While you can do many things to alleviate feelings of depression, you may want to assess the severity of your emotional state before embarking on a treatment plan. One reason for this is that it can help you recognize your progress. It is difficult to go from feeling REALLY down to feeling totally normal and happy. But the baby steps up the emotional scale are what matter, and I want you to be able to acknowledge those steps and celebrate them. That is what will help you keep going and have faith in your process.
Probably the simplest method for tracking your moods throughout the following days and weeks is based on an uncomplicated percent-system of daily self-reflection. This system will you gain a clearer understanding of where you are at, where you have been, and where you hope to go. It will also give you great insight further down the road to recovery.
In her book Postpartum Depression for Dummies, Dr. Shoshana Bennett recommends for all of her clients to keep track of their progress. She finds that this helps give them perspective and keeps them going even on the harder days. She explains that you should have a calendar, which you will use for this purpose. Each day, at approximately the same time (i.e. midday/ lunch time or bedtime) try to evaluate how you are feeling from a scale of 0-100. 0 represents the lowest point in your depression. Try to remember approximately when you previously felt you were at 0 and write it in those days. From now on try to do this daily or every few days. Even though your feelings will fluctuate throughout the day, try to choose a number that describes the time you are writing it down. Over the weeks you will be able to see how far you’ve come.
Dr. Bennett explains that the simple act of picking a number can be healing in itself. You might feel so bad some days and feel bad about feeling bad. However, once you pick a number you might have some perspective and realize you’re not really at a zero, the worst you ever felt in your depression, or even at a 10. You might realize you’re at 25 or 30%, which might still be better than you were a few weeks ago. Dips are natural in the healing process, but having perspective can help you keep going and appreciating your progress.
I would like to provide you with as many tools as possible, so here is another option for self assessment: Dr. David Burns, M.D., has created two mood tests that can be self administered and interpreted in less than two minutes. He encourages people to repeat the tests each week to assess their own progress whether they are in therapy, taking medications, or doing other types of treatments. You will find a copy of each of his mood tests at the end of this article.
If you like his material, Dr. Burns’ book has been proven to relieve depression at least as effectively as psychotherapy and medication. It is full of incredibly effective emotional awareness tools that are derived from cognitive behavioral therapy. If you would like to try self-treatment through bibliotherapy, you may find it at your local bookstore or you can order his book online. It is called The Feeling Good Handbook, by David D. Burns, M.D. (Burns, 1999).
The most widely used tool across the world for assessing postpartum depression is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) (Gibson, McKenzie-McHarg, Shakespeare, Price & Gray, 2009). However, keep in mind that this tool is meant for professional use and not for self-assessment. I just want to give you a window into what you may encounter if you choose to see a psychiatrist. You will find a copy of this questionnaire below.
Women, with a score as low as 10, are at risk of possible depression. However, it is more common for a score of above 13 to be assessed as depression. The severity above 10 varies, with a maximum score of 30. Women are often found to label themselves as more severe than they are upon diagnoses (Wylie, Hollins Martin, Marland, Martin & Rankin, 2011). Be aware that your personal score does not constitute a clinical assessment conducted by a psychologist or other mental health professional. I am providing you this tool for the purpose of education, and not diagnosis.
If you feel like a clinical assessment would be helpful for you, please ask your family doctor for one or for a referral to a psychiatrist. This might be a good place to start especially if your depression feels severe to you. This will also put you a step ahead of the game if you choose to go the route of medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. If you are depressed and would like to get some help, or to use some self-treatment tools, please see the resources section in the menu above for a support group near you, or for books on the subject. Keep your eye out for my upcoming articles on treatment options for PPD as well as my upcoming eBook on PPD.
Bennett, S. S. (2007). Postpartum Depression for Dummies. Wiley
Publishing, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana.
Burns, D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. Plume (a member of
Penguin Group). USA
Gibson, J., McKenzie-McHarg, K., Shakespeare, J., Price, J., & Gray, R.
(2009). A systematic review of studies validating the Edinburgh
Postnatal Depression Scale in antepartum and postpartum women. Acta
Psychiatrica Scandinavica 119, 350–364.
Wylie, C. J., Hollins, M., Marland, G., Martin, C. R., Rankin, J. (2011). The
enigma of post-natal depression: an update. Journal of Psychiatric and
Mental Health Nursing, 18, 48–58.