When should I seek help for depression?
If symptoms of depression don’t get better, get help from your healthcare team. If you are not feeling safe, see your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room to be seen urgently.
If you can schedule outpatient appointments, the first step for a person with epilepsy is to see their treating epilepsy provider. It could be the person is having more seizures, that the choice of medicine needs to be changed, or that other neurological problems need to be ruled out. A referral to a psychiatrist with expertise in epilepsy or neurological disorders may be needed.
Depression is a serious illness that affects all aspects of your life. Why suffer? This is an illness that needs professional help. There are many treatments that can work for you. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will begin to more fully enjoy your life.
What about my family?
Depression impacts everyone in the family. When a loved one is suffering with significant sadness, lack of motivation or energy, or chronic irritability and anger, everyone in the family is affected. Sometimes these family dynamics can worsen a person’s depression. They can also lead to unintended consequences, including more family conflict. When seeking mental health services, consider the impact on your family and the value and importance of including them in your treatment.
Why is it hard to ask for help?
Although depression is widely recognized as a serious issue, there are many reasons why people don’t seek help from a healthcare or mental health provider.
- There is still fear or resistance around mental health, counseling, or therapy. Many people are concerned with being labeled or blamed. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. They feel they should be able “to handle it” themselves by being strong and using their personal coping skills.
- Many people who are depressed don’t realize their symptoms are due to their emotional health. They have aches and pains, little energy, and even “brain fog” or poor concentration, so they seek medical help.
- At the doctor’s office, they may be selective in what they report and not associate the symptoms of depression with their current physical complaints. This selective reporting is especially true if the person has a chronic medical condition that needs ongoing treatment such as epilepsy.
- A common reason for not getting help is simply that people do not realize that treatment is available or how it can help. They don’t know where to find it. And, if they do get a referral, their insurance or financial resources may not cover the cost of mental health care.
- If you are concerned about getting help, call the Epilepsy Foundation 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-332-1000 (en Español 1-866-748-8008).
How is depression treated?
Depression can be treated a number of ways, depending on the type of mood changes and how they affect a person’s health, safety, and daily life. Just like epilepsy, there is no one way to treat depression. Treatment needs to be tailored to each person and their unique situation.
Many times medicines called antidepressants are used. If other symptoms like anxiety are present, medicines specific for these symptoms may be needed too. Medicines act in the brain to stabilize changes in substances called neurotransmitters.
Psychotherapy or Counseling
Psychotherapy is a word used to describe talk therapy or counseling. There are different kinds of talk therapy. Some may involve just the person with depression. Other times family therapy may be helpful. Often a mixture of different types are used. Therapy may focus on
- Educating people about depression, how to recognize and treat symptoms, and it’s effect on your life
- Teaching ways of coping with depression
- Addressing family relationships or conflicts
- Changing or reframing the way people think about problems and how to respond to them (sometimes called cognitive behavior therapy)
In addition to professional help, are there things I can do to manage my symptoms?
Although treating depression often needs professional help, there are things you can do to help avoid or lessen depressive symptoms. Here are a few ideas.
- Build a social network. Having positive social or family relationships will help you find support during difficult times. Online communities like the forums and chat on this website are helpful to some people. Also, engaging in enjoyable activities with others will help lift your mood.
- Exercise regularly. It doesn’t matter what form of physical activity you choose—just move. See our tips on physical activity and the ways it can improve your health.
- Eat a healthy diet. Nourishing your body with healthy food choices has additional benefits for your mental health and wellbeing.
- Reduce your stress. Many stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, can lessen your feelings of depression.
- Practice new thinking strategies. Are there other ways you can look at your problems and maybe find a “silver lining?” Problems are real, as are the feelings we associate with them. But how we think about our problems can make them worse, or better, than they first appear. The Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) Network has programs that can help.
- Engage in spiritual practices. Being a part of a religious or spiritual community or developing your own spiritual path can give your life greater purpose and meaning.
- Volunteer and help others. Consider helping someone who is less fortunate or volunteering for an organization that is of interest to you. Devoting time to help others can distract you from your troubles, give you the chance to interact with others, and give you a feeling of accomplishment. Find out how to get involved with the Epilepsy Foundation nationally or in your community.
- Practice gratitude. It isn’t easy to be objective when life and its problems are overwhelming. But, if you take a pause and reflect, there are people and things that you can be grateful for in your life. These can give you a sense of perspective as well as hope in the future.
- Ask for help. We would all love to be self-sufficient, but sometimes trying to deal with your problems on your own can be too difficult, even for those who are strong, competent, and resourceful. Depression is treatable. Find the help you need and see how your life will improve.
Where can I get more information on depression?
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Find education, support groups, counseling, and other resources.
National Institute of Mental Health
Information and publications on depression.
SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Information on depression and treatment.
Information to assist college students.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Information on depression and bipolar disorder, online tools, and support groups.
Epilepsy centers provide you with a team of specialists to help you diagnose your epilepsy and explore treatment options.
Find in-depth information on anti-seizure medications so you know what to ask your doctor.
Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline
Call our Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline and talk with an epilepsy information specialist or submit a question online.
Tools & Resources
Get information, tips, and more to help you manage your epilepsy.