Depression and anxiety…These things are often misunderstood, stigmatized and brushed under the rug. I think the key to changing this is knowledge. If we wish to help those who experience mental disorders of any kind we must avoid perpetuating the stigma and false ideas that are worldwide. We must gain a greater understanding and empathy for what these illnesses can do a person.
Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are as real as a broken leg or heart attack, and sometimes feel like one (I can vouch for that from personal experience).
I have been somewhat reluctant to share my own experiences with these things, undoubtedly due to the stigma that exists. Nonetheless, I have felt prompted to do so. I do not know what will be the outcome of doing so, but that is irrelevant if I wish to be true to that spiritual prompting. In addition, a part of me knows doing so may help others, and therefore be well worth it (even if it’s just one person).
Depression 101: (a very brief summary)
What is DEPRESSION anyway? Well, let me lay a tiny bit of psychology on you. Depression is quite common, in fact, according the American Psychological association, it is the most common mental disorder. It goes beyond your bad days and bouts of blues. In order for the doc to diagnose you with depression you must experience some of its symptoms (nearly every day, all day) for two weeks. These symptoms can be severe and include :
• Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
• Persistent sadness, anxious or empty mood
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
• Feelings of guilt, helplessness or worthlessness
• Decreased energy
• Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering
• Difficulty sleeping, oversleeping or early-morning awakening
• Appetite and/or weight changes
• Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
• Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems (without a clear physical cause and/or that don’t ease with treatment)
• Moving or talking more slowly
• Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
I have had the great pleasure of experiencing all of the italicized symptoms listed above (note the sarcasm). If you’re lucky enough to experience all of these symptoms together, well you’re not alone.
There are many reasons why depression occurs, such as: physical illness or injury, as a side effect of your medication (oh snap), trauma, stress, major life changes, or due to a personal/family history of the disorder. I cannot be certain, but I believe that my own depression stemmed from high levels of stress related to anxiety and possibly a family history. And then again, perhaps I was hit with them at the same time.
It is important to note that there are different types of depression. For the sake of brevity, I will only list the two which I have experienced–Perinatal Depressive Disorder (commonly known as post-partum depression) and Persistent Depressive Disorder. If you would’ve opened an encyclopedia to the latter you would’ve seen my picture. This type of depression is the focus of our discussion. It’s long-lasting, more than two years, and someone who experiences it may have major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.
As a younger child I wasn’t terribly shy, but as I grew into adolescence I became so–painfully shy in fact! I dreaded going to school, speaking to people outside of my immediate family, and suffered with social phobia or social anxiety disorder–That’s just a fancy term for anxiety related to being in public and speaking to others. On to our mini lesson on anxiety…
I have to do what now? (brief overview of anxiety)
Anxiety is worry or fear–sometimes rational and sometimes irrational. Everyone has or will experience anxiety at one point in their life, but again it becomes an issue when it interferes with daily activities, relationships, work, or school. For these people the anxiety doesn’t go away and may even get worse over time.
Social anxiety disorder stems from a fear of social situations in which the person expects to be judged, rejected, embarrassed or offensive to others. This expectation is created in the mind of the person experiencing the fear and symptoms include :
• Avoiding places where there are people
• Feeling very self-conscious in front of others (embarrassed, rejected, fearful, humiliated)
• Feeling anxious or worried about being with others and having a difficult time talking to them
• Being afraid that others will judge them
• Worrying days/ weeks before an event
• Having a hard time making and keeping friends
• Blushing, sweating, or shaking around others
• Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when others are around
Here I have also italicized the symptoms which I have experienced in the past, and sometimes still do to this day. Anxiety disorders often co-exist with other mental illnesses, like depression. There are two other types of anxiety disorders. One of which is Panic Disorder during which a person experiences sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear (aka panic attacks). The other type is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In this form people worry for months and have several symptoms related to the anxiety :
• Restlessness or feeling on edge
• Difficulty concentrating or having mind go blank
• Muscle tension
• Difficulty controlling the worry
• Sleep problems (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or having unrestful sleep)
• Being easily fatigued
Feeling overwhelmed or anxious now? Well don’t get depressed about it. In my next post I will address some ways to bring the sunshine back in your life (AKA Treatments). There are a great many of them and I have tried most. Fun times!