My Depression is Getting Worse: What Should I Do?

Depression affects more than 16.1 million adults in the United States every year. Mental health conditions like chronic or severe depression can make it difficult to know when it’s time to get help. This can be largely due to symptoms of depression coming and going, and by the time you start slipping into your next depressive episode, you might not fully realize it’s happening. 

Sometimes, depression getting worse can dictate your life and you can’t control it, but when you know and can recognize the signs, you’re better-able to reach out for the help you need. 

If you have that familiar feeling that depression is taking hold of your life again, and you’re wondering why is my depression getting worse, it’s important to learn where to get support and take a depression test. Then, you can manage your depression and continue living your life. You can get help with depression and its symptoms. 

Signs of Depression Getting Worse

Signs of depression getting worse may not always be obvious in the beginning. Part of this is because depression getting worse can have a range of symptoms. Your depression can go from bad to worse, or nonexistent to very bad, in a matter of days, making the contrast in mood quite evident. Other times, however, changes to your mood may happen slowly, making it even more difficult to realize that, hey, my depression is getting worse.

Some of the more common signs of worsening depression can include: 

You want to be alone more often: Often, when you’re depressed, it can feel overwhelming or downright daunting to find the energy you need to spend time with others. It’s not just energy levels that come into play, either. Emotional numbness, where you experience a general lack of emotion, can make socializing seem mundane at best, and totally pointless at worst. Depression can also cause feelings of irritability, guilt, and a lack of self-worth, which can make spending time with others — even people you once greatly enjoyed — seem complicated and exhausting. 

Things that once interested you now seem boring or not pleasurable: If you find that things you once enjoyed now offer you no pleasure, it might be due to worsening depression. When you’re depressed, hobbies and things you at one time found pleasure in doing can start to feel more like work and less like something worth your time.  Feeling like you just can’t find the motivation to socialize, workout, or engage in hobbies might be due to anhedonia, which is a core symptom of major depressive disorder (MDD). Those who experience anhedonia can have a severe and intense difficulty finding things in life that are pleasurable.

You have certain times of the day where your mood gets noticeably worse: Are you noticing that how your symptoms are presenting seems to be changing? If you used to have the same symptoms of depression pretty evenly throughout most of your days, but now you’re noticing things are intensifying at a specific time, that can be a distinct sign of worsening depression.

Your emotional distress intensifies: Depression comes with several common symptoms including:SadnessHopelessnessFeelings of guilt, worthlessness, or shamePessimistic outlooksFeeling numbCatastrophic thinkingDifficulty concentratingExperiencing memory problems

If any of the symptoms begin to intensify, you might start finding that you’re:Increasingly worried about what others think about youObsessively fixating on negative thoughtsBelieving you’re a burden to loved onesThinking about self-harm as a way to reduce your distress or counteract numbnessCrying more often than in the pastHaving increased suicidal thoughts, even if you’re not going to act on them

You experience a change in eating and or sleeping patterns: Sleep and eating habits are often impacted by a type of depression like melancholic depression, where you can experience a “can’t get out of bed depression” kind of feeling.  In terms of food, you might be eating more or less than usual. Sleep pattern changes can be similar in that depression can make it difficult to stay awake and focus during the day. It can also become harder to fall asleep at bedtime, or you might wake up throughout the night. Difficulty sleeping means you might be tempted to nap during the day, which can add to concentration and productivity issues while also making nighttime sleep habits even more disruptive.

Factors That Could Be Impacting Your Depression

There are several factors that might contribute to depression getting worse. Sometimes they can be the result of a specific trigger, but other times you might not be able to pinpoint the cause of why your depression is worsening. Some triggers can include:

Your depression treatment plan becomes ineffective: Treating depression is most successful when there’s a combination of medication and therapy, rather than just one or the other. If you’re not using a combined approach, you might want to talk to your therapist or doctor about changing your overall depression treatment plan so it can be more effective. Worsening depressive symptoms can also be due to what’s known as treatment-resistant depression. An antidepressant doesn’t work the same way for everybody, so it’s possible you need to work with your therapist or doctor to find the most effective medication and therapy combination for you and your condition.

Stress: Additional stress in your life can be a definite trigger that adds to your depression. If you’re experiencing challenges in relationships or at work, have recently gone through a breakup, are fighting with a friend, coworker, or family member, or if you have anything else that’s contributing to the overall stress in your life, your depression may worsen as a result.

An additional mental health condition: If you have an additional mental health condition like bipolar disorder or anything else that can contribute to depressive episodes, you might not get full relief from your depressive symptoms until you find a comprehensive diagnosis that can help create the most effective treatment plan as possible.

Substance abuse and use: Any use or abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs can contribute to worsening depression symptoms. Particularly if you’re using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate as a means of coping, deepening clinical depression — as well as other health-related consequences — may develop over time.

Side effects of medication: Some prescribed medications can result in depression symptoms as well. If you’re noticing your depression getting worse and you recently started a new medication, you should talk to your doctor or therapist about medication being a contributing factor.

Anger: Bottling up your anger and turning it inward can trigger depression. When emotions are not expressed and talked about, then they do not have the opportunity to release and that can trigger feelings of depression. Talking to a therapist about your pent up anger and the causes of it can release your anger and result in a relief of depression symptoms.

“We’ve heard that for many, depression is in some ways anger turned inward. There can be lots of feelings of anger, shame, and regret that can contribute to feelings of depression. I’ve seen clients who struggle with expressing their anger (in a healthy way) struggle with symptoms of depression. Feel free to take some time now and check in with yourself on your relationship with anger. You can ask yourself: what is my relationship with anger? How do I express my anger? Is this working for me? What would I like my relationship with feeling anger to look like? Grab a journal, or start a voice note in your phone, to answer these questions.”

Talkspace therapist Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC

What to Do If Your Depression is Getting Worse

If you suddenly realize my depression is getting worse, the good news is at least you recognize it. Fortunately, there are some specific things you can do to help those times when your depressive episodes increase.

Ask someone you trust for help

The single most important thing you can do if your depression is getting worse is ask somebody you trust for help. When you open up about your depression, you might find relief from some of your symptoms. This can be because when you ask for help, you might not feel so alone.  

Change your medication or therapy routine (or both)

It’s important to be open and honest with your therapist or doctor about what is working and what isn’t. You may need more than just therapy, or more than medication, or even a different medication entirely. 

Certain types of therapy can be very beneficial in helping to treat depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one effective form that many therapists utilize. 

Other types of therapy used to treat depression may include:

Interpersonal therapyPsychodynamic therapyHumanistic therapyMindfulness-based cognitive therapyGroup therapy

Some types of antidepressants and other medications that have been proven useful and effective in treating depression include:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)Selective serotonin & norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs)Tetracyclic antidepressantMonoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Reach out to your therapist

If you’re feeling like your depression is becoming more than you can manage, reaching out to your therapist to see if they have a last-minute appointment can be smart. Sometimes even if they can’t see you right away, they can help you remember some of the coping strategies you’ve probably worked on together in your sessions. You might be able to use some of those techniques until you can get in to see your therapist again.  

Coping methods some people find helpful in managing their depression include:

YogaMeditationAcupunctureExerciseMusic or art therapySpending time in nature

“It can sometimes be difficult to tell how our depression symptoms are progressing. You can start tracking symptoms in a daily journal or voice note — How are you sleeping? Are you more tearful than usual? Are you more withdrawn than usual? Getting a sense of our mental health ‘baseline’ (how we are feeling usually), and seeing when that changes, is key to our mental wellbeing. Bottom line is, if you see your depression is getting worse, do not wait to seek help from a mental health professional.”

Talkspace therapist Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC

Find a crisis resource

If you’re in crisis and you need help immediately, reach out to any resources that are available to you. Depression can become incredibly intense in a very short amount of time, and you shouldn’t wait to find help if you’re experiencing extreme distress. 

If you’re having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, crisis health lines are set up to offer immediate support and help.

The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255 and has online chat options as wellThe Crisis Text Line is available for text and chat support 24/7. Text HOME to 741741

The Importance of Seeking Help 

Depression can be daunting to try and manage on your own, especially when you notice signs of depression getting worse. For this reason, it’s essential that you seek help before your depression gets so bad that you feel immobilized by it. 

“Be open to feedback from loved ones on what they’re seeing in your mental health, and what their concerns are — sometimes it can be hard to see how depressed we are when we’re so ‘in it.’ There is hope, you don’t have to feel this way forever.”

Talkspace Therapist Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC

Get matched with a therapist that fits your needs with Talkspace. We make mental health access safe, quick, and easy. Care is always within reach with our licensed network of therapists and prescribers.

Sources:

1. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Adaa.org. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics. Published 2021. Accessed December 6, 2021.

2. Dattani S, Ritchie H, Roser M. Mental Health. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health#depression-is-complicated-this-is-how-our-understanding-of-the-condition-has-evolved-over-time. Published 2018. Accessed December 6, 2021.

3. Home. Suicidepreventionlifeline.org. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Accessed December 6, 2021.4. Crisis Text Line | Text HOME To 741741 free, 24/7 Crisis Counseling. Crisis Text Line. https://www.crisistextline.org/. Accessed December 6, 2021.

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