could result. Based on this, select what you consider to be the most appropriate solution to the problem and follow through.

  • For each negative thought you have, take time to evaluate whether or not the thought is realistic. Keep a record of all thoughts you deem irrational so that you can banish this thought when it next arises.

  • Do not excessively discuss negative thoughts or feelings with friends, family or colleagues. Instead, discuss with them the positive aspects of each new situation you encounter.

  • Try to complete one activity that you used to find enjoyable per day. Write down all of the positive experiences you have whilst completing these activities. Be sure to share these positive thoughts with friends, family and colleagues.

  • Make positivity lists. These can, for example, be a list of your skills and achievements, a list of things you are thankful for etc.

  • Every day set aside 15 minutes for a scheduled “worry time”. During this time feel free to focus on your negative worries or concerns. Once this time is over, however, make a conscious effort to not think about these worries until your next worry time.

  • Keep a journal of negative thoughts and systematically go through and correct these thoughts on an adjacent page.

  • Establish a regular sleeping routine. This means trying to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day.

  • Watch your caffeine intake. Try to limit yourself to a maximum of three coffees per day and do not drink coffee or tea close to bedtime.

  • Establish a support system. Reach out to friends, family and colleagues. Inform them of what you’re going through and make sure that you feel comfortable relying on them in times of need.

  • Try to pinpoint the source of any irritability, anger or sadness you feel. If you can identify a cause, work on problem solving strategies to overcome or remove this cause from your life.

  • Attempt relaxation activities such as yoga or meditation. Try to let your thoughts and worries go during this time.

Psychological Treatment Methods

Several psychological methods of treating depression exist, with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) being among the most successful. CBT entails the identification and treatment of any thought and behavioural patterns making an individual more susceptible to depression. It involves teaching the individual to rationally process problems and shift their pattern of thinking towards a problem-solving approach (Beyond Blue, 2015). IPT, on the other hand, is most effective when troublesome interpersonal relationships are either causing or maintaining a patient’s depressive symptoms. Like CBT, it focuses on identifying negative patterns and teaching individuals to utilise a positive approach when working through problems (Beyond Blue, 2015).

What Now?

The most important thing to remember is that several people will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.

If you think you are experiencing the symptoms of depression please see your GP or talk to a Psychologist.