Sadness is a universal emotion everyone will feel at once or another. However, sad feelings that linger and get in the way of a healthy life could be a depressive episode instead. Fortunately, learning to get out of a depressive episode can help someone bounce back from feelings of hopelessness.
Depression is a mental health disorder that typically lasts for extended periods of time. Like most forms of mental illness, a person might struggle with depressive episodes for years, with periods that are better and worse than others. This article will go into depth about depressive episodes and provide steps to help you or a loved one heal from one.
Definition of a Depressive Episode
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, sadness that worsens or lasts longer than two weeks may be depression. Depression is a mood disorder that impacts how a person feels, thinks, and behaves. People with depression may feel hopeless and lack energy, but symptoms vary from person to person.
Individual circumstances can result in different types of depression. A few of the most common types are:
- Major Depressive Disorder: Symptoms of depression that last more than two weeks and adversely impacts essential life activities.
- Dysthymia: Depressive symptoms which last for long periods, usually about two years or more.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Typically starts in the fall or colder months, when symptoms come and go with the season.
- Perinatal Depression and Postpartum Depression: Develop during pregnancy or after delivery.
In some cases, symptoms of depression can become so severe that the person may experience delusions or hallucinations. Those with bipolar disorder experience depressive episodes in cycles with contrasting manic episodes.
Symptoms of Depressive Disorder
The signs and symptoms of a depressive episode differ from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or shame
- Lack of energy or feeling “slow”
- Difficulty maintaining concentration
- Difficulty recalling or remembering things
- Sleep changes
- Change in appetite
- Disinterest in former hobbies or activities
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Physical symptoms like body aches
- Digestive issues
Symptoms that last longer than two weeks may indicate a depressive episode. Thoughts of suicide or death are also symptoms, though not all people who experience depressive episodes feel suicidal. Suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, or thoughts of harming others require immediate mental health support.
How Long Does Depression Last?
Some individuals may experience a short depressive episode lasting only a few weeks or more. Other individuals may have depression symptoms that last for two or more years, especially if left untreated. Treatment from a mental health professional can resolve episodes sooner and help develop coping skills to reduce the risks for future episodes.
Tips for Getting Out of a Depressive Episode
Managing depression as soon as symptoms appear can resolve them more quickly. Making adjustments to behavioral routines and ways of thinking helps reduce depressive symptoms. Dealing with depression can feel overwhelming, but there are The following are seven tips on how to deal with a depressive episode:
1. Accept and Learn About Depression
Experiencing depression does not make a person weak or flawed. Depression can happen to anyone. To be clear, data from the World Health Organization finds that about 280 million people worldwide have depression.
Furthermore, information from the NIMH states that approximately 21.0 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2020. Therefore, depression is a common illness and is not a moral failure. Accepting depression isn’t easy. But overcoming denial and being open to treatments for depression can turn the tide in the effort toward recovery.
2. Monitor Symptoms of Depression
Monitoring and tracking signs and symptoms of depression can help identify what triggers them. Doing so can also help spot mood fluctuations and determine actions to help stabilize them. One example is using a calendar as a symptom tracker or a daily log. By logging and rating moods, noting environmental triggers, and listing interventions that help, individuals can better grasp what triggers and helps resolve their symptoms.
3. Learn and Implement Stress Management Skills
Life stressors are frequent triggers for depressive episodes. Without healthy coping strategies, individuals may spiral into a depressive episode when stressed. Additionally, being in a depressive episode itself is a stressful event. Therefore, learning strategies to reduce stress is essential.
Meditation and mindfulness are effective ways to reduce stress. Research into meditation has found that it “quiets” the amygdala, the portion of the brain responsible for responding to stress. Other stress management strategies such as deep breathing, journaling, and exercising may help lift someone out of a depressive episode.
4. Practice Self-Care
Actions that boost an individual’s sense of well-being help prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression. Taking time to do enjoyable activities and care for oneself is integral to a balanced lifestyle and good mental health.
Examples of a few self-care activities are:
- Engaging in personal hobbies
- Consuming a healthy diet
- Maintaining personal appearance
- Connecting with friends and family
Self-care is not a luxury, and it’s essential for a good quality of life. Any activities that enhance an individual’s mental and physical well-being are self-care activities.
5. Change Negative Thought Patterns
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches people how to modify their harmful thoughts and behaviors. By changing their approach to stressful situations and negative ways of thinking, individuals can effectively get themselves out of a depressive episode.
While CBT is most impactful when taught by a licensed mental health professional, individuals can learn basic CBT methods independently. For example, changing thoughts like “I am worthless” to “I am valuable” can reduce feelings of depression.
Take Control of Your Depression with Acera
When experiencing a depressive episode, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is challenging. However, it’s important to remember that there are ways to manage a depressive episode, and with treatment, they don’t last forever. Utilizing appropriate strategies can help get an individual out of a depressive episode.
At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we understand depression and how it can affect people’s lives. If you or your loved one is experiencing a depressive episode, our experienced staff will collaborate with you to find the solutions that work. Acera’s client-centered approach is delivered in a supportive, compassionate, and safe environment.
Contact us today to find support for depression at Acera.