5 Facts Many People Don’t Know About Depression

Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world. It affects all segments of society and virtually all cultures, said Constance Hammen, Ph.D, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California.

And yet many people don’t know much about depression or tend to misunderstand it. Some misconceptions “persist because depression has tended to be stigmatizing and people don’t learn about it, discuss it, or recognize it.”

But it’s key to become well informed. Depression may affect you or your family. It may affect your friends or colleagues. Even if it doesn’t touch you personally in any way, learning about the reality of depression helps you be compassionate to the people who are struggling, because depression is a debilitating illness (which is, thankfully, very treatable). Below are five revealing facts.

1. Depression isn’t weakness.

We often believe that people can control their moods, said Hammen, also co-editor of the third edition of the Handbook of Depression.So when someone can’t seem to manage their mood, they may be seen as somehow inadequate or flawed.

“It is very common for people to believe that feeling down and bad is a weakness of will or lack of effort to just get over it, or even a willful resistance to fighting it,” Hammen said.

A stressful event or stressful conditions trigger most depression, which makes it seem like people should promptly bounce back. If they don’t, they may be viewed as “weak-willed.” Even people with depression might see themselves as weak if they don’t recover right away.

Some people don’t even realize they (or someone else) are struggling with depression. “They may think of it as ‘just stressed out’ and expect them to get over it more quickly.” (These people also “are unlikely to seek professional help for being ‘stressed.’”)

Clinical depression is an illness. It can’t be willed away. The symptoms of depression — such as hopelessness, helplessness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating — make it harder for people to take the steps to get better, she said.

Others’ perceptions (e.g., “get over it”) only make them feel worse about themselves and more alone, she added.

2. Irritability may be a prominent factor.

People are well aware that persistent sadness is a symptom of depression. But irritability is a key sign as well. In fact, irritability may even indicate a more severe depression, said clinical psychologist Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD. Irritability also is associated with a greater chance of having other mental illness, such as anxiety, she said. (Learn more about the research here.)

Other emotions tend to underlie irritability, such as sadness, shame and overwhelm, she said. But irritability shows up on the surface. “This happens when people are less aware of their internal states, where there’s trouble recognizing, labeling and processing their emotions.” (Therapy helps with this, she added.)

3. Depression affects the entire family.

“People tend to think of depression as an individual condition,” said Kolakowski, also author of the book When Depression Hurts Your RelationshipHowever, it’s a systemic condition that affects couples and families, she explained.

For instance, depression can affect everything from a couple’s communication and connection to their sex life to how they handle conflict to their ability to empathize with each other and enjoy time together, she said.

When someone is struggling with depression, it’s hard to foster warm, supportive relationships, Hammen said. This isn’t “because one is a ‘bad’ parent or spouse, but because they cannot will away the irritability, withdrawal, oversensitivity, lack of interest [and] low energy that are needed to sustain healthy relationships.”

Consequently, when someone has recurrent or chronic depression, their partner and kids may need treatment, as well, she said. (Learn more about how depression damages relationships and tips for rebuilding your bond here.)

4. Adolescents and young adults are particularly at risk.

A complex combination of factors causes depression. These factors include the environment, genetics, biology and personality traits. Many risk factors may predispose teens and young adults, who are “particularly at risk for first onset of clinically significant depression,” to the illness, Hammen said. She shared these examples:

  • A mother who has depression or is impaired in another way.
  • Difficult childhood, which, for example, led to attachment insecurities.
  • Anxiety and fearfulness.
  • Unrealistic expectations (for yourself or others).
  • Poor role models for resolving relationship conflict or disappointments.
  • “Brain circuits that reflect dysfunctions in processing and resolving negative emotions.”
  • Poverty, which exposes individuals to stressors from an early age.

These factors increase the likelihood of recurrent depression, so it’s important to identify and treat teens and young adults who are at risk, she said.

5. Cultural views perpetuate depression.

“There are many self-perpetuating aspects of depression, within the person and within families and within cultures [and] communities,” Hammen said.

For instance, some cultures believe that because life is hard, it’s normal to be miserable, while other cultures regard happiness as a life goal (“the antidote to feeling low is to pursue the things the culture think should make one happy [such as] intimacy, fame, fortune”).

Some societies also believe that if you have certain things, you shouldn’t be depressed, she said. “If you are [it’s considered] a flaw of character.” (Again, it is not.)

Depression is a serious illness. “The more people are aware of depression and how debilitating it is, the hope is that they will demand more resources to be devoted to the problem,” Hammen said.

Lifelong

Sometimes it is so hard to live with my mental illnesses. It’s devastating to think that I will never recover from them. It’s like having a terminal illness and there’s nothing I can do to change my fate. It could either kill me itself or I will die alongside it. There have been more time than I can count that it has drove me to think about or attempt taking my own life. It always comes down to one thing: I desperately do not want to hurt anyone. I’ve seen the horrified look on my loved ones faces when they find out I was in the hospital yet again. I always feel guilty. Sometimes I just want to make everyone hate me so they could care less. My illness is lifelong, there’s nothing I can do to change it except let it play out and accept it. Even though it is lifelong there are ways to making it manageable. I intend to figure out all those ways so I can live a somewhat normal life. Hopefully and normal AND happy life. 

Nothing

I really hate when there’s something in my life that stresses me out or upsets me or makes me angry and all I want to do is well….DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT; problem is: there’s absolutely NOTHING I can do about it. It happens quite often. It’s like being in a boxing match with your hands and feet tied behind your back, you just have to sit back and take the punches, the punches and the pain. I’m in a time right now that something has happened and I can’t do anything to fix it. I’m a fixer, that’s just part of my personality and when I can’t fix something it eats at me, and it makes my stress level go up a thousand notches and stress does bad things to me. I literally go insane. Usually when the stress gets to a certain point that it’s controlling my every move I end up get put in the psych ward.

Now I’ve been taught about staying in the moment and I try to practice it as much as I am able to but when the stress gets extreme I can’t do it because my mind is cluttered with memories from the past, stresses of the present, and worries about the future. It jumps from one to the next and back again. They spin round and round to a point that it gets so fast that I can only catch little glimpses of them. I always think that I’m not strong enough to be able to stop this whirlwind. People tell me I can do anything I put my mind to, I disagree. I really didn’t want to make this a negative post but I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning because I am in no mood to do thought stopping and mindfulness. I’m caught between what I should do and what I want to do. I want to go back to bed and stay there all day but I should stay up and find some peace with this. It’s funny though, nowadays I don’t go straight for the negative behavior, I actually think first of what I should do, for what is good for me. So after I write this I shall go meditate. What’s funny also is that I just did a total 180 in a matter of minutes.

I know I jumped around a lot in this post but the morals of these stories is first and foremost: sometimes there’s nothing you can do in a situation but let it play out. Secondly, even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed there is still hope that you can change your mood. It’s not easy, but totally worth it.

The Curse

I feel numb. The curse is slowly taking over my mind and soon after that, my body. I know this curse as well as I know myself. It’s like the mirror in the Matrix, once it touches you, slowly but surely it envelopes you. What you once thought life was has become a lie. The people around you look at you like you’re a monster. Either that or they just plain pity you. You feel like your lungs are filled with sludge making it increasingly hard to breathe. In your mind is a separate demon that comes along with the curse. It creates a thick fog and it captures your thoughts and muddles them into shear nonsense. When you try to sleep, it runs those pointless thoughts in circles and it doesn’t stop keeping you up until total exhaustion takes over. You want to feel something, anything. Your body has become the host to the curse, you have no control over it anymore.

But, as much as it seems there is no hope of coming out of this alive, alas, there is hope!! I used to think that I could be depressed for the rest of my life, and I will say that I still get depressed sometimes but the difference now is that with each depression episode I was faced with when I was younger, I became stronger and more wise. I learned ways to deal with being depressed, distractions, always taking my meds as prescribed, calling someone when things get too bad, writing (or any source of outlet), and as hard as it may sound, just riding it out. It will not last forever, nothing lasts forever, it’s called impermanence. These, along with a list of over 100 things that I can do to make myself feel better are what helps me make it through the trenches of depression.

its-the-anon:

exactly.

its-the-anon:

exactly.

Blood Test for Suicide Risk?

A newly discovered chemical alteration in a stress gene may lead to the development of a simple blood test to predict a person’s risk of attempting suicide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

“Suicide is a major preventable public health problem, but we have been stymied in our prevention efforts because we have no consistent way to predict those who are at increased risk of killing themselves,” says study leader Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“With a test like ours, we may be able to stem suicide rates by identifying those people and intervening early enough to head off a catastrophe.”

The study, published online in The American Journal of Psychiatry, focused on a genetic mutation in a gene known as SKA2. By analyzing brain samples from mentally ill and healthy people, the researchers found that levels of SKA2 were significantly reduced in the brains of people who had committed suicide.

The SKA2 gene, expressed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, helps quiet negative thoughts and control impulsive behavior. This gene is mainly responsible for helping stress hormone receptors do their job. If there isn’t enough SKA2, or it is altered in some way, the stress hormone receptor is unable to suppress the release of cortisol throughout the brain.

In some subjects who had this mutation, researchers also found certain chemicals, called methyl groups, added to the gene. Higher levels of methylation were then found in the study subjects who had committed suicide. The higher levels of methylation among suicide victims were then replicated in two independent brain study groups.

Furthermore, researchers found similar methylation increases in the SKA2 gene in individuals with suicidal thoughts or attempts. They designed a model that predicted which of the participants were having suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide with 80 percent certainty.

Those with more severe risk of suicide were predicted with 90 percent accuracy. In the youngest data set, they were able to identify with 96 percent accuracy whether or not a participant had attempted suicide, based on blood test results.

“We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors from suicidal thoughts to attempts to completions,” Kaminsky says. “We need to study this in a larger sample but we believe that we might be able to monitor the blood to identify those at risk of suicide.”

5 Practices for Calming Racing Thoughts

Racing thoughts may be a daily reality for you or an occasional annoyance. Racing thoughts are common for people with anxietywhen they’re facing a stressor. They’re also common in bipolardisorder, ADHD and other medical conditions, according to Marla Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders.

For instance, anxious thoughts may be a string of worries. Deibler shared this example:

“I don’t have a date for the party tomorrow. I can’t go by myself. What will everyone think? What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have a date? That’s it. I’m not going. But everyone will wonder where I am. I should go. Oh, I don’t know what to do.”

Racing thoughts can be overwhelming, confusing and distressing, Deibler said. They can hinder your ability to concentrate and accomplish daily tasks. They can hinder your memory and sleep, she added.

Various strategies, thankfully, can help to calm and quiet racing thoughts. Below, Deibler shared five tips.

1. Refocus on your senses.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice how your body feels along with what you hear, see and taste. “Allow the thoughts to come and go, as part of, but not the entirety of, your experience,” said Deibler, director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC.

Avoid judging or responding to your thoughts, she said. “Observe them as they run through your mind, turning down their volume so that other senses may also be experienced more fully.”

2. Imagine “leaves on a stream.”

Sit comfortably, and close your eyes, Deibler said. Imagine leaves floating on the surface of a stream. “For each thought that comes to mind, allow that thought to take its place on a leaf and float down the stream. Allow those thoughts to come and go, without responding to them.”

Deibler suggested listening to this guided “leaves on a stream”exercise.

3. Breathe deeply.

According to Deibler, “Deep diaphragmatic breathing triggers our relaxation response, switching from our fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system, to the relaxed, balanced response of our parasympathetic nervous system.”

She suggested slowly inhaling to a count of four. Fill your belly first, moving up to your chest. Gently hold your breath for a count of four. Slowly exhale to a count of four. Repeat this cycle several times, she said.

4. Practice guided meditation.

Guided meditation also helps to calm your body and your mind, Deibler said. She likes this meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn. (YouTube offers an array of practices from Jon Kabat-Zinn and other meditation teachers.)

5. Practice progressive muscle relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that activates your body’s relaxation response. It includes tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. This video has a guided practice. Or you can read instructions at this website.

Deibler also suggested this link, which offers additional mindfulness exercises.

Again, racing thoughts can feel overwhelming, sabotaging your sleep and ability to focus. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation exercises can help to calm your body and your mind, quieting racing thoughts and helping you refocus.

21 Signs That Your Worries Are Out of Control

Bad things happen from time to time, do they not?

And it makes a lot of sense to prevent them from happening.

Yet, sometimes the bad things in life just show up.

Does worrying about it help?

woman low self-esteemWell, worry is a signal that something bad might happen. It’s useful. Worry let’s you know where to direct your attention to solve potential problems.

If you did not have the ability to worry, who knows what you would allow to happen in your life. It would be dangerous.

• If the company you work for is in trouble, you worry about money.
• If you find a lump under your skin, you worry about your health.
• If you child is failing school, you worry about his or her education.

If you handle the worry well, you allow it to spur you into action. You plan to get a new job, perhaps. You see a doctor right away. You meet with your child’s counselor and teachers. You get on it and solve problems where you can.

Handle worry like this:

1. The worry identifies where you need to take action.
2. Take action to solve problems.
3. When you’ve done all you can, accept the results.

So, worry can play a role in preventing bad things from happening. However, worry itself prevents nothing. The key is taking preventive actions that head off problems. Healthy worry is thecatalyst for taking actions that resolve the worry.

If you find yourself embroiled in worry about stuff that may or may not happen, and the worry doesn’t lead to constructive, necessary actions that put an end to the worry, then you might consider that chronic worry is a problem for you to address.

Here are 21 signs that your worry has gone too far:

1. You still worry after you know you’ve done all you can.

2. You worry about (rather than prepare for) things that are out of your control.

3. You invent fantastic scenarios to worry about.

4. You take on other people’s worry.

5. You worry about things that have already happened, replaying them in your head over and over.

6. You automatically assume the worst-case scenario.

7. You experience prolonged physical stress due to worry.

8. You self-medicate worry with to addictive behaviors.

9. Worry affects your sleep, keeping you awake into the night. (Incidentally, sleep is so important for your health that if you cannot turn off your mind at night, you should investigate this simple sleep program.

10. You experience chronic muscle tension from the stress of worry.

11. You experience digestive issues due to worry stress.

12. Chronic worry leaves you feeling depressed.

13. Worrying makes you irritable.

14. People around you are always trying to calm you down or talk sense into you.

15. You feel worried even when you don’t know what you are worried about.

16. If there is nothing to worry about, you find something.

17. It’s hard to let go and just enjoy what you are doing, as if you cannot be content to be worry-free.

18. If someone is late, you immediately assume disaster.

19. Worry makes you superstitious, so you engage in rituals to keep luck on your side.

20. When you’re worrying, nothing reassures you, even if the reassurance is perfectly logical.

21. It doesn’t seem at all possible to live without worrying.

Interestingly, chronic worry can be a form of self-sabotage. As useful and healthy as worry might be under the right circumstances, chronic worry acts more like a monster that destroys your peace.

A tendency worry chronically can come from an underlyingpsychological attachment to past experiences. At some point, you may have learned – from a child’s perspective – that “nothing ever turns out right” or “bad things are going to happen.”

Experiences like these early on in life form patterns in our unconscious mind and manifest as compulsive thought patterns that plague us as adults. We’re so convinced that the past will repeat itself that we project all the bad possibilities into the future and begin to ruminate on them.

The key to ending chronic worry is to address the underlying psychological attachment that breeds a continued sense of helplessness – the same helplessness you felt as a child that is now recycling itself daily in your present life.