How To Stop Feeling Hopeless When You’re Depressed
*Content Warning: This article discusses topics like depression symptoms, including some that may occur in those experiencing a mental health crisis. If you’re in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) for 24/7 support. You can also chat with someone via the web at the Lifeline’s website.
When you feel hopeless, it can be difficult to imagine that the feeling won’t last forever. The truth is that feelings of hopelessness can dissipate and that conditions such as depression can likewise be highly treatable. With time and the appropriate care, you can no longer feel as though there’s no hope. The first step to take may be reaching out for the right professional support as well as finding opportunities to reframe your thoughts and actions. Let’s take a closer look.
What Causes Feelings Of Hopelessness?
Feelings of hopelessness can be one of the most common symptoms of depression. According to the ADAA, major depressive disorder (clinical depression) affects 16.1 million individuals, or roughly 6.7% of adults in the United States, on an annual basis. Likewise, persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, affects 1.5% of the U.S. adult population. Persistent depressive disorder differs from major depression in that symptoms must be present for two years or longer but may be present at a lower level.
Additionally, bipolar disorder, a mood disorder categorized by periods of depression and mania or hypomania, affects approximately 2.8% of the adult population in the United States. These diagnoses and numerous other psychiatric disorders can cause or contribute to feelings of hopelessness and list it as a potential symptom.
Other factors, such as world events, grief, and trouble in interpersonal relationships, can impact your overall mental state and mood. Especially if you live with a mental health diagnosis, these events can cause feelings of hopelessness to become more prevalent.
Other Mental Health Concerns Related To Hopelessness
While hopelessness can be a potential symptom of major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder, it may also be a symptom of other psychiatric disorders. In addition to the concerns related above, feelings of hopelessness and depression can pair with the following diagnoses:
- Other forms of depression such as postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder
- Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, etc.
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorder
- Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD)
It can be vital to go to a licensed medical or mental health professional to receive a proper diagnosis for any of these mental health disorders. Often, general physicians can diagnose conditions such as depression, but seeing a psychiatrist can be particularly helpful, especially if they specialize in the condition you have or think that you may have.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition characterized by a group of symptoms listed in the DSM-5. To be diagnosed with major depression, you have to experience five or more of the symptoms of major depressive disorder listed in the DSM-5 for at least two weeks. Additionally, to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, at least one of the symptoms of major depressive disorder you experience must be either depressed mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities once enjoyed.
How Do I Know If I Have Depression?
Feelings of depression can be stressful and life-changing, but if you’re feeling depressed, know that it doesn’t need to stay that way forever. Here are some common symptoms that people diagnosed with major depressive disorder or other forms of depression may experience:
- Disinterest in activities one used to enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Fatigue or low energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritability or agitation
- Appetite changes
- Mood swings
- Low mood
- Difficulty focusing
- Isolation from others
- Low or depressed mood
Again, the only way to receive an official diagnosis is to see a medical or mental health provider. If the symptoms of depression affect your ability to function or engage in daily life or self-care activities, it may be essential to reach out for help.
How To Stop Feeling Hopeless
When we experience depression, our brains can often lie to us and make the entirety of the world seem darker than it truly is or needs to be. Although the world can be a dark place and sadness can be a natural part of life, falling into black and white thinking or believing that it’s all bad and can’t get better can be both untrue and unhelpful. One way to combat feelings of depression or feelings of hopelessness, therefore, is to reframe our thoughts using a component of cognitive-behavioral therapy called cognitive restructuring.
When working on cognitive restructuring, one of the most critical steps to take may be to question your hopelessness. Depression hopelessness can drag you down deeper if you don’t question it. Look at it as objectively and logically as you can; if your friend felt how you did, would you believe them to be hopeless, or would you believe that they can get to a better place? Would you want them to feel better? Assuming that the answer is yes, can you apply that same compassion to yourself?
Putting yourself in a friend’s shoes can be a great trick for looking at things objectively; when we remove ourselves from the equation, it can make it easier to look at things without as much personal bias. Ultimately, the goal is to apply the same thing to yourself, and over time, the work you do to reframe your thoughts can seriously pay off.
Be sure, too, to feel your feelings as they come. Cognitive restructuring and establishing a healthy mindset are not about bypassing your emotions. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment. Then, look at them objectively and use the exercise above. Cognitive restructuring is shown to be effective and can be an incredibly helpful tool in working through negative thought patterns.
Another thing that can help combat feeling hopeless is to engross yourself in something you enjoy or that makes you feel productive. If you’re depressed, it may be challenging to do the things you enjoy or find enjoyment in activities that you used to. However, feeling the accomplishment that comes with having done them can help you start to feel better in some cases. This may be particularly true if you’re experiencing low-level symptoms of depression or are feeling depressed, but not to the extent that you cannot engage in daily life.
Following this approach can mean doing something as simple as talking to a friend, going to the grocery store, or watching a favorite movie. Even when you have to force yourself to do them, social activity and small tasks can help you avoid digging deeper into your symptoms. Social relationships are shown to make people happier and less stressed, so as hard as it may be, getting yourself out there can be incredibly beneficial.
Treatment For Depression
While exercises in mindfulness and cognitive reframing can be life-changing for many, for people with depression, it’s not always enough. Various modalities can be used to treat depression, and specific treatment plans will likely vary from person to person. To find therapy for depressive disorders or other mental health concerns, you can ask your doctor for a referral, call your insurance company to see what they cover, or search for a provider online.
Online counseling can be an excellent place to go for support. When you seek out online therapy, you can gain access to professional support that can help address your depressive symptoms head-on. Speaking to a therapist through the web means you can join sessions right from the comfort of your own home, which may be especially helpful if you’re experiencing depression.
You can rest assured, too, that the quality of your care doesn’t have to be compromised by its format. In fact. some research suggests that online therapy options may be even more effective than in-person counseling for treating mental health disorders like depression. Plus, online therapy is generally more affordable for most clients than face-to-face therapy.
No matter what kind of support you may need, it’s likely that online therapy can make it easier to access the professional help that might be necessary to overcome your feelings of hopelessness.
Feeling hopelessness can be a common reality for many people living with depression and similar mental health disorders, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Learning to reframe your thoughts, keeping yourself active, and pursuing professional treatment can help you get back on track and begin to feel more like yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does it mean to feel hopeless?
In short, hopelessness is an emotion that can be characterized by a lack of hope, optimism, and passion. Feeling hopeless about a situation generally means to believe that something will inevitably fail or go wrong and there’s nothing that can be done about it. However, most situations are not completely hopeless, and simply starting to act hopefully can make a world of difference for some people.
What do you do in a hopeless situation?
Hopelessness can be an awful feeling, but it can important to remember that anybody can find hope regardless of how a situation seems. Start by simply arguing the opposite when your brain presents you with the idea that a hopeless situation. Another excellent tip for overcoming a hopeless situation may be to consider what you would gain from developing hope in a situation. Additionally, talk to a trusted friend or family relative about how you feel. If hopelessness has developed into depression, reach out to a licensed mental health expert for support. Above all else, focus on taking action and reminding yourself that no situation is truly hopeless.
How do I regain hope?
Finding hope can be difficult when you feel as if a situation is hopeless. However, starting to act hopeful can be possible for anybody. First things first: focus on finding a clear path and outlining the steps you need to take to achieve your personal goals. Seek out role models who have overcome similar situations and study how they managed to find hope. Focus on being kind and taking small steps towards regaining hope. You don’t need to create change overnight, and a small step can go a long way. Practice mindfulness exercises that can remind you of the important things in your life and why finding hope is important.
Is hopeless a personality?
Hopeless is not a personality but could potentially be qualified as a personality trait. A person’s personality is typically made up of a number of traits that, when combined, make them who they are to an extent. Hopelessness can range as a spectrum from minorly pessimistic to being a potential sign of a serious health concern. However, being hopeless is not a personality in and of itself.
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