Coping With Recurring Depression Symptoms

Posted on:

While we likely won't experience all the symptoms of depression, we will certainly experience some symptoms; therefore, we will need a plan for coping with these symptoms of depression. What are some depression symptoms to be on the lookout for? How can we build coping skills to help us navigate through these hard times?

The Frustration of Recurring Symptoms of Depression

There are many other depression symptoms, but I'm going to address the symptoms that I've been coping with on and off over the past three months in a way I haven't since I've been diagnosed and treated. Before I move on to discussing depression symptoms and some ideas for coping with them, however, I'd just like to mention how frustrated and defeated I feel when my depression symptoms get bad again. I realize major depressive disorder is something I'll likely have to manage the rest of my life, but sometimes I just want to get well and stay well. I think this is a topic I'd like to pursue in another post, but that's for a later time. So, let me get back to the recurring depression systems I find myself coping with lately.

Recurring Depression Symptoms 

  • Trouble sleeping. This was one of my biggest depression symptoms prior to being diagnosed. My mind would fill with racing thoughts of self-shame and guilt when I laid my head down at night. I could not manage to find any shred of peace or comfort. Now, most of the thoughts that keep me awake are centered around how much I need to get done. I worry about all of the things I left undone that day, which leads to my next symptom.
  • Daytime exhaustion. This is only natural when I haven't slept at night. I have little to no energy to complete daily tasks, which is why I don't get most or any of them done. This undone work, of course, leads to the guilty feelings I have when I try to sleep at night. It's a vicious cycle. 
  • Loss of concentration and focus. This symptom can also be traced back to not sleeping at night. I'm too tired to focus or concentrate. All my energy is being spent just staying awake and taking care of absolutely necessary tasks. I can't use my brain power on anything else. I truly enjoy reading, but I either can't manage to understand the material or have to read only a couple of pages at a time. It is miserable.
  • Irritability. Once again, I believe this depression symptom can also be attributed to the sleep problems I'm experiencing lately. I find myself snapping at my family and being too harsh and critical of myself. My moods are generally agitated now. I typically feel "on edge." I know that adequate rest could be quite beneficial to me in coping with this depression symptom. 

Coping Skills for Recurring Depression Symptoms

I've been trying to cope with these depression symptoms in several ways. I've started drinking a tea at night that's supposed to be calming and sleep-promoting. I've asked my spouse to help with a couple of my daily tasks. I've gone out with friends a few times, even though I was tired. I've tried reading before bed. None of these things have had any lasting effects.

I know what I should do. I should make a call to my doctor. My scheduled appointment is several weeks away, so I shouldn't wait. I am currently on a prescription to help me sleep, but apparently, it may need to be adjusted. Also, my other antidepressant medication may need some adjustments as well. The medications and dosages had been working well for years, and I hate the thought of going through the medication trial and error process again. Those of you who have been through it know what I mean. With that being said, however, it is the healthy and right way to cope with this symptom of depression (trouble sleeping) that I'm experiencing, which I believe is leading to the other symptoms of depression (daytime exhaustion, loss of concentration and focus, irritability) I'm currently trying to cope with. I will make the call, just as I would encourage you to do.

 

 

 

 

 

How Pride Feeds into Mental Health Stigma

Welcome to the 'Debunking Addiction' Blog from Amanda Richardson

Emotion Regulation Skills for Self-Harm Using DBT

Posted on:

You can regulate your emotions and better respond to distress through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills training. DBT emotional regulation skills have proved to be especially effective in people struggling with self-harm and other self-destructive, maladaptive behavior. 

What Are DBT Skills?

Though DBT can seem complicated at first glance, DBT skills training is essentially composed of four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness

Together, these skills teach patients how to recognize and honor their emotions, regulate emotional intensity, and respond to them without the use of maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Today, we will be taking a look at emotion regulation in DBT. 

What Is Emotion Regulation?

Emotion regulation skills teach patients how to manage negative and overwhelming emotions while also increasing positive emotions. 

The goals of emotion regulation are to help you identify and understand the purpose of your emotions, decrease emotional vulnerability, and reduce emotional suffering.

There are several skills within this module, many of which overlap in their goals. For simplicity’s sake, we will categorize these skills according to the goal with which they best correspond.

Understand & Identify Emotions

The key to emotion regulation is understanding that emotions are not “bad.” They help motivate and organize action, communicate with others, and communicate to ourselves. This skill addresses myths about emotions, such as “My emotions are who I am” or “There is a right way to feel in every situation.” It also makes the distinction between primary emotions (initial reactions to an experience) versus secondary emotions (reactions to one’s thoughts or feelings about an experience), and emphasizes the importance of naming both.

In an effort to understand and identify your emotions, you start by reviewing more descriptions labels for emotions, the prompting events that precede an emotion, interpretations of those events that prompted the emotion, expressions and actions associated with the emotion, and their after-effects.

What to Try When You Need Emotion Regulation

Decrease Emotional Vulnerability

“ABC” Skills

“ABC” stands for:

  • Accumulate positive emotions. In the short-term, do incorporate pleasant activities into your day. In the long-term, create goals and step-by-step plans for meeting those goals in order to build an overall more positive life.
  • Build mastery. Do things that make you feel competent and effective. This will help you combat feelings of helplessness.
  • Cope ahead of time. Rehearse a plan beforehand to cope with upcoming emotional situations. Describe the situation and your potential reactions, know which skills you will use, and visualize yourself coping effectively.

“PLEASE” Skills

“PLEASE” stands for:

  • Physical ILlness. Pay attention to your health and get regular check-ups.
  • Eat balanced meals. 
  • Avoid mood-Altering substances. 
  • Balance Sleep. 
  • Exercise.

Reduce Emotional Suffering

“Check the Facts” & “Opposite Action

Evaluate if an emotional reaction fits the facts of the situation. If if you find that it does, use problem-solving skills to come up with a solution to the situation, or leave the situation if appropriate. 

If if you find that the emotional reaction does not fit, take “Opposite Action” by engaging in behaviors directly opposite to the behaviors you would typically use when experiencing the emotion. 

These skills may sound vague if you are not familiar with DBT. But it will become easier and more natural with practice. Learning these emotion regulation skills will help you understand and make peace with your emotions, and empower you to manage them effectively.

Sources:

  1. Bray, Suzette, “Emotion Regulation in Dialectical Behavior Therapy”. Goodtherapy.org. 2013 March 18.
  2. Linehan, Marsha, “Emotion Regulation Handouts”. DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition. 2015. 

Being More Emotionally Resilient to Reclaim My Life

Posted on:

Emotional resilience is very important to a person's wellbeing. It is a way to describe how well you mentally bounce back from upsetting situations and events. Emotional resilience can be crucial in mental illness recovery where stress can aggravate symptoms. Being able to better handle stress improves stability.

I am often plagued with thoughts of the recent -- and sometimes distant -- past, which can lead to sleepless nights. These thoughts steal me away from my life and occupy too much of my time. Sometimes I'm even angry at how much time is wasted. I'm a busy person and there are so many better things I could be doing. They can distract me from doing the things I enjoy, and sometimes I'm not even mentally present when I spend time with my family. These are red flags to me. I'm not bouncing back as well as I should.

How I'm Improving My Emotional Resilience

I know I have a lot of work to do yet, but I want to share some of the ways I am trying to improve my emotional resilience.

Meditation

Not too long ago I wrote an article about how meditating with mala beads helped me cope with a negative situation in my life. Taking a quiet moment to reflect and say a mantra with each bead really helps me redirect my thoughts. It also gives me a minute to think about a problem and calmly decide my next move. The improvement in my emotional resilience has been noticeable. I carry my mala beads in my purse or as a bracelet in case I'm feeling anxious or angry during the day and need a break to calm my mind.

Creativity

Lots of good artists and writers can be dark. It makes them more human and relatable, and their work seem more honest. Drawing ideas from your personal life can be an asset, plus using them in your work as a coping skill could improve your emotional resilience.

I write all the time. My journal is always with me. It's usually in my purse. Ideas come from anywhere at any time, and I want to be able to jot them down quickly before forgetting them. For me, putting my negative thoughts and experiences on paper makes them somehow easier to work through -- like seeing the words makes them more real. This outlet has also given my emotional resilience a boost.

Early in my recovery, I used art to cope with symptoms and unpleasant feelings. I tend to create surrealist designs to represent what I'm going through. I felt showing my thoughts visually to others validated my experiences. When I was hanging on by just a thread, art got me through some tough times.

Emotional resilience requires detachment, limits, and boundaries.

In the past several months, I have struggled with practicing detachment at work and its hurting my emotional resilience. Detachment is necessary for anyone working in mental health or any other helping field. I take things personally and harbor hurt and angry feelings for a long time. Because I have trouble with detachment, I take my work home with me -- whether I want to or not.

Emotional resilience requires limits and boundaries. Even though I struggle with detachment, I've learned to ask for help and how to know when enough is enough. Some people will never change no matter how much you want them to. I am working on becoming a more patient person, but you can only give a person so many chances. It's okay to cut toxic people out of your life it that's something you need to do to stay healthy and stable.

It's important to me to demonstrate strong emotional resilience as a mom.

It's very important to me to model strong emotional resilience to my daughter, especially since one day she could potentially struggle with mental health issues like I do. I want to learn what's healthy and pass that knowledge on to her. I suffered from emotional instability as a young adult, and I want to give my daughter the tools to prevent that in her life -- or at least to know when to ask for help.

We all know how our mood can affect our day, work, and time with our family. When it comes to living a happy and fulfilling life, emotional resilience is just as necessary as getting enough sleep or drinking enough water.

How do you stand when it comes to emotional resilience? What methods do you use to improve it? Let me know in the comments.

The Correlation between Social Media and Eating Disorders

Posted on:

While I recognize that social media has given rise to many important and positive strides in the global economy—and I'm not here to condemn it—sometimes I wonder, is there a correlation between social media and eating disorders? As a disclaimer, first I will concede that I use social media, so I am aware it has benefits. My husband has built a career in social media marketing. I communicate with one of my closest friends, who lives in London, on Facebook. I have made all sorts of personal and professional connections on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. So the purpose of this article is not to demonize social media or critique those who are active on these networks, but to examine if there might be a correlation between social media and eating disorders in this hyper-connected world. 

How Social Media Exposure Can Cause Disordered Eating Behaviors

As of 2016, clinical research from the University of Pittsburgh has determined that people in the top 25% of social media usage more than double their susceptibility to eating disorders.1 The results of this study are inconclusive as to whether social media influences the onset of disordered eating habits and body image issues, or whether it intensifies already established behaviors through access to "Pro-ED" communities online. But regardless of how exactly social media contributes to the development of this illness, the data shows that frequent exposure to websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit can saturate users with visual content which glamorizes a "thin ideal."

The demographic most acutely impacted seems to be young adults, 19–32 years old, and the research has taken into account people from all different gender, racial, and socio-economic contexts. Because the overarching purpose of social media is to facilitate connections, those who struggle with the isolation and secrecy of eating disorders often use social media platforms to seek out others who are entrenched in the same illness. While this can provide a sense of camaraderie to numb the pain and loneliness, these communities are toxic because they reinforce eating disorders as "lifestyle choices" instead of harmful diseases.

The Dangers of the Pro-Eating Disorder Movement on Social Media

This is not to insinuate that social media as a framework is responsible for the existence of the Pro-ED subculture. But with hashtags like #thinspo, #sizezero, #weighless, and #thighgap which attract thousands of searches, social media can make it both easier and more accessible to find. This normalization—even glorification—of eating disorders on social media not only exacerbates poor body image but also deemphasizes the need for recovery. Instead of pointing toward resources for treatment, these online networks stand between people and the healing that could restore their lives. This is not Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter's fault necessarily, but the correlation between social media and eating disorders is hard to dispute—from my own perspective at least.

Source

  1. Hanmer, J., Hoffman, B., Primack, B., Shensa, A., and Sidani, J. "The Association between Social Media Use and Eating Concerns in U.S. Young Adults." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. September 2017.

 

Anxiety Disclosure and Its Importance

Posted on:

Disclosure is an important part of living with any mental illness, anxiety included. For those unaware, disclosure simply means letting the people in your life know that you are mentally ill. In a future post, I will share some more practical advice for when you disclose, but right now, I want to focus specifically on why I feel disclosing anxiety is so important, and why I feel everyone with mental illness should disclose.

My Struggles with Anxiety Disclosure

First, the obvious: anxiety disclosure is hard. Very hard. You’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position, and that’s never easy. Furthermore – and this cannot be mentioned enough – there’s still an unconscionable amount of stigma attached to being mentally ill.

This is part of why, for much of my life, I rarely disclosed my anxiety. Obviously, my family knew. But when I entered college and began to become more severely impacted by my mental illnesses, I tried disclosing and it didn’t go well. I’ve never been comfortable talking about anything personal, so that was a strike against me. But I kept hearing all the tried and true narrow-minded responses we’ve come to expect. “It’ll pass,” “everybody feels that way sometimes,” or my favorite, “you just have to work harder.” Hearing things like this discouraged me from opening up in the future.

So what changed? A debilitating episode at the end of my time in graduate school completely reoriented my perspective. At that point, I realized:

  1. This was never going to get any easier,
  2. If I had any hope of functioning healthily I needed to expand my support network, and
  3. Nothing was going to get better if I kept my struggles to myself ("Mental Health Stigma Says There's Pride in Silent Struggle").

A Few Benefits of My Anxiety Disclosure

With that in mind, I want everyone reading this, if you have a mental illness, to disclose.

Taking care of yourself will continue to get easier after disclosure. The more people you tell, the more your support network will grow, and the more people you can go to when you need help. If you’re worried about the people you’re going to tell reacting negatively, I get that. But consider this: if they honestly do react negatively, are they really someone you want to keep in your life? Would you not rather keep around those who will be with you unconditionally? Hard as it may be, negative reactions can help you to cut out people in your life that are unnecessarily toxic.

Moving on - disclosing provides people the opportunity who may not necessarily be familiar with the nuance of mental illness the opportunity to be exposed to it. The more people who are exposed, the less strange, foreign, or scary mental illness will seem, and the more we can continue to tailor our society to better accommodate the mentally ill.

Finally – if you need support, whether it’s at work, school, or elsewhere, nobody can give you that support if you don’t disclose. To borrow a sentiment from the TV series The Newsroom, you can’t solve a problem until you recognize that there is a problem.

Stay tuned, in the coming weeks, for another post on practical strategies for disclosure of anxiety and other mental illnesses. Until then, I hope you all take this advice to heart, and will seriously consider disclosing to those in your life.

5 Reasons the Bullet Journal Helps Those with Mental Illness

Posted on:

The bullet journal is the best planner for people living with a mental illness, and I'll tell you why. Organization can be an incredibly important part of mental health recovery, and one of the best organizational systems for those of us with mental illness is the bullet journal. Basically, a bullet journal is a planner you create yourself using a blank notebook. This system allows for all kinds of organizational techniques, from the most colorful creativity to the most bare-bones minimalism. It can be overwhelming to start, but the bullet journal really is the best planner for people dealing with mental illness, because the bullet journal is:

  1. Flexible: it allows for mess-ups or random lists and ideas.
  2. Creative: it provides a low-stakes, consistent creative outlet.
  3. Therapeutic: it aids recovery with mental health-specific pages.
  4. Encouraging: it makes you feel accomplished by keeping a record of your progress.
  5. Compact: it organizes everything in one place.

I've been bullet journaling for almost a year, and it has made me infinitely more organized. I used to miss meetings and deadlines several times a month, but now I can't remember the last time I flaked out on a responsibility. Have you tried bullet journaling? If so, has it been helpful?

Beware of Kratom! It’s Dangerous to Your Mental Health

Here's what's happening on the HealthyPlace site this week:


Kratom is being used as a mental health booster to decrease anxiety, increase focus and energy. Although legal, it’s highly addictive. Read more on HealthyPlace.

Beware of Kratom! It’s Dangerous to Your Mental Health

Have you heard of kratom? Do you know it’s like Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and heroin?  

Kratom is gaining popularity as a mental health booster. It’s used to decrease anxiety, especially social anxiety, and to increase energy and focus. In higher doses, kratom leads to euphoria and pain relief. Kratom’s benefits come naturally, from a plant native to Southeast Asia. It’s legal in the U.S. and you don’t need a prescription to get it.

Kratom acts like both benzodiazepines and opioids. And like them, kratom is highly addictive. Someone using kratom can easily become dependent, needing more to feel the effects they want. Then comes full-blown addiction that requires professional treatment.  

The drug is used by teens to study hard, lose social inhibitions, and feel great. It’s easy for teens to use. They can drink it as a tea, chew it as gum, smoke it, take it as a pill, or eat it. One mom asked her teenage son if he knew about kratom. He replied, “Tons of people at my school use it. Teachers don’t know, but it’s legal so it doesn’t matter.”

The more you—and teens in your life—know about kratom, the better equipped you’ll be to pass on this drug that upfront sounds too good to be true.     

Sources:

Frank, C. (n.d.). Kratom: A legal drug that’s dangerously addictive. Child Mind. Retrieved June 2019 from https://childmind.org/article/kratom-a-legal-drug-thats-dangerously-addictive/  

Kratom. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved June 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1513/kratom

Related Articles Dealing with Addiction

Your Thoughts

Today's Question: Share your experience with kratom, if any, and let us know if you think kratom should be made illegal? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

From the HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

On all our blogs, your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Most Popular HealthyPlace Articles Shared by Facebook Fans

Here are the top 3 mental health articles HealthyPlace Facebook fans are recommending you read:

  1. Support Animals Offer Real Help to People with Mental Illness
  2. When We Need to Talk About Depression
  3. My Drive in the Rain: Exposure Therapy to Help Anxiety

If you're not already, I hope you'll join us/like us on Facebook too. There are a lot of wonderful, supportive people there.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Mental Health Quote

"You have to learn to care about people without taking on all their problems."

Read more mental health quotes.

------------------------------------------------------------------

That's it for now. If you know of anyone who can benefit from this newsletter or the HealthyPlace.com site, I hope you'll pass this onto them. You can also share the newsletter on any social network (like facebook or stumbleupon) you belong to by clicking the links below. For updates throughout the week, follow HealthyPlace on Twitter or become a fan of HealthyPlace on Facebook. Also, check out HealthyPlace on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, where you can share your mental health pins on our Share Your Mental Health Experiences board.

back to: HealthyPlace.com Mental-Health Newsletter Index

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, June 24). Beware of Kratom! It’s Dangerous to Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/beware-of-kratom-its-dangerous-to-your-mental-health

Last Updated: June 26, 2019

PTSD and the Exaggerated Startle Response

Posted on:

When I explain my PTSD startle response to people who don't have much knowledge about the disorder, I like to describe my brain as being "stuck in survival mode." It's the easiest way to describe how I feel to people who don't have PTSD because everyone understands what "survival mode" means.

Sure, not many people I meet have experienced the same type of trauma that I have experienced. But everybody understands the fight-or-flight response. It, and the startle response from PTSD or not, is a shared human experience.

Understanding the PTSD Exaggerated Startle Response 

My favorite example to use when relating my experiences to those without PTSD is the feeling of skipping a step going down the stairs. We've all been there: that moment when your foot reaches for the ground and finds only air; when fear runs up your spine and time seems to slow for a second. It's an uncomfortable feeling, and it can take your body a couple of seconds to calm down after your foot finds solid ground.

That's a feeling I experience every day. My mind has trouble distinguishing between real and false dangers, so it treats them all the same. My triggers can be as little as a shampoo bottle falling in the shower or as big as a car slamming on its breaks in front of me. It doesn't matter. My brain responds the same way, screaming "Watch out!" as loudly as it can. 

My startle response is one of the most embarrassing symptoms of PTSD I experience. Unlike the rest of my PTSD symptoms, I can't just put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay when it happens. It's difficult for me to control my physical responses when I'm in public. I flinch when strangers brush up against me in the grocery store. I jump out of my chair when someone sneaks up to my desk at work. I gasp when someone turns a corner on the street at the same time as me. If I didn't expect it to happen, I'm almost guaranteed to be startled. 

How to Deal with a PTSD Startle Response

I react this way as an adult because of the violence I experienced in my household growing up. As a kid, I never knew when the next bad thing was going to happen. The only way to stay safe was to be ready to act at a moment's notice. Though my environment today is no longer dangerous, my body doesn't know how to calm down. It continues to read incoming sounds and touches as threats and forces me to react accordingly.

I'm still learning how to reduce my PTSD startle response, and I don't have the perfect solution for anyone struggling with similar issues. What I have learned, however, is that it takes time. Little by little, I've begun to relax around friends and family members I know I can trust. In places I feel safe, such as the library or my gym, I've made active efforts to quiet the constant warnings of danger in my mind. 

Trusting your surroundings after experiencing trauma can be scary. The grocery store can feel dangerous. A simple touch on your shoulder can feel like an attack. The exaggerated startle response is a normal trauma reaction, and it's something people with PTSD can work through over time. With my own startle response, I'm learning to relax where and when it matters the most, and I'm proud of my body for taking these first steps towards peace.