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Ask HN: How did you deal with depression?
90 points by welldepressedaf on July 21, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments
I am starting to get a little bit hopeless on this one. Once I had passions and stuff I wanted to do, I learnt enough JS to build a small app that has proven to be incredibly useful for my family. Then came university and almost all my passions have gone, I am a good student but as of lately I have been struggling with the courses I liked in the past.

Nothing excited me anymore, and not that I am sad. I still can crack a joke I still can smile but nothing seems to make me happy anymore. I think I might have depression. I play games and procrastinate all day and it doesn't make me feel any good it is just a getaway.

Sadly I live in a 3rd world country, where mental illness is not an illness. I can get little help from people. Our healthcare system simply doesn't work at all. So HN crowd, how do you deal with these feelings?

This won't get a lot of votes, but it ended up as diet and exercise for me.

When I dropped caffeine and alcohol my anxiety went away. When I exercised my depression went away.

I tried a lot of things, but it ended up figuring out that I wasn't eating well or working out.

Now I do crossfit. I know, I know. It's a cult blah blah. But go try it. You need to be exercising every day to get all that endorphin goodness and plus, you meet a lot of fun people at crossfit. The community keeps me coming back. I don't get that biking (which I love) so I don't do it as much as crossfit. And I hate running. The key is to keep doing it, and that social component works magic. If you can work out at a home gym every day - good for you - but I lose interest and stop, then I get fat and lazy and depressed again.

As for food, I'm not a fan of cooking. But I found paleo then keto. And I avoid all the stuff you're told to eat. "healthy" grains, for example. I don't drink coke. Basically avoid all sugar. I'm basically paleo to paleo-keto end of the spectrum.

I really didn't think it would work but there it is.

I second this. I started keto and my depression went away, and although there is still anxiety, it is much lower, and it feels like I can DEAL with it, whereas before I felt helpless.

I was a neurology professor at a children's hospital in my previous job, and there is a ton of research being done studying the neurological effects of a low-carb diet, and they are, across the board, incredible. A common treatment for kids with epilepsy is the keto diet, so we had a lot of research and expertise in this area. Half of the department was on the diet, and I have been for close to two years now. I will never stop it. My wife and kids as well (though the kids are more paleo, since they have closer to 75-100 g carbs/day)

can you talk about what a typical keto diet is like? what foods does someone on a keto diet eat?

i'm not a big alcohol person and had been paleo for many years. one day i get a gift from a friend, some special coffee. i don't drink coffe but i gave it a try. wow! it was great, i had a cup a day for a few days and then bam!

i was in bed with a rage-depression ten times worse than a normal bout. i couldn't work for three days. i can't describe my thoughts because they are still so embarrassing. on the forth day, i figured out, well, the whole time i was depressed i thought the 'trigger' was a text from a friend. i re-read the text. it didn't even say what i thought it said.

the next day i had another coffee followed immediately by a panic attack. then i put it together and tossed the coffee. i stopped all caffeine, which for me meant no chocolate, for two weeks. i was dieing for some chocolate. so i had some with the kids on a sunday. two days later i was depressed and on a very short fuse.

now i've gone about two months with no chocolate. i sleep much better. i don't snap at people. i don't get angry. in a sense, i miss the highs very much but not enough to want to go back. i've just accepted that my brain doesn't react to caffeine like most people.

I have a similar experience with caffeine. I really enjoy the boost that I get from coffee and chocolate, but then the buzz wears off and I crash, feeling irritable, tense, and on edge. It's the withdrawal effects of the caffeine, and it can go on into the next day (unless, of course, I take in more caffeine, which just repeats the cycle). Some people like us are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine (and alcohol) and are just much better off without it. Better sleep, more even energy and moods throughout the day, etc. I, too, miss the coffee buzz and the social aspects of it, but for those of us that are more sensitive to caffeine, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Diet and exercise is extremely important if one wants to beat depression.

i have found exercise to be extremely useful when battling depression. diet also, but not nearly as much.

Agree. I am now doing LCHF and exercising every day. It made a HUGE difference. If you don't believe that it will work for you, try it anyway for a few weeks and see what happens.

how do you deal with being injured?

I've gotten really into running and enjoy the high, but right now I have an (unrelated) injury and can't run and I feel like I'm going stir crazy :(

1. Get medicated.

2. Set one small baby-step goal each day. (set an appointment today, etc.) Change the goal every time.

3. Change your environment. Move cities or schools if need be.

4. Exercise. Start with one rep on day 1, two reps on day 2, etc. Baby steps.

5. Ask for feedback on stuff. Any positive feedback helps motivate you to learn and do more projects.

6. Seek a healthy relationship.

7. Be vulnerable. Let somebody else that cares about you know of your state.

8. Be spiritually-curious. I'm christian and that inspires a lot.

9. Realize when your "objective observations" are not objective. Don't be blindsided by emotion.

10. Vent your emotion in a healthy and controlled way.

11. Write one sentence about your week every week. Again, baby steps.

12. Never do drugs. This just amplifies your problems.

13. This includes no smoking.

14. If you make lists and spreedsheets, track the frequency you leave the house.

15. Make alarms on your phone.

16. Volunteer once a week.

These are mostly based on experience and personal observations.

I wouldn't be so fast about getting medicated. There are well known side effects. I don't think that is the solution, at least right now. I'm not sure about this obsession with getting medicated for every problem, honestly. If I got medicated for every issue I've had in my life, I would be in debt.

To answer to the original question, one of the easiest and potentially best solutions is to pick up an sport if you don't practice one and to spend more time with other things besides programming. Forget about programming for a few weeks. Do your college duties and don't spend more time than that. Go do other stuff. I've gone (and still do sometimes) through the exact same thing.

1. Get medicated.

12. Never do drugs. This just amplifies your problems.

Your points #1 and #12 are a nice big contradiction.

Anti-depression drugs in particualr tend to have rather significant side-effects, which can last for a decade after you've stopped taking the drug.

Going to drugs to help against depression should be a plan C kind of a thing. Changing your environment and activities should be well tested before that.

My guess is that GP is not native American (or a native of other English-speaking country). As a non-native, it took me some time to grok that the term "drugs" can mean both "medicines" (like aspirin) and "addictive substances" (like alcohol, tobacco or cocaine). I suspect GP is referring exclusively to the second meaning. For instance, in Polish, we always use separate words for those two concepts.

"medicines" (like aspirin) and "addictive substances"

There is a lot of overlap in these two sets.

Not disputing that, only pointing out that some languages don't use one word for those two, however overlapping, groups.

Well depends how you look at it. They are pretty much the same in many cases. There are plenty of "drugs" that aren't addictive and plenty of "medicines" that are. Is caffeine a medicine or a drug in your view? I don't see as much of a distinction as you would appear to.

Again, I'm not saying there is much difference - just that there are languages that use two separate words for those concepts and don't have a (common) one for both.

For example, in Polish you'd classify aspirin as a medicine ("lek", "lekarstwo") and caffeine as a stimulating substance ("używka"). There is another word that is used to refer to harmful addictive substances like cocaine ("narkotyk"). There is no generally used word in Polish that encompasses all three terms.

Sure, you shouldn't rush to get medicated, but you should be open to medication as an option. I believe depression is often chemically caused, and if you've tried healthy living, meditation, etc., there are many good, relatively benign, well tested medical options out there.

Indeed. Medication are not silver bullets and usually won't solve problems alone, but a right pill may be just what's needed to enable you to deal with the problems. Personally, I'm on SSRIs and (despite getting a common side effect) I'm very happy with them - even though I still suffer from depression symptoms, they're nowhere near the level I had before getting those pills, which pretty much restored my ability to hold my head above water.

Definitely this. I fought depression (originally PPD, but didn't go away) without medication for three years. Tried exercise, sunshine, B vitamins, volunteering, etc, etc. When I finally went to the doctor the medication working was such a huge relief, because nothing else did.

Consider your state of mind. Contemplate and act on potential adjustments. This, too, shall pass. Put out feelers. Find an understanding, not "sympathetic" professional. Also, pull your pants up and get to work.

There's definitely a place for medication, but for the majority of people, it's probably not number 1.

Having spent a long time on medication for depression in the past, I can verify this. There's a lot you can do to help yourself before trying medication. Exercise and learning to manage your emotions are a great place to start and can help a lot more than most people think. It definitely has a time and place, but the side effects can be a lot more drastic (and sometimes detrimental) than a lot of people expect.

My doctor (in the UK) strongly recommended 4 before 1 for several friends. I think only one used medication in the end.

Rather than taking medication, you may want to take some supplements with 5-HTP, a precursor of serotonin. IE: Griffonia Simplicifolia.. It does have far less side-effects, no dependency.. Far less popular with the pharma industry because not patentable..

I will agree with Volunteerism. That was the best thing to help my mood, because, while I wasn't getting paid for it, I was among people who were genuinely happy to see you and talk to you.

1. Get medicated. 12. Never do drugs. This just amplifies your problems.

It was hard at times: when you hit a slump you want to stay in that slump - it was hard fighting my way out, but it can be done.

"Stop and smell the roses." Take the time to notice the beauty in things around you: both nature and concrete. I'm talking about the most sublime things. I first noticed it one night when I was driving home - the lights were reflecting off this dirty little dam of no significance, but for some reason I noticed it and for some reason it was beautiful. For a very long time after that I would make a point of noticing that little spot every day on the way home. Out of that habit I then started noticing more and more things. When you become depressed use that happy place as an anchor and hold onto it.

I realized that I used to think the same way as a kid: everything in the world was wondrous and happy - I think everyone forgets how to see the world that way. Re-learn that mindset.

Be very respectful toward alcohol, cannabis and caffeine. Too much of any will set you back.

Finally, something like 80% of the human race has a 5-MTHF deficiency (for genetic reasons, Google it). It presents as vitamin B deficiency and is therefore often misdiagnosed as depression and some learning disabilities (including trouble concentrating). If you can't get it from a chemist (I can't, 3rd world too) check herbal/homeopathy stores (which is how I get it). Speak to your doctor before taking it and ask for advice, you'll need to take it for quite a while before you start noticing a difference - 2 to 4 weeks at least.

Believe in yourself because I believe in you, I know you can do it. If at all possible get meds.

What a bunch of hooey. Just 'deciding to be happy' is nonsense for someone with major depressive disorder (the medically accepted name of the disorder, as opposed to the term 'clinical depression', which people without experience tend to use...) I'm glad things worked out for you but this is not helpful advice for someone who is actually depressed. It's like telling someone who's short to just decide to be taller.

I guess you're right. I'll just remove that one paragraph. If you are at a doctor you are more than welcome to weigh in on the 2 opinions I had at 10 after being bullied for 3 years. I might not be able to remember all the terminology, but I do remember not being able to get out of it. I do remember not being able to have more than 1 friend up until I was 20. I do remember drinking myself into a pit at 22 (2 six packs a night, alone for a year, sound healthy?). I do remember digging myself out of it, alone, without help. Because for some reason I can't explain I started believing that I could. I am now happy. The only thing I have left is excruciating existential anxiety, can I beat that too? Fuck yeah.

Bunch of hooey, though.

I can tell you one thing: OP isn't going to win by believing it's impossible because even the best meds only provide symptomatic relief. They don't fix the underlying problem. It's like giving a short person a mirror that makes them look taller. Meds can help you win, meds are good. I would never recommend someone to avoid them. All irrelevant: OP indicated depression is not an illness in his country. He/she supposedly can't see a doctor. No meds. All that's left is will power.

Knowing someone else did it makes all the difference.

Finally, as an expert on the matter, where is your advice? Or are you here tear OP down? I know OP can do it, all you know is what a major depressive disorder is.

I don't think you really should have removed that paragraph :). Yes, it jumped on me too, but after thinking about it for a second, I actually appreciated it. I've never been able to think myself out of something like you did, but I found it reassuring. I actually envy you that skill; myself I was also drinking myself every night for almost a year; at some point I run out of money for cheap beers, stopped drinking, realized that I like being sober and never returned to the habit. So in my case this seems more like random walk around the potential gradient, with hope that at some point I'll accidentally escape the local minimum.

If you have any tips about "excruciating existential anxiety" (of which I've been suffering for half the decade already, recently successfully moderated by SSRIs) I'd be more than glad to hear them. Right now the only coping strategy I have is to ignore it, but it interferes with my ability to concentrate and plan for the future - I'm literally unable to plan for more than a week-two in advance without getting serious emotional pains.

> If you have any tips about "excruciating existential anxiety"

I've found that the more I think about it the worse it gets - which makes sense: it's habit-forming. Try this:

1. Stay on the SSRIs - they can help you learn how to break the habit.

2. Pick a "safe topic." It doesn't have to be interesting (although that probably helps), but should just have a good chance of not leading to existential issues.

3. Next time you start thinking about existential issues, start thinking about your topic instead.

I have no idea if it works in the long-run but it's what I am doing right now. I'm not sure if the underlying cause for the anxiety will ever go away, but if I can habitually stop thinking about it then it might as well no longer be there.

Also, it's usually worst when I am trying to go to sleep. I put on YouTube with brain-numbing content face-down next to my pillow: nothing stimulating (interesting or humorous).

FWIW, when I was very young (and surrounded by adults with various behavioral issues) I concluded that if my brain could influence my thoughts, then my thoughts could influence my brain. i.e., if I worked through something mentally, I could improve my mood or deal with adversity or grief or melancholy or the occasional bout of really bad depression.

That's worked out well for me as a sort of first line of defense, but it has side effects too. I've been seeing a therapist for most of a year now to try to unwind some of it, because unfortunately the same mechanisms that repress something like anxiety also repress love or joy.

And I'd never recommend it to anyone else. For one thing, I haven't even been able to decide for myself if it's just a bunch of self-delusion or not; I'd have no idea how to go about suggesting someone else try it.

>Because for some reason I can't explain I started believing that I could. I am now happy. The only thing I have left is excruciating existential anxiety, can I beat that too? Fuck yeah.

This appeals to me, and perhaps to a lot other people. I know, it may not help all situations and all people. But sometimes unleashing/encouraging the fighter in you, may be the best thing. For me literature (novels etc.) and movies are helpful to generate that kind of fighting instinct.

I'm certainly not an expert (although I too have been diagnosed twice), and I'm not here to denigrate your experience. Like I said, I'm glad you made it through it, by whatever means. I'm just saying, your advice is usually considered unhelpful by people with depression (just decide to be happy!)

I think other people in the thread have good advice on practical steps to take - big ones being meditation/mindfulness training, changing circumstances/surroundings, and diet/exercise. All of these things can do much more to alter brain chemistry and enact a positive feedback cycle than just "deciding" something.

Atleast some of them have that skill. I remember a friend at school, who used to be very depressed because one of her parents passed away. This was early in her childhood, but the effect was still there in college. She often had mood swings and except those who were very close to her, no one understood her. Then she was reading a few self-help books. I dunno if it was the books, or something within her but by the fourth year, she was out of her depression without any outside help and had a lot of friends and enjoyed life in general. She also volunteered for a few responsibilities in college. But do note that this was very gradual and happened over a two years. I can only imagine the kind of journey she would have had.

the mind is the most powerful thing known to man. even with a disorder strong minded people have worked their way through and came back to being productive and happy members of society. alcoholism is considered a disease but people get through it with will power alone.

One time I got on to a bus and sat in front of an old gentleman who kept looking up at me occasionally. When he got off the bus and walked passed me he said: "Whatever it is, don't let it beat you kid.". I must have looked physically wrecked that day. Ever since then those words have stayed with me.

Chin up, OP.

I've battled a life-time of depression and ADHD and here is what I've learned.

You need to engineer your entire life to suite your personality, life style and mental shortcomings.

This takes time and trial and error.

Whenever a depression spell hits, I prepare myself for battle.

Sometimes I am as helpless as simply knowing there is not much else I can do but wait a few weeks for it to pass, and aim to minimize the amount of long term disruption to my life and goals.

Accepting it, accepting that at times you can be powerless and totally in the grip of this beast, but also that it will definitely pass again.

Most depressive spells pass relatively quickly but I've had 1-2 year spells.

Yet today at 38, my life is happy, fulfilling, satisfying and challenging.

I also am prescribed medications for both my conditions, and I can say that if you are on a med that doesn't work for you it is really bad, and when you are on a med that accords well with your particular chemistry it's like a major life turn-around. This involves trial and error with the best Psychiatrist you can afford.

I sometimes do take breaks from my anti-depressant to effects, but on balance I cannot imagine my life had I never discovered these meds.

Therapy has not been helpful to me overall. But spending a lot of time learning emotional skills, re-evaluating beliefs and feelings, and getting deeply in touch with what motivates me, what kills my motivation, what my emotional needs are etc all helps a ton.

Feel free to email directly on andries dot malan at gmail dot com if you looking for someone in tech entrepreneurship with plenty battle scars to share experience with.

I wish you all the best - and wish to tell you that you can definitely learn to find a happy and fulfilling life no matter how shit things look and feel for you at the moment.

Action seems to be best treatment. When I start doing things (yes I know its lot difficult) I build a stair out of black cloud hanging over my head.

Look for easiest project you can do and steps you can do to make that project work once that's done look for your next project. These small projects build your stairs / steps to rise above dark cloud and see the daylight once again :)

You can try cognitive behaviour therapy. Ideally this would be face to face with an experienced therapist. But if there are no therapists available you can either do computer guided CBT or self guided from a book.

Moodgym is a respected website: https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome

Mind Over Mood is a respected book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/0898621283/

If you've tried CBT and it's not working you may want to see a doctor and get some meds.

I'm going to start with a fact that you likely won't want to hear: There is no magic bullet. Non-situational depression is something you will wrestle with your entire life. There is no cure, only treatments. That said, you can do a lot to alleviate the symptoms. Ranked in order of importance:

1. Sleep

Get good sleep. Research circadian rhythms, and try to understand your own 'sleep physiology'. Within the constraints of your work, try and sleep at optimal times for YOU. For me, going to bed late, waking up late, is best. I feel more rejuvenated on 4 hours of sleep within my 'sleep window' than I do of 8 hours of sleep outside of it. Find what works for you.

2. Intense, social, exercise.

Other's have mentioned cross fit, but boxing is great too. It has to be INTENSE and there needs to be a SOCIAL component to keep you motivated. You should leave your workout feeling completely destroyed. In my opinion, just going to the gym doesn't work. You need to be part of a fitness community. The social aspect, combined with the intense workout, can work wonders. Go regularly.

3. Diet.

Avoid junk food. Cut out hard drugs, obviously. Cook for yourself, if you can.

4. Purpose.

Find something in life that excites you, and pursue it. Find a community of people that are also interested in that and join that community. Contribute to that community, whenever you can. Form relationships with others in that community, as you pursue your passion.


Discipline, and regularity, are vital to success. If you do these 4 things, you'll find with time, that your depression weakens it's grip on you. Be patient with point number 4. Don't be discouraged, if right now, you don't have a calling, or a purpose. Let life happen, and go where the wind blows.

I make myself adhere to my usual daily habits as much as possible. Depression makes it really attractive to lounge around all day. I try to get up and shave, and shower, and dress even if I have nowhere to go. It usually happens more slowly, but I also usually feel a little better afterward. I'm never happy with myself if I forego those daily habits.

I try to sit outside a little bit if I can. There's a lot of evidence at this point that exposure to sunlight in the morning is a good way to help improve your sleep, which is a major component of depression. I never want to sit outside, but I make myself do it anyway.

I try not to be too angry or upset with myself. To some extent, what I'm experiencing is outside of my control. I'm sick, just as if I had the flu. So I try to relax a little. Beating myself up never makes me feel better.

I try to remember something I used to enjoy, and I try to do that thing again, only I try to take it easy. For example, reading: I never have enough time to read anymore. I won't be in the mood for a novel, but maybe one of my old Robert Asprin books would be nice.

I try not to let my diet get too awful, but, like being sick, I give in a little. I can't will myself into making three square meals a day, but I can make one good meal a day and not eat my way through a brand new bag of cookies.

I try to pick one little thing and finish it. Sometimes it's the laundry, sometimes it's the dishes, sometimes it's yard work, sometimes it's the pantry that's been under construction for a bit. I definitely don't pick anything ambitious. I need a victory, so I go and find the smallest, easiest little battle, and I win that one, and then tomorrow I'll look for another one, and keep doing that until I feel better.

If it's really bad, I contact a friend. I don't have many friends, but there is one that I can call whenever I'm in really bad shape, and he'll drop what he's doing and come over and we'll talk and get ice cream and play cards or something. (And I'll drop everything for him too.)

Those are a few of the things I do, anyway. Hope you find something there that helps.

It sounds like you might be burned out by university (depression is a symptom of burnout).

Some suggestions that helped me and might work for you:

- See whether there is anything in your life that might be causing the burnout/depression. Do you have any emotional issues in your life (i.e. something in your life causing anger/resentment)? Do you have excessive stress/responsibilities? Are you doing what you really want to do with your life?

- Do more enjoyable, motivating, goal-oriented activities, both physical and mental.

- Get sufficient sleep.

- Give up alcohol and caffeine, as well as any other psychoactive substances.

For me it got to breaking point at my job. I quit and moved to a cheap country for a few months. Ditched the laptop and smartphone and just relaxed, exeecised, read and cooked. Diet and exercise played a huge part, but I couldn't have got them in order while being depressed and stressed out. Being stressed meant always taking on a bit more than I could unload, and that feeling of being at max capacity constantly lead to neglecting day to day tasks such as eating well, shaving, exercising, socialising. This feeds back into the stress and it all can get out of control so quickly.

I'd like to say that's the end of the story but I ran out of money and moved home and got another software job. At first I tried not to work too hard but stress slowly accumulated again. Soon after I felt that deflated feeling in my stomach every morning. I do yoga, run and cycle which is a huge help but it goes through phases and is really the prevention, not the cure. I'm convinced now that I need a radical permanent change to stop slipping into burnout and depression. I love programming but 40 hours a week kills me. Your circumstances may differ but its good to examine if prolonged stress is at the core.

A1. First, if you are from Russia — run ASAP. It will never get better. I did 4 years ago, never had anything resembling depression since that.

A2. If your country is OK (e.g. suicide rate there is less than 15 per 100000 people per year), I think you need to search for the intersection between things you have passion for, and things that are paid well. After you will find that intersection, I think you will get better. You see, when you was a kid, just following your passion was enough for happiness. In the adult world, however, you also need some financial independence for that.

A3. There are other things, like alcoholism or herbal medicine, but I generally do not recommend those to young people.

Something I read in HN recently, maybe two months ago, resonate with me. It is about having guaranteed small wins. It is something that I starting to apply to most things that I do, and it has change the way I see things around me.


Also came across this list, the items about happiness are great suggestions.


If I read this right, your still in college and hitting the wall. Its fairly normal as a lot of people turn get burnout during college.

The diet and exercise suggestions are probably the best. Taking some walks and changing your daily scenery would probably help. Do you eat in the same place everyday? Pick a random book from the library and read it. If there are campus activities that seem interesting, go do them instead of playing games.

Don't freak out if your passion is missing for a while. Its just an ebb and you need to recharge. You'll already shown inspiration, you need to let it come back.

I have been dealing with thing since 8 years now. I have tried to escape this with drugs/alcohol but that won't help. I can tell you everything that I've done but that won't be of any help to you.

What I think is, there is no hard coded way to deal with this issue. Understand your situation and keep fighting and there will come a time when something will push you over the brink. Honestly, if you ask me I really don't know what thing in particular helped me curb my depression, things started to change over time.

However, eating healthy food, reading books and exercise is a must.

I am family of a psychologist. This comes from latest research.

Usually skipped but most critical, is simple trace minerals and vitamins.

Our food is entirely missing so much in the current day, because the same plots of land are farmed over and over (think 25-50 years for the same land).

Himalayan Sea Salt has the trace minerals, and supplementation with Vitamin D, Magnesium, and B-12 have specifically helped mood and energy.

You can get blood tests for these levels, but even in cases where levels are normal supplements have been shown to help.

I struggled with depression for YEARS. I tried everything I could find. Exercise helped a lot. Coffee helped. Meditation helped. All of these things worked but I was still in really down. Finely after years I decided what have I got to lose and went on antidepressants.

It was the best thing I ever did. The world opened up for me. I was able to make a lot of changes that were very healthy in my life. I finely had outside interests other than work and sleep. It was like night and day.

Exercise. Read "The best exercises for mental illnesses": http://www.thementalrunner.org/p/the-best-exercise-for-menta...

(Via the "exercise out of depression" subreddit: https://m.reddit.com/r/EOOD/ )

The evidence for exercise as a treatment for depression is weak at best.

You should probably not recommend exercise as a treatment for depression.

Of course, exercise is important and everyone should be exercising; and it might help with "resiliance".


> When only high-quality trials were included, exercise had only a small effect on mood that was not statistically significant.

> The evidence for exercise as a treatment for depression is weak at best.

That's what the link you give says...

> You should probably not recommend exercise as a treatment for depression.

But it doesn't say that.

It does say "When compared to psychological or pharmacological therapies, exercise appears to be no more effective, though this conclusion is based on a few small trials.", in which case, can anything be recommended?

The NHS still recommends exercise for treating depression, at least in some cases: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages... & http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Treatment.aspx

The amount of evidence supporting exercise as a benefit for treating depression symptoms is enormous. The article the author put up on this blog post is straight out of Harvard Medical Publications and it is simply a summation of some of the available research. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-...

I have never suffered from clinical depression but generally speaking, I would strongly endorse the idea that exercise helps the mind. It's very difficult to articulate why this is, but it is. I cannot stress this enough.

Before medication try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Read: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David B. Burns

Seconded--actually I highly recommend The Feeling Good Handbook by the same author (David Burns). I've found it very helpful for dealing with procrastination as well.

Fall in love. Forget about development for a couple of weeks.

Hey buddy! I won't make any claims against other's opinions here. We all chose what we chose for ourselves.

Depression is the indirect result of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the result of holding conflicting beliefs and feelings inside yourself. That could be "I'm suppose to finish college" and "I want to go live in Thailand and code for a year", for example. When you hold two opposing beliefs, your brain attempts to resolve those beliefs through a series of rationalizations of your feelings. Rationalizations are excuses, but just sound better, as they are intended to resolve the dissonance so you can function somewhat normally emotionally. The more you attempt to avoid resolving these beliefs, the stronger your dissonance will be. All of this results in suffering. A little suffering now, resolving things and stating your real feelings, can help alleviate the symptoms of dissonance and the larger suffering you are experiencing today. Accepting a little ongoing suffering will eventually resolve the dissonance, but a choice will have to be made. BTW, a lot of people are challenged with undestanding how they actually feel emotionally. Celebrate the fact you already know you are sad. It's a helluva thing to be able to do that!

Buddhism, or more specifically the 8-fold path, is essentially a mind recipe for what I describe above. It goes something like this (with my spin on each step after the colons):

1. Right view: understand the problem behind a given dissonance you hold (you may have multiple ones)

2. Right intention: set intent to resolve one of the dissonances

3. Right speech: talk about resolving it to others and don't represent actions or thoughts that attempt to keep the dissonance in place

4. Right action: put the thing you are saying into action. don't just talk about it. do it.

5. Right livelihood: don't let the important parts of your life keep your dissonance in place. jobs and school are livelihoods

6. Right effort: keep plugging at the different dissonance bits you hold inside of you. never stop resolving them.

7. Right mindfulness: learn to meditate, basically. there are a thousand ways to meditate. find one that works for you.

8. Right concentration: don't let your brain fuck with you. you, your consciousness, is in control, not your brain. show it who's boss.

Good luck dude. I have faith you'll be just fine. You are here, after all. That's the first step.

* A daily routine is incredibly powerful -- /whatever/ the routine is and /whatever/ it is that you do. If you find yourself playing computer games for two hours every night, then that might be how you learn to concentrate again. Don't fight it before you look at yourself appreciatively.

* Do anything you need to find back your cognitive strength. You will be less intelligent while your brain chemistry is broken. That shouldn't drag you down because it's absolutely normal and natural, but it's frightening if you are a student and programmer, and used to measuring your self-worth in how well you can concentrate.

* Sleep deprivation helps supress depression for a day. Might help you get back into gear every now and then.

* St John's Wort is worth giving a try. People discuss whether it's more helpful than antidepressants, but then again it often doesn't even count as medicine. Took six weeks to kick into my own brain, and cured its chemistry back up to a point that I could sustain myself. The way back out of depression was an existential rollercoaster of emotions and attitudes with increasing frequency: Weeks at first, hours at the end while I got more stable. Some medicine might be useful for dampening, but only for that.

* Don't insist on keeping social contacts. Depressed you is somebody else than healthy you, and you can rebuild all truly good connections even after a couple of years in case they break apart. Similarly, don't insist on keeping anything else in your life if you find it doesn't work out at the moment. This is where you change careers, majors, hobbys, as well as losing your girlfriend. Keep as many things as you comfortably can a constant however, just to make it easier on yourself.

* Cognitive behavioural therapy. There's a good book on it called Feeling Good that told me /exactly/ the lessons I had missed in life, but your mileage may vary.

* Do whatever feels good to you. Your major job in life now is to make yourself feel good. After all, most people feel better than you, so it's well within your right to ignore others (and others' expectations) while focussing on yourself.

Very strong evidence now exists, including a mouse model of bipolar illness controlled by light exposure, that extending your photoperiod is the principle driver of depression. You require total darkness (but red light is okay, see last line.) And rigid hours of darkness. Sleep is important for depression, but only affects the aldosterone cycle. If you sleep into the morning light, you're still killing your melatonin-controlled cycle. The pRGCs that control our clock were only discovered rather recently, so it will be perhaps a generation before you hear this from a front line doctor.

pRGCs cannot detect red light.

Think about how your talents can be used to help the needy. So many life saving nonprofits and ngo can use your help even at the volunteering capacity. You can also mentor someone who desires your skills one on one.

I had pretty bad depression for my whole 3rd year as an undergrad, and the only thing that has helped me is making changes when things weren't working.

The hard part is that you don't want to make any changes, you just want to be sad (at least I did).

What I did was lighten my course load and try to do some stuff for fun. This meant doing more development for fun, seeing friends more often, having more new experiences, more exercise.

It's not easy, but it's worth it. Give it time, and on the really bad days, just know you're not alone and it gets better.

> Sadly I live in a 3rd world country, where mental illness is not an illness. I can get little help from people. Our healthcare system simply doesn't work at all

My first suggestion would be to try and find professional help there, even if it's difficult. Did you search? Even if the healthcare system is bad, this doesn't mean that there are no good psychologists at all. If you've got nobody to ask, you can search for a professional association or for a college where clinical psychology is taught, and start from there.

I was depressed at university. The courses weren't interesting, my neighbours were verbally abusive, and my long distance relationship was ending badly. I ended up going to the university psychiatrist and just cried my eyes out. I didn't pass with the grades I wanted but I got through it. If I'd do it again I'd just talk to people. Not everyone will understand but if you're lucky someone will. Other than that all I can say is "this too will pass"

Meditation has helped me more than anything else, maybe even therapy. For years I did it "wrong." You can meditate to train focus, and you can meditate to dive through the layers of the mind. What helped me is the latter. The former helps you get work done, but it actually either makes the depression worse, or cuts you off from the world.

I don't know what the quality and breadth of instruction is, where you are in the world, so YMMV.

I was bankrupted so medications were not an option.

I was aware of it did not make me feel better.

a girl said let's fuck because I am also depressed and it makes people depressed feel better. (she was bipolar)

She was lying, but I was kind of in love with her, so it made me feel better, but not her.

In fact it works. At least for me, even if I cared more about her than me.

Just loving people heal depression a lot, I guess.

Ho! And my parent's cat was nice with me. Maybe that was the key. But who knows?

Exercise and sunlight are scientifically proven to reduce depression. Indulge in each for at least one hour a day. Two books (with very long titles) that may be helpful in understanding and combatting the illness are: "The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic" and "How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything--yes, Anything!"

Socialize. Get out of the tech bubble. Seriously!

One of the biggest problem of HN type folks is that they don't try to live a balanced life. Even the most hardworking people in the world try to balance things out.

Take some time out to meet some friends every week. Reach out to old friends and make new ones. Go live.

Counter-intuitive as it may sound, you'll soon see that your productivity has increased.

If your procrastination is causing or deepening your depression, consider this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Now-Habit-Overcoming-Procrastinati... It helped me understand and break the procrastination cycle.

Truth be told, I'm forever 2 weeks of inactivity away from a depressive episode.

I have to keep moving (exercise; running 2 or 3 times a week) AND keep my mind occupied by not concentrating on myself too much, otherwise I begin to shut down.

This is my trick, YMMV. I do believe you can do this without medication, and it does get easier to control as you get older. Good luck.

I had the same feeling at last year. Now I'm optimistic & full energy. What did I do?

1. I had a rest.

2. I had read the great book "Unlimited Power" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlimited_Power)

3. I had done all practics from that book.

And my life was changed!

It's possible that your courses are boring. After a while at university I was craving for measuring myself against the real world, not just against artificial problems set by the teachers.

Perhaps you could try doing something entirely different every once in a while?

Seems to be consensus here, but exercise really helped me to stabilize my mood and bring back my positive stoicism. Still have trouble getting motivated, but at least I have these days where I passionately follow some new thing into the rabbit-hole.

Exercise. Scientifically proven to make you feel happier. Whenever you're feeling down bust out some reps. After a few months you will feel great, sleep like a baby, and look amazing too!

Get enough sleep and physical activity.

In my experience the brain follows the body. An active mind is generated by an active body. Likewise a sleepy and listless mind can be created easily.

Walk. Exercise and light will help you immensely.

Walking is an art form, like poetry, and will bring you exercise and light and awe.

It gets better.

If you know that you are depressed and can talk about it, that's a good step and you should be glad to be aware of this.

It's difficult to quit playing games and procrastinate even when someone's not depressed...

Meeting new people and finding a project seems a like good thing, at least it worked for me. You should also try and going out for like walking, biking, or whatever.

And you should avoid medicine, alcohol or drugs.

I'd argue that admitting your depression on the internet anonymously holds no additional value whatsoever. It is the same as admitting it to yourself. I know because I've been there, done that.

Rest of your advice is sound though.

Many people do not even begin to admit they are depressed, that's what I was saying: it's admitting it.

Refocus on something else.

Rusty car can still move to beautiful destination.

Once you start moving - rust will gradually drop off...

Daily vigorous exercise might help.

Depression for me is like walking on a tightrope, it really is that easy to fall. But worse than falling is spiralling. If you feel yourself falling, command yourself to get up. If you can't get up, command yourself to drag your body. If you can't even do that, command yourself to move anything, even if it's lifting a finger. The important thing here is that you must make sure that your mind can at least obey direct survivalist commands like this.

I realise that this sounds a little surreal but when I was depressed, what was in my head was much more real than the real world. In fact the real world seemed more like a ghost. I did that exercise mentally, then gradually moved to physical, such as commanding myself to sit up on bed after lying down for so long. Now I don't know how deep you are in, but if you are, start with this.

The guys here have been helpful with their suggestions but for me checklists didn't work. Checklists were actually bad for me, because I would realise that I couldn't do some/most of them - and then I would feel worse. There was a time too when I was so detached from the real world that checklists looked vague, silly even. Focus on forcing your body to obey simple, direct commands first.

I personally don't believe in medication. In one of my bluest episodes, I considered taking a drug like Aderall, just anything so I can pass my final year. I'm glad I didn't. I personally believe that depression doesn't come out of nowhere, but from a fundamental dissatisfaction buried deep inside. Do not start digging now though. Your mind is already chaotic/empty and you do not want to tangle things any further. Be gentle with yourself, be sensitive, and uncover them one by one, and keep assuring yourself that it's OK and mistakes are very OK. Again I'm sorry if this might sound surreal.

Contact with the real world is very important, but you must keep your circle very tight and very few. When I was depressed, the world seemed fast and cruel. But you must always tell yourself to give people a chance. I realised that I had an almost-subconscious prejudice against a certain type of people, namely those who seemed mild and mundane - in other words, boring and characterless. But it was those people who helped me the most, because when the world seems fast and cruel, 'boring' characters are refreshing and smiles give hope. I also had a difficult relationship with my mother, but I took a big decision to ignore my (mis)conceptions and confide a few things with her anyway. That was life-changing, because it repaired our relationship and I could finally see her as she is, and not someone who wants to trip me up (I had a childhood trauma based on embarrassment, and it was one of the root causes of my unhappiness). I'm not suggesting that you do exactly as I did here, but keep your circle small and tight so that it can eventually become a sort of haven.

The real world can sometimes be so overwhelming that you are not only scared of it, you freeze on the spot. Do not be so conscious of the real world, let it trickle in gradually. Though strip yourself bare first. Actually, we all live in bubbles and we forget quite a lot of things that are already around us. Beautiful and impossible things, that when you really think about it, it's a miracle that they exist. When you look out of the window, behold the sky! And the ships of cloud. And that child daisy-chaining since afternoon. The tastelessness yet purity of water. The way the light scatters through the blinds. Your hands that seem pinky-transparent when you hold them up. The world is a miracle and you're extremely privileged to witness it.

That's my story anyway. I believe that I've recovered but I know that I'm still on the tightrope, and it's so easy to lose balance. I absolutely loathed those years, I considered self-destruction so many times, but sitting here right now and typing this, I'm glad that I had the experience. It made me feel more human. And suddenly, lots of things don't actually matter, even failures - and I have plenty of those in my portfolio. Because being alive is a privilege. I'm not a survivor, I've been made new all over again. But with a faculty for compassion.

(Another consequence of depression is my new ability to rattle off abstract things, and I've never been good at that ... oh well.)

So stay strong, listen to yourself and trust yourself. You can do this. Just keep getting up again because above all, you do not want things to spiral down. You're procrastinating, which is a good sign, because you've still got your feet anchored to this world. But do the things as I told you. You can do this. You can do this.

Keep safe :)

Good weather, sunshine.


Hey OP,

I'm 24, Male and living in a first world country. I've been suffering on/off since I was 15 - so almost 10 years, wow actually. I remember vividly when it started to come over me. At the time, all I wanted in my life at the time was a decent computer to play games. I saved every single penny and once I got the PC - I began getting depressed. Over the last 9 years it has gotten progressively worse. Perhaps the PC was just a coincidence; I really don't know.

Anyway, I have no reason to feel this way - I feel stupid. I feel like; how dare I feel this way when there are so many other people worse off than me. I'm so fucking privileged it would make others sick to their stomach to hear me complain about my feelings. I made it through the education system - even through my masters, and received top grades too (bar my first standard BSc. before I learned how to study properly and game the education system).

I am now employed and on a nice salary for my age (€40k starting, with free health insurance, and bonus). I drive a nice car (inherited). I have a girlfriend of 2 years (she knows - hardest thing I've ever done), and to top it off I know her about 20 years. Yes I know, almost my whole life.

I had my first major breakdown last year. It was actually sparked from a fight with my girlfriend I think. I was doing my masters and started a company on the side. It was a lot to take on, and my girlfriend is full time - if you know what I mean. So I broke.

I saw a counselor (sorry don't know how to spell that one, even being native English speaker), for about 3 months I think it was. I had a very limited budget when I was in university so I could only pay her €10 a week - which was so embarrassing as I pulled up in my 2008 BMW coupe. I felt so ashamed, but she understood my rare circumstance and was very helpful and I am so grateful for what she has done for me.

I was also suffering from an eating disorder at the time. I was borderline standard bulimic - and had full on exercise bulimia (arguably still do). I work out 4 times per week, but love bodybuilding so I guess that's a gray area. I was benching 100kg during my exam periods for my masters, and coding everything for my startup at the same time. Stupid amount of work. No wonder I was fucked.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I do know that you cannot let it get the better of you. I look at what I've achieved while dealing with the issues I have and I know that I am a driven person - no matter what. It may hold me back a bit, but it doesn't define me or change my determination.

Keep on keeping on is such a true statement. I make myself get up out of bed and worry about putting my pants on after. I isolate my thoughts to get through. I just drive to the gym, nothing else. Once I'm there, I just get out of the car, that's it. Before you know it, you are in the gym and you didn't miss another work out. Same goes for the rest of the things you want to accomplish.

My two parents also have alcohol addictions, which obviously doesn't help. My Dad was suicidal when he was my age, and had a brief stay in rehab within a mental hospital. My Mum is recently out of surgery due to years of dietary abuse, but continues to drink daily. I'd say if she went cold turkey - it'd kill her. I don't talk to my parents much anymore since I moved away. I'm OK with that, but I wish it didn't have to be this way.

Keep on keeping on.



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