How to Cope with a mood disorder without Medication?

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

How to cope with a mood disorder.

It is good to have fun. Have fun! People with mood disorders often become engrossed in the past, consumed with depression and anxiety. They tend to have negative thoughts that just repeat over and over again. Learning to cope takes experiential learning with a CBT therapist.

Recreation and exercise

Recreation and exercise play a key role in management of symptoms. Especially cardio exercise such as walking is good maintenance of depression, anxiety and panic symptoms.  These are a great distraction when one is experiencing symptoms. Any physical activity is likely to be therapeutic.  Join a park district team, like softball or volleyball.  It’s a good social activity too!

Social activity

Regular social activity is important and healthy; get out with people at least 3 times per month. Consider joining the Park district, volunteering, church groups and activities, or working a shelter.  Find something!  Avoid alcohol.


Get a hobby!  Hobbies to consider? Try paint by number. It’s easy but it takes concentration.  Helps deal with negative thoughts and repeat that often accompany depression. You can also walk away easily by simply rinsing out the brush.  Plan 1/2 half hour per day.


Even chores can also help with distraction. Make a schedule of chores and stick to it.  Monday is vacuuming, Tuesday is laundry, etc. This also helps keep your living environment healthy.

Distraction from symptoms is an important coping skill. The tendency to isolate and withdraw also need to be overcome. The Internet, video games, TV or reading, generally do not qualify as distraction for most individuals.

Planning is key because mood disorders require structure. If you are going to have a good weekend, you will need to plan ahead to meet your exercise and social goals.

Unfortunately, sometimes these are just not enough, therefore medication will need to be considered.

When to consider medication?

I am sorry to have to say this but moderate to severe mood disorders require medication to control the symptoms. It’s all about chemistry. If you are diabetic, you would take insulin; you wouldn’t like it but you would do it.  This is no different.  It is just a chemical imbalance.

When coping skills don’t work, you will need to reconsider seeing a doctor and getting on medication. Even with medication, however, you will still need to practice coping skills.  Medication does 6o% and coping skills do the rest.  In these instances, the medication becomes the foundation and will help the coping skills work effectively.

Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC  847- 733-4300 Ext 638.


Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

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