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Depression ‘Treatments’ That Bring Self-Harm

Using unhealthy coping mechanisms often starts out fairly innocently, with people repeating something that brought them pleasure and relief in the past. But since these approaches can’t actually treat depression, the depression symptoms persevere, sometimes worsened by the efforts to self-medicate. Some of the harmful ways people try to cope with depression include:

1.    Booze. You will find alcohol in most social settings, and it’s even occasionally recommended (in small quantities) for good health. So it’s easy to slip into boozing regularly to ease emotional pain. If you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse or find yourself going back to the bottle throughout the day, you could be at risk for dependence.

2.    Drug use. Not only are most illegal drugs addictive, they can also interfere with the effectiveness of true depression treatment. After the effects of the substance have worn off, you’re still left with that underlying sadness, irritability, or lack of interest or pleasure. Just like alcohol, drug use may be followed by withdrawal. This, plus the guilt, shame, and fallout from the addiction can all perpetuate depression symptoms.

3.    Painkillers. The use of prescription painkillers is on the rise, and emergency departments are seeing increases in overdoses and certainly an increase in dependence. Painkiller addiction often begins with a legitimate need for pain relief, but if you’re using painkillers to numb not just physical pain but also emotional pain, that’s a problem.

4.    Comfort food: You wouldn’t be the first to reach for a doughnut on a rough day, but if it’s a regular habit, you might be overeating in an effort to cope with depression. Medical researchers are beginning to look at whether being overweight increases the risk for depression for physiological reasons — so be aware that you could literally be feeding your depression with this approach.

5.    Shopping. It’s called “retail therapy” for a reason: Shopping provides some people with temporary depression relief. Apart from not addressing important issues, if you don’t have the resources to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month, getting yourself into debt could just make things work.

6.    Promiscuity. Studies have shown a link between risky sex (unprotected sex or sex with new partners) and depression. Like shopping, this can provide short-term relief, but the long-term impact on physical and emotional health might just make depression worse.

7.    Self-mutilation. This type of self-harm involves causing yourself physical pain — such as picking at or cutting your skin, or even biting yourself — to ease emotional pain.

8.    Sleeping the day away. Depression can cause severe and sudden changes in sleeping habits. If the thought of staying in bed today (and tomorrow, and the day after that) sounds better than having to get up and deal with your life, this could be a warning sign that you are depressed. Sleeping, as much as it might seem like a refuge from your problems, is not so much a depression treatment as a symptom.

9.    Suicidal thoughts. Planning your own death, called suicide ideation, might seem like the best way out of the dark world of depression. However, having these thoughts is a severe symptom of depression — and depression can be treated. Urgent treatment is needed in this case to steer you away from this permanent solution to a temporary and treatable problem.

Depression Treatments That Do Work

Though treating depression should be individualized, the most effective depression relief is likely to come from a combination of the following:

1.    Talk therapy. Many people can achieve significant relief through cognitive behavioral therapy or another therapeutic approach with a mental health professional that helps them identify what is (and isn’t) working well in their lives.

2.    Medication. Depression relief for specific or severe symptoms usually can be obtained through the right antidepressants.

3.    Lifestyle changes. Eating better, being physically active, learning stress management techniques, and getting regular sleep will all go a long way toward helping you achieve depression relief.

4.    Addiction treatment. Because substance abuse and addictive behaviors (shopping, sex, or gambling) can actually make depression worse or treatment-resistant, you should get help with these issues as well. Twelve-step programs are very effective.

Usually, combining medication and therapy with appropriate lifestyle changes will bring about the best results.

Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/the-worst-ways-to-treat-depression.aspx (abridged)

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