How To Stop Feeling Hopeless When You’re Depressed
Updated March 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Robin Brock
What Causes Feelings Of Hopelessness?
If the choice were there, no one would have to encounter feelings of hopelessness. Feelings of hopelessness are one of the common symptoms of depression. According to the ADAA, Major Depressive Disorder (clinical depression) affects 16.1 million individuals aged 18 or older or roughly 6.7% of adults in the United States alone on an annual basis. Persistent Depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, affects 1.5% of the United States' adult population. Persistent Depressive Disorder differs from Major Depression or MDD 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 feelings of hopelessness 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. Feeling hopeless is painful; when you feel hopeless, it’s difficult to imagine that the feeling won’t last forever. The truth is that feelings of hopelessness can dissipate and that conditions such as MDD are highly treatable. With time and the appropriate care, you can no longer feel as though there’s no hope.
Other Mental Health Concerns Related To Hopelessness
While hopelessness is a potential symptom of major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder, it is also a symptom of other psychiatric disorders. If your feelings of hopelessness are attributed to any mental health condition, including depression, it’s important to treat the condition to get to the root of the symptom. 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, OSFED, or BED
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorder
- Personality disorders such as BPD
To get the proper diagnosis, it is vital to go to a licensed medical or mental health professional. 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 are painful, 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 a 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’s essential to reach out to a medical professional.
How To Stop Feeling Hopeless
When we experience depressed feelings, our brains often lie to us and make the entirety of the world darker than it needs to be. Although the world can be a dark place and sadness is inevitable, falling into black and white thinking or believing that it’s all bad and can’t get better is untrue and unhelpful. One way to combat feelings of depression or feelings of hopelessness is to reframe our thoughts using a component of cognitive-behavioral therapy called cognitive restructuring.
When working on cognitive restructuring or thought to reframe, one of the most critical steps to take is 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 is always a good trick for looking at things objectively because we want the best for our friends. Ultimately, the goal is to apply the same thing to yourself, and over time, the work you do to reframe your thoughts will 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 make 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 enjoy at all. However, feeling the accomplishment that comes with having done them can help you start to feel better in some cases. This is 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. Spending time with people that you love can also be uplifting. Even when you have to force yourself to do it, social isolation will only dig you deeper, so it’s crucial to see the people in your life or to make sure that you’re connected to others in general if you can’t see your friends and family. Social relationships are shown to make people happier and less stressed, so as hard as it may be, getting yourself out there is incredibly beneficial.
If you’re feeling depressed and find that it’s a battle to combat feelings of hopelessness, it’s essential to reach out for professional support. The severity of depression will vary from person to person, so while these ideas can aid you as you work to stop the flow of hopelessness if you’re experiencing low-level depressive symptoms, be sure to seek care right away if your depression becomes more severe or if you’re in immediate danger.
Risk Factors For Depression
Depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, and it can come on at any point in time.
Here are some known factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing depression:
- Traumatic life events
- Physical illness
- Family history
- Personal history of another mental health condition
With the research we have surrounding depression right now, it’s believed that a combination of environmental, genetic, biological, and psychological elements may contribute to the development of the condition.
Treatment For Depression
If you live with depression, first know that you’re not alone. In fact, MDD is one of the most common causes of disability for adults in the United States. The good news is that help is out there and that it’s more than possible to no longer feel hopeless, especially with support. While exercises in mindfulness and cognitive reframing can be life-changing for many, for people with depression, it’s not always enough. Various modalities are used to treat depression, and specific treatment plans will always 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. Never be afraid to reach out for help.
If you’re in immediate danger, call the national suicide prevention lifeline or go to the nearest emergency room. The national suicide prevention hotline operates 24/7 and is available to contact through the national suicide prevention lifeline website or by phone at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with someone via the web at the national suicide prevention lifeline website. The national suicide prevention website offers a variety of resources in addition to their phone and webchat options, including opportunities to get involved and stories of hope. If you’re not struggling but are concerned about a family member or worry that they may harm themselves, the national suicide prevention lifeline website encourages you to contact the hotline for support and guidance. The national suicide prevention lifeline will provide you with resources in your local area. Click here to go to the suicide prevention lifeline website and get assistance or learn more.
Online counseling is an excellent place to go for confidential support. The online counselors at ReGain are available to work with both individuals and couples dealing with various concerns. Online counseling is a safe place to talk about what’s on your mind, and the best part is that you can access online counseling from the privacy of your own home or anywhere else with a reliable internet connection. Search the network of online therapists at ReGain and find a mental health provider that works for you.
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