It is not uncommon to have some days where you just feel down, for reasons you can recognize, and even sometimes when it feels there is no reason at all. Therefore, it is normal to experience a “down” mood from time to time. However, if you experience one or more of the following symptoms with some consistency, you may have a diagnosis of depression that should be treated.
- Depressed mood for most of the day, or a sense of despair - Frequent irritability; cranky or critical mood; impatience - Changes in appetite or sleep - Bodily aches and pains, feeling slowed down, or agitated - Loss of interest in pleasurable activities; lack of motivation - Fatigue; feeling a lack of energy; tiring easily - Feeling pessimistic, hopeless, helpless - Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lack of confidence and low self-esteem - Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly - Poor attention while reading, not being able to focus; a sense of memory impairment - Morbid or suicidal thoughts
Seek advice and consultation as soon as possible from a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional. Try to keep to a regular routine in terms of sleep, diet, exercise, and activity level. Stay involved and avoid extended isolation from positive activities and influences, even if you don't feel like doing these things. Seek connections with others and find social outlets with friends, family, and neighbors. Spend time with people who are caring, listen well and can be understanding.
I often find that people may not recognize that they are depressed if their prominent symptom is not sadness. Sometimes anger and irritability mask depression. People with depression may have difficulty reaching out to to others, or showing or communicating that they are in pain because they feel that they should be able to handle their emotions themselves, and do not want to be a burden on others. I believe that it shows strength, not weakness, when people can be open about their feelings and seek support from others. I help clients to be aware of their emotional experiences and share them with others. I help identify unhelpful beliefs and patterns of thought and behavior that may be driving or exacerbating depression. I provide guidance and connection for people struggling through a deep depression.
Many factors in our lives can serve to make us feel anxious at times. Often, anxiety is a normal response to stressful events, and it can even be a helpful coping mechanism. Anxiety tells us when we are in a dangerous or threatening situation, and it marshals the body’s adrenaline reaction to prepare you for “fight or flight”.
However, frequent anxiety may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be very impairing, and often feels intolerable to those who experience it. Untreated anxiety can affect job performance and ability to carry out everyday activities. It may also lead to depression and an increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse.
For some, a state of anxiety is experienced in bodily sensations of “butterflies” in the stomach, nausea, tightness in the chest or throat, trembling, or feeling faint. These sensations are often accompanied by negative thoughts which serve to increase our fear and belief that something is terribly wrong. For others, anxiety feels more mental, such as constant worried thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral and relaxation techniques can be very helpful in the management of anxiety. I often pair this modality with a psychodynamic exploration of a person's fears, because I believe that anxiety has meaning.
Anxiety and depression can be influenced by our inner voice. How we talk to ourselves, and what we say can either ameliorate or exacerbate symptoms. Often, I find that people speak to themselves in critical and harsh ways. I help clients identify their negative voice and teach them to make the kind of caring and supportive statements to themselves as they would to a friend.