Loneliness and depression are the new killers. In fact, recent studies show that either one (or both) can be more dangerous to your life than obesity or using tobacco products. That is a scary discovery, for over 40 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with depression, the number of people coping (or trying to cope) with loneliness is unknown, and that feeling of not belonging is depressing all by itself. This is why I write this blog.

To get through a rough time, whether you are just depressed or lonely or both, you first have to admit to yourself how you are feeling. Denial is a part of grief, and for the most part, no one wants to admit that they are feeling down. However, holding all that pain in can create physical problems as well. People who are depressed usually find it difficult to exercise, keep a balanced diet, or take as good care of themselves as people who are not.

If you are feeling depressed, getting a proper diagnosis is very important. You have to know what you are dealing with. This is true whether the cause of your depression is biochemical or situational, such as being associated with the loss of a loved one. Your doctor and  licensed therapist (yes, you will need both) should work together to create a personalized treatment plan that works for you.

Many people are afraid to see a medical or mental health professional and are also afraid of taking antidepressant medication. It’s important to note that not all depressed people respond to drug therapy, and a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and personal work (like keeping a feelings journal) can often be helpful. Some doctors recommend using supplements like fish oil. Others do use different kinds of medication to help the patient deal with their inner turmoil. Every case is different, and I always recommend getting at least two opinions.

While you are slogging through this difficult time, trust that you are in good hands. If you don’t like your doctor, try another. If you have a bad reaction to a medication, tell your doctor immediately (don’t try to tough it out). The best psychiatrists admit that they always prescribe what they believe is the best drug available for their patients, but if it doesn’t work well, then they will try another option and proceed until they find the best fit. This process can make a patient feel like a guinea pig. The real truth is there are only a handful of meds available, all with different results and side effects.

No one knows your symptoms as well as you do, so get on the Internet, talk with your practitioners, get a complete medical workup and take good care of yourself. If you’re on medication, know that your emotions may also be distorting your feelings, so you need to take this into consideration when evaluating how well therapy or medication is working. The advice of well-meaning friends may be of some help, but just having them around could do more for you than almost anything else.

Remember that knowledge is power, and unless you have gotten used to being depressed, you will want to do something about it.  That is why I write this blog. Think about the times in your life when you were happy, and compare what’s happening now with what was going on then. What’s different? We are all constantly changing. Maybe you’ve experienced a trauma or a negative experience, and you need time to heal. Whatever the cause, nothing will change for the better until you take the steps necessary to help yourself. Writing your own blog may be a good place to start.

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