Coping with depression

Updated: 10 Mar 2016
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Depression is a medical condition that affects how people think and behave, and the way they feel and function. More than feeling down or being sad, depression may affect a person's interest in activities, work and quality of life. It can happen to anyone. Of the 121 million people suffering from depression worldwide, an estimated 5.8% of the Singaporean population are affected by it. The good news is, depression can be treated, especially if help is sought early.

Recognising signs of depression

Depression commonly happens to adults who find difficulty coping with certain life stressors. Relationship issues, marital woes, financial difficulties, unemployment, life-threatening or chronic illnesses, lack of social support, loss of a loved one, or even personality can make a person prone to depression. Beyond just sadness, depression interferes with how you engage with people and day-to-day life.

You may be suffering from depression if you experience five or more of these symptoms every day for two weeks or longer. The acronym “SAD CAGES” can help you better remember these symptoms:

S – Sleep disturbances
A – Appetite change
D – Depressed mood of feelings of sadness over a sustained period of time

C – Concentration problems
A – Anhedonia: Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
G – Guilt or shame
E – Energy and enthusiasm low
S – Suicidal thoughts due to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

Managing depression

You can keep depression at bay by making a few lifestyle adjustments and taking active steps to improve and manage your mood. Because your mood is influenced by your thoughts and actions, it's a good idea to pursue activities that you enjoy so as to lift your mood. Some of these activities can include:

  • Spending time with friends & having fun
  • Making time to relax & enjoy yourself
  • Taking care of your physical health, such as engaging in a physical activity you enjoy, eating a balanced diet & getting enough sleep
  • Organising your time so you feel in control
  • Finding things to laugh about
  • Sharing your feelings with others, or writing them down in a journal to help clear your thoughts
  • Pursuing activities that you enjoy and are interested in
  • Learning ways to manage stress effectively
  • Focusing on the things to be grateful for in life 
  • Practicing acts of kindness which also helps to boost positive emotions

Who else can you turn to for help

Besides lifestyle changes, depression can be managed also through a range of treatment strategies, including medication, counselling or psychological intervention with the help of experts. Treatment needs vary from individual to individual. If you're suffering from depression, it's best to approach a mental health professional to find out what treatment (or combination of treatments) is available and suited to you, and with their help, develop an individualised support plan. Remember: Depression will not go away by itself. If left untreated, the symptoms are likely to get worse. It is therefore important to seek help early.

For support, you can speak to your doctor or visit the following:

  • HealthLine (Health Promotion Board's toll-free health information service line that is available in 4 languages)

    T: 1800 223 1313
    Mon-Fri: 8.30 am-5 pm
    Sat: 8.30 am-1 pm
  • Polyclinics & hospitals
  • Institute of Mental Health