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Coping with depression

Around 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Recognising how you feel and accepting you may need to seek help is the first step in dealing with depression.

It’s important to remember that depression is not a sign of weakness and is nothing to be ashamed of. Like many physical conditions, it can usually be managed or treated, if dealt with appropriately.

How can I cope with low mood or mild depression?

If you’re feeling low or have mild depression, these are some self-help techniques that you may find useful.

Maintain social contact

Interacting with other people can distract your mind from negative thought patterns. The more time you spend interacting with others, the less time you spend dwelling on things which make you sad and things which are perhaps out of your control.

Even if you feel that you’re not up for it, try and take every opportunity to interact with others because maintaining social contact could help improve your condition over time.

Join a support network

Joining a physical or virtual support group (for example, on Facebook) allows you to meet people who may be going through something similar.

Knowing that you’re not alone and sharing experiences with others who are, or have been, in similar situations are things that many find quite comforting.

Plan a nice start to your day

It can be easy to prioritise things that you feel you ‘should’ or ‘need’ to do, meaning that you do these first, then run out of energy to do the nicer things. Doing something enjoyable in the morning may help you maintain a good mood throughout the day.

Keeping your energy at comfortable levels

When we are tired or sleep deprived, we can often be vulnerable to negative emotions or low mood. Living with a brain tumour, or caring for someone with a brain tumour, can make daily life quite tiring.

Try to be aware of how your body feels and plan times to rest, so your energy reserves aren’t drained to the point of exhaustion.

Taking up some form of moderate activity

Studies have shown that even a moderate amount of activity can lead to improved mood. Even if you begin with a 20-minute walk every day, it could contribute to an improvement in your mood.

How can I cope with more serious depression?

The first step in dealing with depression is to recognise and accept the fact that you may be suffering from it.

Depression can make you doubt your own judgement, make you more introverted (inward looking) and less confident. This can make you reluctant to seek help and express how you are feeling.

It’s important to understand that it’s natural to feel this way and that it’s OK to tell your loved ones and your GP exactly what you’re going through.

Your GP can suggest the appropriate treatment options for you, based on the severity of your depression. This could be a combination of the following therapies.

Mild to moderate depression

Talking therapies

If you’re affected by mild to moderate depression which doesn’t show any signs of improving, your GP may refer you for a talking therapy.

There are different types of talking therapy for depression, including:

Psychotherapy. This usually involves a series of regular 1:1 sessions with a trained psychotherapist, where you can talk about your feelings and get help to understand them and deal with them. There are different types of psychotherapy. It can involve techniques such as drama or music to help.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves regular sessions with a trained CBT therapist to help you manage your depression by changing the way you think about your current problems. You’re helped to break down your problems and thoughts into smaller, separate parts and work out how to change those that aren’t helpful.

Counselling. This involves sessions with a trained counsellor who will listen to you without judging or criticising.
They’ll also help you find ways to understand your feelings, to see things from a different viewpoint and find your own solutions to dealing with your feelings.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a type of psychotherapy based on mindfulness. In contrast to other therapies which aim to reduce or get rid of negative thoughts, ACT accepts these thoughts, then diffuses them using a variety of techniques, such as mindfulness, to reduce their impact and influence over you. The Brain Tumour Charity is funding a study into whether ACT can be adapted to help young adults who are childhood brain tumour survivors.

You can choose to pay for private treatment, but it’s important to make sure your therapist is registered with a recognised professional organisation and to be aware of the costs.

You can find accredited registers or therapists through the Professional Standards Authority:
professionalstandards.org.uk/what-we-do/accredited-registers/find-a-register
or professionalstandards.org.uk/check-practitioners

How do I access talking therapy?

Your GP can refer you for talking therapies, but it’s important to note that there may be a long waiting list for these services in the NHS.

Alternatively, you can choose to pay for private treatment, but it’s important to make sure your therapist is registered with a recognised professional organisation and to be aware of the costs.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a tool used to channel your thoughts and be more aware of the present moment. It can be difficult to begin with, but does get easier with practice.

While mindfulness may not be for everyone, it has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and mild depression in some patients with brain tumours.

Moderate to severe depression

Psychiatry

If you suffer from moderate to severe depression, your GP may refer you to a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medically qualified doctor who specialises in psychiatry.

As with talking therapies, a psychiatrist can offer emotional support and discuss topics which trouble you.

However, as a medically qualified professional, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, such as antidepressants, and refer you for other types of treatment.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are tablets which can be prescribed for moderate or severe depression. NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommends that antidepressants should be used in combination with a high-intensity psychological therapy, such as CBT.

There are many different types of antidepressant and, if your doctor or psychiatrist feels you would benefit from taking them, they’ll take into account any other treatment you may be receiving for your brain tumour before deciding which one to prescribe.

Like any other medication, antidepressants can cause side-effects. The most common side-effects are usually mild and tend to ease as your body gets used to the medicine.

However, sometimes the side-effects of antidepressants can last for a long time or be severe. Your GP will be able to tell about possible side-effects and how to manage these.

Antidepressants have also been shown to be linked with suicidal thoughts, particularly in children, young adults and anyone with a history of suicidal behaviour.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, contact your GP urgently or call 999. They’re used to helping people who are feeling this way, so don’t worry about contacting them. If it’s out-of-hours, your GP will have an out-of-hours service

Alternatively, there are many other organisations that can help you, such as the Samaritans who you can call on 116 123.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:

Information and Support line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

support@thebraintumourcharity.org

Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00

You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.

Get support

If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.

Coping with depression

Martin talks about his experiences with depression, its impact and how he got support to help him cope.