It may not always be possible to prevent depression. But you may be able to lower your risk. These may help you:
Know Your Risk
Be aware of your own risk of depression. This involves many aspects such as:
- Having people in your family with the same problems
- High levels of stress
- Major changes in your life such as a death, problems in your marriage or other relationships, or with your job
- Having been bullied as a child
- Prior sexual or physical abuse
Psychological issues such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Sensitivity to loss or rejection
- Lack of social support
- Having had bouts of depression before
- Long-term health problems
- Heart attack
- Chronic pain
- Hormonal changes—can happen after you have a baby or with menopause
- Medications that can cause depression
- Problems with alcohol or substance use disorders
Seek Help When You Need To
If you feel depressive symptoms for at least 2 weeks, call your doctor. You can be tested by your doctor. This involves a physical exam and mental health evaluation. If needed, you can start getting treated.
Eat a Healthful Diet
Eating healthful foods will help you feel better. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat and sugar. Aim for those high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. If you're interested in herbs and supplements, vitamins B6 and B12 may be helpful. This is mainly true if you don't get enough of these. Omega 3 fatty acids may work to lower feelings of depression. These are found in cold water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds.
Talk to your doctor before you make any changes.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise eases stress and may help prevent or lessen depression. Aerobic exercise and yoga have been found to ease stress and make you feel better. Aerobic exercise raises certain chemicals that help with your well-being. Exercise will also help with weight loss, muscle tone, and self-esteem.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the basis of your mood. Make a routine. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Follow this even on your days off. Methods that may help are:
- Have some downtime before you go to bed. Try reading or taking a warm bath.
- Don't keep electronic devices in your room. Turn off the TV, your cell phone, or tablet.
- Limit caffeine late in the day.
- Don't exercise within a couple of hours of your bedtime.
It may take time to get used to these changes, so don't give up too soon. If you still have problems after a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor.
Don't Drink Alcohol or Use Drugs
Alcohol or drugs can give you some relief, but the effects are short-lived. After, they wear off it's likely you will feel more depressed. They can change how your medicines work, even antidepressants.
Anxiety is closely linked to depression, so be careful of how much caffeine you drink.
Develop a Strong Support System
Support comes in many forms. Build a network that includes your friends and family. These are mainly needed for children and the elderly. This support will help you control stress, which can lead to depression.
Practicing spiritual faith is linked to a lower risk of depression. It doesn’t have to be in the context of a certain religion. If you do this with a group, you will also gain social support.
Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated May 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906140/Depression-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated July 23, 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression in elderly patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906139/Depression-in-elderly-patients. Updated May 26, 2017. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression (mild to moderate). EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Ellison CG, Flannelly KJ. Religious involvement and risk of major depression in a prospective nationwide study of African American adults. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2009;197(8):568-573.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 11/13/2020