What Is Depression Journaling?

Person with a journal writing

What Is Depression Journaling?

If left untreated, even mild depression can lead to more severe physical and mental health problems. While some people are never treated, others look for care through medicine, traditional psychotherapy, alternative medicine, or even ketamine infusion. But one “old school” option that shouldn’t be ignored is simple journaling for depression.

What To Know About Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a widespread and significant medical illness that adversely affects your feelings, thoughts, and how you behave. Thankfully, it can be treated. If you’re depressed, you know that it causes sadness and/or loss of interest in something you used to enjoy doing. Even worse, it can trigger a range of emotional and physical difficulties and can reduce your ability to perform at work and at home.

Depression Symptoms

  • Constant sadness, anxiety, or low moods
  • Feelings of despair or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • You feel guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Slow bodily movements or speech
  • Restlessness or problems sitting still
  • Trouble focusing, remembering, or decision making 
  • Problems sleeping, waking early, or oversleeping
  • Hunger and/or weight fluctuations
  • Thinking of death, suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches, pains, headaches, spasms, or gastrointestinal difficulties absent a clear physical reason and/or symptoms that don’t ease even with care

What Causes Depression?

No one knows for certain what causes depression, but some factors are known to contribute.

  • Variations in chemicals in the brain may result in depression.
  • If you have a biological relative with depression, or you’re twin sibling has the condition, you have a greater chance of getting the illness at some point.
  • Personality traits like low self-esteem, becoming easily overcome by stress, or constant pessimism may trigger depression.
  • Constant exposure to abuse, violence, neglect, or poverty.

What Is Depression Journaling?

“Back in the day,” your parents or grandparents may have kept a secret diary – a tiny, sometimes leatherbound tablet where they jotted down their struggles, fears, desires, and daily observations without fear of judgment or punishment. Every day or as often as time allowed, they’d scribble a few lines then hide their diary someplace safe – under a mattress, high on a closet shelf, or anywhere secure from prying eyes. Many such examples have been lost to time and posterity, but the tradition of journaling continues to this very day. Much of it happens in a digital world, but the goals are the same.

With the rise in mental health issues, many people have turned to “depression journaling,” maybe out of curiosity or a concerted effort to improve their life. Journaling allows you to express frustration, stress, depression, and fear in a safe, healthy manner.

The benefits of depression journaling

  • Improves your mental health
  • Creates a positive outlook on life
  • Helps manage anxiety and lower stress
  • Helps cope with depression
  • Allows you to focus on problems, worries, and concerns
  • Helps you track daily symptoms so that you can identify triggers and discover means to better manage them
  • Gives you a chance for positive self-talk and recognize bad thoughts and behaviors
  • It may put a positive spin on your mood
  • Improves your sense of well-being
  • Journaling may lower symptoms of depression prior to an important event, like a big test at school first date, or work presentation
  • It can help lower intrusion and avoidance symptoms following a traumatic situation
  • Journaling may improve your memory function

How to be effective at depression journaling

  • Keep a daily schedule.
  • Keep it simple. Use pen and paper, smartphone, or tablet computer, or just grab a crumpled store receipt and write down your feelings.
  • Write or draw whatever comes to mind. Your feelings are your own, so express them.
  • Use your journal however you want, and it doesn’t have to be shared.

Diagnosing & Treating Depression

Your doctor may make a depression diagnosis based on:

  • A physical examination to look for an underlying physical health problem.
  • Lab tests, like a blood test called a complete blood count or testing your thyroid to ensure it’s working properly.
  • A psychiatric evaluation focusing on symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.
  • Compare your symptoms to criteria for depression listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Follow-up care may involve psychotherapy, medicine, or newer treatment like ketamine infusion therapy.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a huge source of disability worldwide, affecting nearly 300 million people across all walks of life. If you suffer from any of its symptoms, you may be able to find effective treatment through traditional psychotherapy, antidepressants, medicine like ketamine, or journaling for depression. But the choice is yours. Contact us today for more information.