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How Can I Become Less Depressed?

Question:

I have been depressed since i was young. Nothing seems to work for me. Medication, talking about my problems, none of it worked. I think that the depression is causing more mental problems for me. I use to be able to hang out with a few friends, but just recently i have been avoiding them. I get mad at the stupidest things. People tell me they think its bipolar. Can you give any advice as what i should do?

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

I can’t diagnose you via an email. My advice is that you should continue to pursue psychological and medical treatments for your depression as your best means of release from your symptoms. You may have tried some medicines, but there are quite a few of them and not everyone responds to the same ones in the same way. If you’ve been on a particular medicine and it has not helped you (and you’ve been on it and taking it regularly as prescribed for several months – which is how long some of them take to become effective) then it would be a good idea to ask your doctor to prescribe you a different medicine. Likewise with therapy. There are many different kinds of therapy. Some therapies are less effective than others at helping people deal with depression. Your basic run-of-the-mill therapy where all you do is talk about what is bothering you can be quite helpful to some people, but doesn’t do much for others. The best kinds of talking-therapy I can recommend are those that have been scientifically studied and shown to be effective for the treatment of depression: 1) cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, and 2) interpersonal therapy for depression. Some therapists know how to offer these therapies and some others aren’t trained properly and can’t offer them. I’d recommend trying at least one of these specific kinds of therapy for several months, giving it your best shot each time (showing up for all appointments, doing all homework asked of you, etc.) before deciding that psychotherapy is of no use to you. There are some other things you can do to help your depression as well. Exercizing on a regular basis is a very helpful non-toxic means of improving your mood. This can be as complicated as working out at a gym, or rock climbing, or it can be as simple as taking a 30 minute walk every other day or throwing a ball around with a friend. Exercize has been scientifically shown to improve people’s moods. Fighting the urge to withdraw from friends and other social engagements is also a good idea if you can manage it. It is a symptom of depression to avoid people, but avoiding people means you are also avoiding the nice things that can happen (like laughing and having a good time) when you are with people. These nice things are also helpful at elevating one’s mood to some extent.

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p> Finally, I noticed that your email address began with the designation ‘bigbagofreefer’ which leads me to suspect that you smoke marijuana on a fairly regular basis. You probably don’t want a lecture – but you have asked about what you can do to be less depressed so you should know that marijuana can contribute to and/or cause depression in many people. The science crowd is pretty sure that smoking weed can send some people vulnerable for schizophrenia over the edge into a psychosis that they would not otherwise have had to deal with. If you are depressed and a pot smoker you aren’t doing yourself or your brain any favors, and very well may be helping to cause your own depression! Your best bet is to stop smoking and give your brain a rest.

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