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Maybe you’ve been struggling with depression for a while now. With help from a mental health professional, you’ve been prescribed the routine treatment of antidepressants and therapy. So then, “Why is my depression getting worse,” you ask?
Because depression is a complex mental health disorder, it can take time to discern the proper meds and psychotherapy. The causal factors of depression are often what is considered when making these treatment decisions. Still, treatment doesn’t always reduce symptoms like you want, and the depression may actually be getting worse.
In many ways, major depressive disorder is still not completely understood. There are several potential factors that can trigger depression. Consider these 5 factors:
- Stressful life events.
- History of trauma, such as abuse or neglect.
- Female hormones.
- Long-term illness.
- Co-occurring substance abuse.
When seeking help for depression, you will engage in an evaluation process. The clinician asks about your mental health history and whether there are any adverse life events going on. According to the DSM-5, a depressive episode features a cluster of these symptoms lasting more than two weeks:
- Feeling sad most of the time.
- Fatigue and decreased energy.
- Impaired concentration.
- Loss of appetite or over-eating.
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
- Slowed motions and thinking.
- Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or sleeping too much.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Why is Depression Getting Worse Instead of Better?
Even if you are under a doctor’s care for depression, you might notice that your depression is getting worse. While certain signs of worsening depression are obvious, such as self-harm or suicidal thoughts, some signs are subtler.
For instance, you may find yourself sleeping all day instead of taking care of tasks or going to work. You may start avoiding friends and family because it is too hard to interact when you feel so sad. You might even begin thinking you are a burden to others.
Why is depression getting worse and not better? It could be one of these reasons:
- You are on the wrong meds. It may take several trials to finally find the right antidepressant. If the one you are taking is not working, tell your doctor so he or she can prescribe another one.
- Poor nutrition. Indulging in sugary treats and high carb processed foods is not helping your mental health.
- Not getting exercise. Not only is inactivity bad for overall health, it can harm mental health. Because exercise causes the brain to release endorphins, it is an easy way to improve your mood.
Ways We Cope With Depression
No one enjoys the symptoms of depression. The problem is using some maladaptive coping skills in an attempt to reduce, hide, or manage the symptoms. These might include:
- Substance abuse. When you’re depressed, to escape the feelings you have you might resort to using alcohol or pills to numb the symptoms.
- Poor eating habits. It is common to seek out comfort foods or junk food when you feel depressed. This can lead to weight gain, which makes matters worse.
- Isolating. When we feel depressed we may avoid our friends and family members. Social isolation only keeps us stuck in the depression.
- Faking it. Smiling depression is a type of coping mechanism when you want to hide your depression from others.
The Dangers of “Smiling” Depression
Some people have the ability to hide their mental health state from others. Smiling depression, also known as high-functioning depression, is the term used to describe those who strive to hide depression.
Someone may attempt to hide their mood state because they believe it is a sign of weakness. Others may not want to be a burden to their friends or family members or cause them to worry. Still, others may go to great lengths to hide depression out of fear of losing their job.
In an effort to hide their true mental health state, they will only prolong the disorder and risk the depression getting worse. The danger is that a prolonged state of depression may increase the risk of suicide.
How to Keep Your Job When You’re Depressed
There may be a good reason for someone to try and hide their depression at work. Why? Depression symptoms are not good for job productivity. You feel listless and fatigued, your thinking is not as clear, and you probably aren’t getting good sleep. All of these can undermine your job performance.
To be able to continue working, try these tips:
- Make a to-do list. This helps you stay on track and complete the basic tasks of the workday.
- Set small goals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are trying to work while going through depression. Set small benchmarks to keep yourself moving forward.
- Manage stress. When you feel overwhelmed, try to access the coping tools that help you manage stress. These include deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and taking daily walks.
- Improve sleep quality. It may be hard to get a good night’s sleep when you are depressed, but try these tips:
- Establish a daily sleep schedule.
- Avoid caffeine after 3 pm.
- Avoid exercising after 6 pm.
- Take a warm bath before bedtime.
- Replace screen time with reading or meditation.
5. Have a chat with the boss. Sometimes, the best route is to sit down with your boss and share that you are grappling with some depression. They may have suspected something was up, so this makes them more willing to be patient.
What is Residential Depression Treatment?
If your depression is getting worse, you may benefit from a residential mental health program. These programs take a more intensive treatment approach and offer tailored treatment plans that are just for you. Taking some time away from daily stressors to focus on your mental health is often the best medicine.