Risk Factors, Warning Signs, and Ways to Overcome Depression

The CWoman looks sadly through car windowenters for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 8% of people in the United States age 12 years and older experienced depression in any two-week period between 2007 and 2010. From 2009 to 2010, 8 million people visited their primary care physicians, hospital outpatient centers, and emergency departments with a major depressive disorder as their primary diagnosis, according to the CDC.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 11% of youth have mood issues, depression among them, and that 16 million American adults live with major depression. The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people of all ages are affected by depression worldwide.

Because of the symptoms of depression, people may miss work or school, find it difficult to engage in daily activities, and have less social involvement, all of which can impact communities. The goal of this article is to identify risk factors and warning signs for depression and provide some suggestions on ways to treat or overcome it.

Risk Factors for Depression

The following list identifies some risk factors than can increase the likelihood of someone becoming depressed. Each experience on its own does not necessarily cause a depressive episode, but people become increasingly at risk with each additional incident.

Warning Signs of Depression

The following are signs and symptoms of a depressed mood. If you identify with many of the symptoms listed below, you may want to consider seeking help to explore ways to decrease them. It can be helpful to keep in mind that depression is a treatable condition.

  • Persistent sadness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities or personal care
  • Changes in eating habits (noticing you’re eating more or less than usual)
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (noticing you’re sleeping more or less than usual)
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Decreased concentration, attention, and memory
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Continuous negative thinking
  • Physical symptoms that don’t seem to respond to treatment
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Ways to Manage and Overcome Depression

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be treated in different ways depending on severity. When you’re experiencing a depressive episode, you can use the following suggestions to help ease symptoms. If you try many different methods and the depression persists, it may become necessary to seek help from a counselor. Here are some ideas to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually amid depression.

Physical Health

  • Keep active: Depression loves it when you do nothing. Finding something to do and keeping active can help keep depression at bay.
  • Stay motivated: Depression drains motivation, so setting achievable goals every day can help you feel motivated to keep moving forward.
  • Eat well: Eat foods that are low in fat, sodium, caffeine, and sugar.
  • Get adequate sleep: Maintain a consistent sleep routine.

Emotional Health

  • Manage your anger: Depression can sometimes be considered “anger turned inward.”
  • Practice forgiveness: Try to forgive yourself as well as others.
  • Cope with grief: Acknowledge and deal with any losses you have experienced.
  • Maintain an optimistic outlook: Depression lives for negative thinking, so find ways to feel optimism.
  • Start a journal: You may find patterns that maintain the depression; write about your hopes.
  • Control stress: Use good time management, planning, organizing, and prioritizing.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation methods include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.
  • Get involved: Build your connections, meet neighbors, call family members.

Spiritual Health

  • Find something that brings you inner peace.
  • Read inspirational quotes or other writings.
  • Use prayer or meditation.
  • Express yourself through art.
  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Spend time in nature.

When people are experiencing depression, it is important to not get discouraged. People sometimes get frustrated because they know, logically, what they want or need to do, but depression interferes and resists logic. It can interfere with personal relationships, work performance, health, sleep patterns, and maintaining a healthy body weight. Depression puts people at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and suicide. Whether you’re depressed or the parent of a depressed teen, you can try the suggestions above as well as talk with a doctor, seek help from a mental health professional, reach out and connect with others close to you, or educate yourself about depression further.

If you have experienced depression, what signs helped you know you were depressed? What are some ways you successfully coped with depression?


  1. Kramlinger, K. G. (2002). Mayo Clinic on Depression: Answers to help you understand, recognize, and manage depression. Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic.
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Biff

    December 3rd, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    Even though we don’t always understand why, when there are things that are bringing you down, you have to be willing to continue to concentrate on maintaining good physical, emotional, and yes even spiritual health. All of these things combined are going to lift you up, and even though it might not be the cure all, maintaining all of these things and keeping yourself in good health overall can go a long way in helping you battle depression if this is ever something that you are faced with.

  • Ellie

    December 3rd, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    I think that I always somewhat knew that this would be something that I would go through at some point in my life because my own mother suffered from multiple bouts of depression over the years. I am not sure that she has ever fully gotten it to a manageable state, she is just perpetually unhappy and I think that she has gotten so accustomed to that that she now thinks of that state as her normal.

    I have been both and know that I want to rise out of the depths of depression if it ever happens to me again but with her it is a constant struggle to ever feel any happiness.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 3rd, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    Dear Ellie,

    Thank you for sharing. The GoodTherapy.org Team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but if you would like to discuss these feelings with a therapist or counselor, please know you can locate one in your area by using our website. Simply enter your ZIP code here:


    It can be frightening to watch someone experience depression, especially when that person is close to you. Please know that help is available. We wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org TEam

  • Nataly

    December 3rd, 2015 at 11:52 PM

    Thanks for an informative article. If you don’t mind i will add some of your tips to my article on depression.

  • Leigh

    December 4th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    The frightening part is that you may recognize that this is happening in someone’s life but they may be unable (or unwilling?) to see these changes at all. Sometimes it has become so much a part of their day that they are unable to handle the fact that there could be something seriously wrong with them\.
    While I honor the fact that most people should have the ability to handle their own health problems in a case like this it might be that you have to step in and help them get some help even though they may not be willing to ask nor do they even wat it!
    But it is at least better to try

  • Marjie L. Roddick, MA, LMHC

    December 4th, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    Thanks to everyone participating in the conversation!
    Biff, I agree that doing activities while depression is present can help lift people up. The problem with depression is that people oftentimes lose their motivation and interest in doing any of those activities! Depression thrives on someone being inactive, so if people can find some kind of healthy activity each day, they are doing something to work against depression and keeping themselves in good health like you said.
    Ellie, some people do have a harder time than others recovering from depression. When you say that you want to “rise out of the depths of depression” that is very hopeful! Depression prefers people to stay “in the depths” where it can thrive. If you learn skills and do activities to rise out of it, depression may disappear for while. It may come back from time to time to try and lower you into the depths again, but being aware of your warning signs that it’s returning can help you know it’s time to start managing it again.
    Nataly, I’m happy you found the article informative and I would be delighted to be referenced in your article on depression!
    Leigh, you’re right, some people are unable or unwilling to get help with depression. Depression can filter the way people see the world and they may not recognize anything is wrong. Having supportive people around can help. Being encouraging and pointing out concerns you notice in a supportive, non-blaming way might help someone reflect on what’s going on with them. Unfortunately, someone who doesn’t want to seek help or denies that they need it, won’t heal until they’re ready to make some kind of change themselves.

  • Marley

    December 5th, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    Honestly I think that this has to be like anything else. If you see something then you have to say something. I think that there is a time when you try to let someone work out their issues but there has to be another time when you think that something serious could be going on and if you see that then you have to be willing to speak up. It can be a little unpleasant but in my opinion I think that it is better to speak up and not have anything serious be happening then it would be to ignore it and then have something terrible happen. I always err on the side of caution. Even if they get offended they have to know in their heart of hearts that you are doing this for their own well being.

  • Brad

    December 5th, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    Over time I have managed my moods much better until a “trigger” like seeing someone who reminds me of a traumatic experience. How does one manage these “triggers”? And not allow them to drag me into the black hole of depression?

  • Johnny

    December 7th, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    That’s a great question.
    I think that there are many of us who have these triggers, things that could set us off, and you can’t always avoid these things. Sometimes they just pop back up into your life before you even have the chance to avoid them!

  • Marjie L. Roddick, MA, LMHC

    December 7th, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    Hi Marley, Brad, and Johnny, thanks for adding to the conversation.
    Marley, I agree with your statement “if you see something say something” you could be stating something the person has been thinking about but doesn’t necessarily know how to talk about. You might start a much needed conversation and then the person can decide whether to pursue help or not.
    Brad, thank you for asking about how to manage triggers. I think managing them begins with becoming aware of what is setting them off. If you can identify the source of the trigger you can work toward managing the feelings associated with it by using the suggestions in the article or adding your own preferred method.
    Johnny, I like that you said “you can’t always avoid these things.” Avoidance becomes a problem when people stop doing things they normally like to do because they fear being triggered. Journaling, talking with someone, or using self-reflection can be great ways to identify patterns and sources of triggers and feelings.

  • Dayne

    December 9th, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    There are a lot of risk factors that would make you more susceptible to this but are you going to see those things clearly when you are experiencing them? I think that a lot of this has to come more from letting others see your vulnerabilities so that they can reach out and help you if you become unable to do so for yourself.

  • Marjie L. Roddick, MA, LMHC

    December 11th, 2015 at 9:14 PM

    Dayne, thank you for your comment. The ability to be vulnerable and reach out can be a huge factor in overcoming depression. Depression tends to prefer isolation so if someone who feels depressed is willing to be vulnerable enough to talk about it with somebody else, they might jumpstart a conversation about getting help.

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