Everyone experiences brief, occasional periods of depression in their lifetime, but for some individuals, it lasts for weeks, months, or years at a time. Being able to identify, understand, and seek treatment for depression is key in living a healthy life that has purpose and meaning.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

“Depression is a mental illness that has a significant effect on a person’s ability to function normally, and is marked by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, and hopelessness,” MentalHelp.net explains. “These feelings can continue for years if left untreated.”

There are a variety of types of depression, including premenstrual depression, seasonal depression, postpartum depression, and persistent depression. The type a person struggles with may be dependent on other factors.

“Depression often does not occur alone—many people living with depression experience some other mental illness as well,” MentalHelp.net points out. “Depression has a high rate of co-occurrence with both anxiety (up to 60%) and substance use disorders.”

If you’ve never received an official depression diagnosis, you may wonder whether you’re imagining things, or if there’s a real issue. While it’s highly encouraged to see a medical professional, some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Behavioral issues like: not going out anymore; withdrawing from close friends and family; an inability to concentrate; and/or relying on alcohol and sedatives to numb feelings.
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, guilty, irritable, unhappy, frustrated, disappointed, sad, and miserable.
  • Physical feelings of being sick and run down, experiencing significant weight loss or gain, chronic headaches and tension, and a general tiredness.

If you’re suffering from depression, you aren’t alone. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or roughly 6.7 percent of the U.S. adult population. The average age at onset is 32, though one in 33 children – and one in eight adolescents – are diagnosed with clinical depression. It’s alarmingly common, and you shouldn’t feel like an anomaly. You should, however, take action against your depression.

Taking a Healthy Approach to Depression Treatment

Depression, left untended, can become dangerous and deadly. It’s imperative that you take a healthy approach to treatment. Here are a few practical steps you can take:

  1. Care for Your Body

Depression tries to tell you that everything in your life is bad, pointless, and beyond repair. If you listen, these things will slowly become true. The best way to silence these voices and feelings is to care for your body.

For starters, healthy eating will make you feel physically better. Ditch the greasy, sugary, highly processed foods and go for fresh meals that offer a balance of nutrients. This will also bring to balance to your brain and support stronger mental health.

In addition to eating healthy, regular physical activity and adequate sleep are crucial to living a balanced life. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, while sleep provides much needed rest.

  1. Try a Depression Treatment Program

While there are certain things you can do for yourself, it’s often difficult to break out of depression on your own. You have to recognize this is a mental illness and it may require clinical attention to overcome.

One of the best options you have is to attend a depression treatment program. These programs provide targeted help with qualified professionals in the mental industry. They also surround you with other people who are going through similar issues, which gives you an outlet for discussion.

  1. Stay Connected to Others

Social interaction plays a key role in treating depression and finding freedom from feelings of hopelessness. The more you prioritize connecting with people, the greater your chances are of finding healing.

Not sure where to begin? Have a conversation with a close friend. Help other people in your community by volunteering. Go on a run with an old friend. Join a yoga class and make a new friend. There are opportunities all around you. Force yourself to get out there, even when your brain tells you it wants to isolate.

  1. Take on Responsibilities and Routine

Depression lies to you and tells you that you’re worthless and life is meaningless – both of which are untrue. If you want to escape this pit of thinking, take on some new responsibilities and routines. By adding responsibilities to your schedule, you force yourself to recognize that you have value and purpose. And with other people depending on you, there’s less of a chance that you’ll choose to curl up and isolate yourself from the world.

Don’t Let Depression Linger

Depression isn’t something to play around with. While it’s often hard to find enough motivation to confront the problem, it’s imperative that you don’t let it linger.

Depression commonly leads to substance abuse, physical neglect, and even suicide. By taking a healthy, proactive approach to this mental health issue, you can find freedom.

Don’t delay – take action today!