Depression And Anxiety

Depression is estimated to affect 9 to 16% of the population at any time.   It is the most common condition seen in the mental health field. 

Depression can be considered a medical condition on its own, but very often depression is also a symptom of another illness, including other mental health disorders, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or cancer.   Depression and anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.  If you are concerned about suicidal risk for yourself or someone else, please get help by calling 911 or going to an emergency room.   No matter how bad the problem, everything can be fixed or worked through somehow.  And please follow up by getting professional help. It's not just the crisis that led to feeling suicidal that's the problem.  Getting suicidal suggests a much deeper problem than just the crisis that led to it.

Anxiety is a separate disorder but often goes along with depression.  I include it in this discussion on depression because the processes are very similar.  Both induce a mood that has physical and behavioral symptoms.  Both involve ruminating and brooding; depression is mostly angry or sad thoughts, while anxiety involves worrying.  Both can become chronic or recurrent.  Depression and anxiety often cycle with each other.  This is likely due to the exhaustion that continual anxiety brings on, and anxiety brought on by the progression of depression.  Like depression, anxiety can get worse over time and certain triggers can become entrenched and  magnified

Anxiety and depression can be a reflection of how poorly the individual feels, but it is also a result of the body's chemical messengers in the blood designed to inhibit motion so that the body can heal.  The depression that results from illness or injury is caused by cytokines, some of which are sent to the brain to signal loss of interest and fatigue.  Some illness and injury can be related to inadequate self-care on a day to day basis.  Whether it's poor diet, lack of exercise, staying up late too many nights, if you're running on empty much of the time, your body doesn't get the resources it needs to repair and replenish and these micro-injuries can accumulate, resulting in "bad" knees, "back problems," weight gain, etc.

Anxiety and Depression can also be triggered by negative life events.  Those that experience major trauma in the first 5  years of life are more likely to experience depression later in life than nontraumatized individuals.  Second episodes of depression increase the likelihood of future episodes of depression.  Prolonged stress can trigger an episode of depression. 

Both anxiety and depression are mood disorders and thoughts play a role in the duration and severity of an episode.   When anxiety or depression hits, the brain loses capacity to experience pleasure.  The individual will talk himself out of going to previously enjoyed events or find reasons why a certain activity won't be worthwhile or enjoyable.  This deprives the individual of opportunities to boost mood.  Deprived of pleasant experiences this leaves the individual with only negative thoughts, thus further fueling depression.  This triggers worry, sadness and anger, all of which trigger the brain to release hormones in response to the  emotion generated. When this happens repeatedly and without enough time for the body to return to baseline, stress-related physical illness can result.  One might feel fatigued, stiff, achy.  The mind takes cues from the body and the cycle of depression continues. It truly is a mind-body illness.  Here is an article that sums it all up.

Self-Care for preventing anxiety and depression

The basic elements of self-care are healthy choices in maintaining qualty of sleep, diet and exercise.   These are covered elsewhere in more detail.  Other elements of self-care involve caring for the mind.  the brain has  needs that parallels the bodies needs, but needs of its own.  In terms of depression and anxiety, those needs include fiding ways to exercise the brain's thought procss and redirecting the mind away from hot thoughts that trigger chain reactions of worry/sad/angry thoughts.

The big take-away here is that it isn't a luxury but a requirement that we get enough sleep, and restful sleep, that we have consistently have meals made of healthy whole-food ingredients, and that we get enough exercise.  It may take time money and effort but if we don't follow certain rules of well-being we'll pay for it later in prescription medications and medical bills, not to mention the added cost of misery and limitations.  

It can be hard to stick to a health regimen.  There is a constant tug of war between what we know to do and outside pressures.   Junk foods are everywhere.  Store bought birthday cake in the break room,  Aunt Gini's potato-hot dog casserole.  We push ourselves to stay up later, get up earlier, which is fine if it's the exception rather than the rule.  We find reasons to not exercise; too tired, have housework to do, etc. 

I developed the Ten Rules as a way of addressing those barriers to self-care.  My Ten Rules should be approached more as a way of life rather than a checklist of things that must be done every day or week.   Many of the Rules overlap so if you're doing one you're also doing another.  It's more about how to do it than what to do.  It's about doing what we do anyway, just tweaking it a bit and substituting healthy habits for unhealthy ones.

If you have children, do things with them rather than be a bystander.  Include them on your mission to develop healthy lifestyle habits.  Find thingsyou can do as a family.   Don't be afraid to say no to unwanted requests or cut down on extracurriculars.   Get your children to help out with chores.  It will not only improve their self-esteem and sense of responsibility, it will free you up for some self-care.  Your children will benefit from you being happier and from setting an example as to how to live.  

How does counseling help with anxiety and depression?

Counseling can help in several ways: 

  1. Counseling provides you with a sounding board. Sometimes it's good to just talk about the problem. Carl Rogers found that simply by empathizing and validationg he could bring about change in a client.
  2. Counseling gives you a direction in solving your problems. Depression isn't just in your head, it can be about what's around you. Finding ways to change what you can change can help eliminate a cause of depression. Even if all you change is how you deal with the problem, it can still be effective.
  3. Counseling can help you understand where the depression or anxiety came from. When we understand the past, we are less bound to repeat it.
  4. Counseling can help you learn to recognize when you're getting caught up in your hot thoughts, be able to step back and avoid thought patterns that lead to depression.

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