Living with clinical depression
There are some key steps you can take to lift your mood and help your recovery from depression.
Take your medication
It is important to take your medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better.
If you stop your medication too soon, you could have a relapse of your depression. If you have any questions or concerns about the medication you're taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
It may help to read the information leaflet that comes with your medication to find out about possible interactions with other drugs or supplements. Check with your 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 diet
Exercise and a healthy diet can make a tremendous difference to how quickly you recover from depression. And they will both improve your general health, too.
Research suggests that exercise may be as effective as antidepressants at reducing depression symptoms.
Being physically active can lift your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, boost the release of endorphins (your body's feel-good chemicals) and improve self-esteem. Also, exercising may be a good distraction from negative thoughts, and it can improve social interaction.
Read more about exercise for depression.
It also helps your mood to have a healthy diet. In fact, eating healthily seems to be just as important for maintaining your mental health as it is for preventing physical health problems.
Read more about what to eat to improve your mood.
Read more information about boosting your mood, coping with stress, anxiety or depression, or simply improving your overall emotional wellbeing, in the Moodzone.
You could also try this five-minute audio guide to coping with low mood and 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 Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends 'mindfulness based cognitive therapy' for people who are currently well but have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression. It may help to prevent a future episode of depression. Read the NICE 2009 guidelines on Depression in Adults.
Talking about it hide
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 so, writing about how you feel or expressing your emotions through poetry or art are other ways to help your mood.
Here is a list of depression self-help groups and information on how to access them.
Read more about how talking to other people can help you to cope with depression.
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Smoking, drugs and alcohol show
It may be tempting to smoke or drink to make you feel better. Cigarettes and booze may seem to help at first, but they make things worse in the long run.
Be extra cautious with cannabis. You might see it as harmless, but research has revealed 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 likely to have depression that relapses earlier and more frequently
- will not have as good a response to antidepressant medicines
- are more likely to stop using antidepressant medicines
- are less likely to recover fully
If you drink or smoke too much or use drugs, get advice and support from your GP, or read these articles about getting help if you want to stop smoking, taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol.
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Work and finances show
If your depression is caused by working too much or is affecting your ability to do your job, you may need time off to recover. However, there is evidence that taking prolonged time off work can make depression worse. There's also quite a lot of evidence 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 with a diagnosis of mental illness.
Read more about how to beat stress at work.
If you can't work as a result of your depression, you may be eligible for a range of benefits, depending on your circumstances. These include:
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Looking after someone with depression show
It's not just the person with depression who is affected by their illness. The people close to them are too.
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.
In this video, a relationship counsellor explains what couples therapy involves and who it can help.
Men are less likely to ask for help than women and are also more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs when depressed.
Read more about caring for someone with depression.
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Coping with bereavement show
Losing someone close to you can be a trigger for your depression.
When someone you love dies, the emotional blow can be so powerful that you feel it's impossible to ever recover. However, with time and the right help and support, it is possible to start living your life again.
Find out more with these videos and articles all about how to cope with bereavement.
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Depression and suicide show
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 are:
- 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 like "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 commit suicide and feels better because of this decision
If you are feeling suicidal or are in the crisis of depression, contact your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to help you.
If you can't or don't want to contact your GP, call the Samaritans on 116 123, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Alternatively, visit the Samaritans website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping a suicidal friend or relative
If you see any of the above warning signs:
- get professional help for the person
- let them know they are not alone and that you care about them
- offer your support in finding other solutions to their problems
If you feel there is an immediate danger, stay with the person or have someone else stay with them, and remove all available means of committing suicide, such as medication. Over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers can be just as dangerous as prescription medication. Also, remove sharp objects and poisonous household chemicals such as bleach.
Read more about how you can stop someone with depression committing suicide.
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Tips for when you’re feeling depressed, anxious or down
Find out why 150 minutes of physical activity every week can greatly improve your health
Liz Gardiner talks about her depression and how medication, CBT and exercise have all helped
Practical tips to help you cut down, plus information on low-risk drinking, how alcohol affects your health, and understanding units
Tips to help you if you’re feeling anxious or down
Page last reviewed: 19/08/2014
Next review due: 19/08/2016