What cognitive and behavioral strategies help treat depression?

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Sudeepta Varma, MD
Psychiatry
Part of cognitive behavioral therapy is to look at how our thoughts, emotions and behaviors interplay with each other. In this video, psychiatrist Sudeepta Varma, MD, discusses how cognitive behavioral therapy strategies help to treat depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health advises using certain cognitive and behavioral strategies for helping yourself while in the midst of depression. These approaches are intended to counter symptoms of exhaustion, fatigue, worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness that so often accompany depressive episodes. These negative thoughts and feelings may cause the person to feel like giving up. The following strategies are particularly useful while the depression persists. Symptoms will fade with effective treatment.

  • Recognize that the negativity is part of the depression and probably contributes to an inaccurate view of the situation.
  • Do not set difficult goals.
  • Do not accept roles with a great deal of responsibility.
  • Divide major tasks into smaller chunks, set priorities, and do what you can.
  • Do not expect too much from yourself. This sets up situations of failure.
  • Be around other people. Isolating yourself from others is not healthful or healing.
  • Participate in activities that make you feel better: exercise, relaxation, and socialization are particularly excellent choices.
  • Treatment takes time. Do not expect to feel better right away.
  • Postpone major life decisions, such as changing jobs, relocating, entering or ending a primary relationship, or making major financial choices, until the depressive symptoms are alleviated.
  • Do not engage in self-blame while experiencing depressed mood.
  • Do not accept the negative thinking, which is part of the depression. Each day, find one positive reason to make it through the day.

Because depression by its very nature is painful and punishing, one strategy is to do things and select activities that feel good or to pamper yourself in some way. The purpose is to infuse positive experiences to distract you from and offset the negative, depressed mood state.

Maintaining a journal is also particularly helpful for some people. The act of writing about the feelings appears to make them more manageable.

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Because it is a multi-faceted condition, treatment for depression is multi-faceted as well. Minor depression can often be treated with therapy and a few simple lifestyle changes, while chronic or major depression treatment can req...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.