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Dr John B
Dr John B, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 557
Experience:  PhD in Clinical Psychology, registered clinical psychologist.
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How can you cheer someone up who is basically acting depressed?

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How can you cheer someone up who is basically acting depressed? My boyfriend is 18 in his first year of medical school and not doing so well. That means he's depressed every time a test comes up or grades are reported. We're in a long-distance relationship and I don't know how to deal with his moodiness and depression -- I want to help more than anything! How do you help someone like that from far away?


Sorry to hear of the situation. Before I proceed can you give me quick summary of what leads you to think he is/has developed depression?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
He keeps calling himself depressed. On top of that, whenever a test is nearing or whenever he's thinking about school, he gets VERY stressed out, mopes around, doesn't want to talk about anything, becomes very irritable, and doesn't seem to have much interest for anything. He may not be clinically depressed, but he certainly acts like it whenever his failing school or anything related to that comes up.

Ok, thanks for the extra information.

If he is describing himself as Depressed then it probably reasonable to assume that he is experiencing Depression to a least some degree. If it is Depression then attempting to cheer him up isn't likely to be effective. Depression (as an illness) disturbs our ability to experience pleasure, our thought processes and our emotional experience. Because of these kinds of disturbances it is common for people to be unable to engage with or respond to things in life that normally make them feel good. One of the key symptoms of Depression is 'anhedonia' and this literally refers to a diminished ability to derive pleasure. Rather than attempting to cheer him up the best thing you could do is to encourage him to begin to pursue treatment for Depression.

The main treatment approaches for Depression are anti-depressant medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or a combination of the two. I can recommend this excellent website here as a starting point for learning more about the treatment of Depression.

The recommended order of treatments to try is:

1) Self-help using a CBT based program

2) CBT with a therapist

3) CBT & an antidepressant medication (usually a Selective Serotonin Re uptake

You can confirm that this is the correct order by checking these treatment
recommendations here.

CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic
procedure. Treatment is technique driven, brief, direct and time-limited (normally 10-12 sessions). CBT is used in individual therapy as well as group settings, and the techniques are often adapted for self-help applications. I would strongly encourage him to consider CBT as I would expect him get great benefit from this approach.

Start by taking a look through this excellent CBT based self-help program here. It will help you to understand what it is he is experiencing and how he can use CBT to begin to feel better. Once you have taken a look through it send it to him to begin to work through. It should take several weeks for him to complete, is completely free and will teach him everything he needs to know about Depression and what he can do about it. Alternatively, you could encourage him to take a look at a book which will teach him some introductory techniques for dealing with Depression at home. I can recommend a well known manual titled Mind Over Mood and another book titled The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression; A Step by Step Program as good places to start. He can find them both here.

If he doesn't appear to be making progress using a self-help approach I would then recommend he consult with a CBT trained therapist. CBT is usually offered by Clinical Psychologists (although not exclusively) and he can contact the American Psychology Association (APA) for assistance with locating a Psychologist; take a look at the APA locator service here. He can use this to find Psychologists in his area and there is a phone number he can contact if he wants a referral arranged. Also, he should take a look at an article published by the APA here. It's an interview with a senior Psychologist and covers some of the things he should consider when he is looking for a Psychologist. Alternatively, he could approach student health services at his University as they usually provide mental health services.

If after consulting with a CBT therapist he is still having trouble with Depression
then he should consult with a Psychiatrist about commencing an anti-depressant

I hope this has been of some help. Please let me know if you have further questions or if you would like me to clarify any part of my answer.

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