How to Overcome Depression: A Closer Look at Your Options

Take heart: Whether opting for medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, or alternative treatments, you can learn how to overcome depression.

how to overcome depression

Wondering how to overcome depression? There are a multitude of options for getting to that "contented" place, from medication to talk therapy to diet and exercise to alternative therapies. Working with your physician or therapist will help you find the right combination.

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If you’ve been struggling to figure out how to overcome depression, you may have turned to medications, talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and/or alternative treatments. Each can be effective, but they also won’t guarantee relief from that cloud of depression.

How to Overcome Depression: Medications

Medications are thought to improve mood by adjusting levels of the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that contribute to depression symptoms.

Although antidepressant drugs can be effective at combating depression, they can have side effects. They also may interact in negative ways with other drugs you’re taking. As a result, it’s important to keep your doctor and pharmacist informed if a medication you’re taking for depression doesn’t interact well with other medications (including over-the-counter drugs) or vitamins or supplements you’re taking.

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Are Antidepressants Effective?

Antidepressants are usually the first drugs prescribed for depression. Because different types of antidepressant drugs have similar effectiveness, which one your doctor prescribes will depend largely on the side effects and how well you tolerate the drug.

There is also some science behind matching certain antidepressants with the specific types of symptoms you’re experiencing and sticking with the same antidepressant that worked well for you or another family member in the past.

Overall, doctors have leeway in terms of specific antidepressants they prescribe, so be sure to communicate exactly your preferences—such as which specific symptoms are troubling you the most and which side effects you’d particularly like to avoid.

depression medication

Antidepressants can be effective at relieving depression, but they can have side effects. So consult with your healthcare provider to make sure you’re taking the proper prescription.

Other medications used to treat depression and its related symptoms include anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. Your doctor can tell you whether any of these medications might help you.

How to Overcome Depression: Talk Therapy

Another important treatment for depression is to talk with a trained professional about the issues that may be causing or worsening your symptoms. It might sound simple, but talking can lift a lot of the emotional weight you’re feeling.

Talk therapy doesn’t mean simply “venting.” Also called psychotherapy, talk therapy will help you identify the problems contributing to your depression so you can begin to work through them. Increasingly, talk therapy also involves learning specific coping skills and problem-solving strategies.

Therapy for depression is, of course, individualized. While one person might benefit from one-on-one time with his or her therapist, another might feel more comfortable discussing issues in a supportive group setting. Still others might need their families present if family dynamics are a substantial source of stress. Fortunately, different types of therapy can accommodate all of these needs and preferences.

How to Overcome Depression: Diet Makes a Difference

Studies consistently show that diet is linked with depression. A diet high in trans fats and saturated fats can increase the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent. Researchers from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, for example, demonstrated after studying 12,059 volunteers over six years that the ingestion of trans fats and saturated fats increases the risk of depression. Conversely, olive oil has been shown to protect against this mental illness.

Overall, you can do your emotional health a favor by paying attention to what you eat and by opting for smart food choices. As always, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats, including olive oil, are components to a healthy diet.

For help in assessing and improving your diet patten, see these posts:

How to Overcome Depression: Alternative Treatments

There are any number of alternative treatments for depression, treatments that play into your lifestyle, interests, and schedule.

One proven tactic for fighting depression, for example, is to keep a pet. They’re not for everybody, but a dog or cat in your living space can lift your mood consistently. An article in Frontiers in Psychology collected results from 69 different studies on human-animal interactions and found well-documented evidence that animals can benefit our mood, stress levels, and anxiety.

Spending time with an animal can increase the hormone oxytocin, which increases our sense of well-being, as well as serotonin and dopamine levels, which can affect depression.

Younger people also benefit from the presence of pets (see Colleges Use Pets to Decrease Stress and Anxiety in Students).

If you aren’t ready to own a dog or cat, consider this advice, published in UCLA Health’s Healthy Years: “While adopting a dog or cat is one way, if you are not ready for that responsibility, you can seek out other means of animal interaction. For instance, inquire with your local senior community center and libraries about public animal therapy programs they may host.

Another option is to volunteer with community partners of animal therapy organizations like Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs International, and The Good Dog Foundation, where you can volunteer to help with animal therapy training.”

How to Overcome Depression, Naturally

There are other alternative treatments, too.

how to overcome depression

Medication, exercise, therapy—there are multiple ways to get past the depression that hits all of us at some point.

  • Exercise regularly. Just as diet has been linked with depression, so too has a lack of exercise. Take up yoga, Pilates, tai chi, or any number of other options to get regular exercise. Or, make a routine out of the most basic and accessible form of exercise: walking. (See our post The Benefits of Walking.)
  • Consider a mood-enhancing supplement, although you should do so under a physician’s guidance. Options include St. John’s Wort, and SAM-e, among other serotonin supplements.
  • Consider meditation. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a type of meditation based on Buddhist meditative practices but developed in America and incorporated into medical centers nationwide. As noted in our post What Is Mindfulness, and How Does It Make a Difference?, MBSR has been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms of depression.

    Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.

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