Coping with Depression

December 10, 2018

Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. When a sad mood lasts and interferes with everyday life, a person may be depressed. Helping someone with depression can be a challenge. You may feel helpless and wonder what to do. Learn how to offer support and understanding and help your loved one get the resources to cope with this condition.

What Is depression?

  • Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging.
  • It’s a common but serious disease that ranges widely in severity.
  • About 1 out of every 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life.1 It affects about 16 million American adults every year.2
  • Anyone can get depressed at any age.

What causes depression?

  • The exact cause is unknown. It may be due to a number of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.
  • Everyone is different‚ but the following may increase a person’s chances of becoming depressed:
    • Having blood relatives who have had depression
    • Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one or financial problems
    • Going through a major life change‚ even if it was planned
    • Having a medical problem, such as cancer, stroke or chronic pain
    • Taking certain medications

What are the symptoms?

  • Depressed mood during most of the day, especially in the morning
  • Tiredness or lack of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Problems focusing, remembering details and making decisions
  • Sleeplessness or too sleep much almost every day
  • Little interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day
  • Frequent thoughts about death or suicide (not just a fear of death)
  • Feelings of restlessness or slowness
  • Loss or gaining of weight
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

What can you do for depression?

  • If you feel depressed, talk to your doctor! Treatment can help reduce symptoms and shorten the length of a depression and can include psychotherapy and/or medication.
  • Exercise. In the short term, it boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits.
  • Get in a routine. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
  • Push yourself to do something new or different. Go to a museum, volunteer at a soup kitchen or take a language class.
  • Challenge negative thoughts. Work on changing how you think.
  • If concerned about a loved one being depressed, offer to go with him or her to see a healthcare provider to be diagnosed and treated.
  • If you or someone you care about is in crisis, seek help immediately. Call 911 or go to a nearby emergency department or see your doctor.

Learn more about depression.  

  • Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 2005;62 (6):593-602 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings [PDF – 2.37MB]. Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2014 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].