Category: Depression

Helping a Loved One Struggling With Depression

When we see someone we care about struggling with a problem, we can’t help but want to try and fix it for them. It could be a close friend, a family member or the person you’re in a relationship with. All we want is to see them be happy. When it comes to depression, this is a big challenge because you’re limited to what you can do. Trying to “fix” it, does not help.

Sometimes you do and say things that you think are helping, but in reality it’s not helping at all. Instead of saying what pops in your head thinking that it could help, try these Do’s and Don’ts to help.

DON’T say

“get over it” or “you have to think positive”.

Depression is caused by different reasons. Sometimes it’s caused by physical problems, like hormonal imbalances as in the case of thyroid issues and puberty changes. Other times it’s due to negative experiences people go through in life. Although there are people that love attention, for the most part people don’t typically choose to be depressed. Depression affects people’s day to day lives such as trouble focusing in school and work. Some people even struggle with symptoms for many years as it could be difficult to get out of the depressed mood, especially with no help.

If it was as simple as thinking more positive, they would have done that already.

DO say

… I know you’re going through a hard time and want to be here for you. Then, help them get their mind off things. Invite them for a walk, watch a funny movie together, etc.

Also ask them about something good that happened that day or simply point it out to them. People with depression get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts and it helps to have someone on the outside remind them of their strengths.

DON’T ask

“what do you have to be depressed about, you have so much to be grateful for?”

DO ask

them what depression is like for them. Having them talk about their symptoms gives you a better understanding of what they’re experiencing.

Depression affects people differently. Sadness, irritable mood, always feeling tired and trouble sleeping are all symptoms. Therefore don’t expect their mood to always be sad.

Most importantly, depression has nothing to do with what we have. People from all races, income levels, relationship status and health could suffer from depression. On the outside it may appear that they have it together. But no one knows how that person really feels on the inside.

DON’T

ignore them or give them too much space.

DO

be there, in the background.

This is a hard one because people who are struggling with symptoms of depression want to be alone. Being around people is too draining for them, so they will tell you that they don’t feel like doing anything when you invite them to places. However, leaving them alone just prolongs their symptoms and sometimes makes them feel worse.

Instead, remind them gently that you’re there for them and keep an eye on them, from a distance. Send them a text or call them every few days or once a week just to check in with them.

This is important because research shows that social connections is one ingredient to happiness. Ignoring them completely just feeds into their belief that they’re all alone.

DON’T

lecture them by judging them or telling them to stop complaining.

DO

listen to how they feel. There’s a time and place for tough love, but not when someone is feeling down. You’ll be more helpful by being a good listener and helping them problem solve when they ask for advice.

For example, if a friend is depressed after a break up, telling them how lucky they are and how good this change is doesn’t help. Instead remind them that’s it’s normal and okay to be sad about the relationship ending. Allow them to cry and be sad without judgement. 

DO

Take good care of yourself.

Dealing with a loved one that is depressed can be very draining and frustrating. The last thing you want to do is become depressed yourself. Practice self-care daily,especially before interacting with the person. If you live with the person struggling with depression, make sure you have alone time to relax and re-energize.

 

It’s very challenging dealing with a loved one with depression. But with patience, support and understanding, the symptoms of depression start to get better until eventually they could live a more balanced life.

 

 

*National Suicide Hotline text “HOME” to 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255

 

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.

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Different Types of Depressive Disorders

In the last post, I wrote about the different types of anxiety disorders according to the DSM-5, the manual we use for diagnosing disorders. You could check that post out here. Today I wanted to educate you on the different types of depressive disorders. A lot of times people have symptoms of both depression and anxiety, and sometimes symptoms are exclusive.

Depression could be tricky because some people get really good at hiding it. They could go to work and school with no problem, socialize with people, and even act happy. But when they’re alone they suffer in silence. Also, not every shows sadness when depressed, instead they express it in the form of anger.

We really don’t know what causes depression. There could be many biological and/or environmental reasons. Treating depression does not have a deadline. It’s not like when you break a bone and you are told to put it in a cast for x amount of weeks or months.

Depending on the severity, it takes time, support from professionals and loved ones, and spiritual strength to feel better.

If you ever get to the point where you’re having suicidal thoughts but don’t want to worry friends or family, remember you can always speak to someone  at the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255

Remember, only a licensed professional can give you a diagnosis.

Normal Sadness

Sadness is a normal emotion we feel. If you’re going through a major change in your life, it’s normal to feel lost, alone, have no motivation for anything and simply want to be left alone. Normal sadness is typically related to some circumstance that has happened. Some examples are, wanting to change/improve your life because there’s no excitement anymore but you don’t know how, ending a relationship, being unable to work, going through medical issues, etc. It’s a temporary decrease in mood.

However, when that sadness is chronic; you feel it every day for weeks and months, that could be depression. A rule of thumb is that if symptoms are so severe that it interferes with going to school, work, your health, or socializing, it’s a problem.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

This disorder is given to 7-18 years-olds. Symptoms include persistent irritable and angry mood most of the day, almost every day. Their anger outbursts are so bad they have problems in school, at home, and with peers.

This is more than the normal attitude teens may give or temper tantrums kids throw if they don’t get their way. There’s an ongoing patter of hostility and even defiance towards authority. It’s different from Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) in that ODD is more of a conduct disorder (behavioral), and DMDD is depression expressed as anger.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depression is categorized into different categories depending on how serious the symptoms are and how long someone has been having the symptoms.  Mild, Moderate, or Severe. It’s also categorized by how frequent it happens, single episode and recurrent episode.

Single episode could be never feeling depressed your whole life, but then something happens, like being involved in a really bad car accident, then feeling severely depressed for 3 months. But then you get help and are able to be yourself again. Recurrent is when someone struggles with symptoms of depression, gets better for a few months, but then gets depressed again.

Symptoms of Depression include for at least two weeks everyday, having no motivation, loss of interest in anything, crying, irritable mood, feeling sad most of the day nearly every day, changes in appetite, low energy, trouble concentrating, sleeping too much or too little, ruminating, suicidal thoughts or thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or someone else.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the new DSM-5, Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer a separate disorder. Instead it’s under Major Depression, as “a seasonal pattern of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder.

This is when someone has symptoms of major depression only during the winter months.

Postpartum Depression

Just like Seasonal Affective Disorder, Postpartum Depression is not a separate disorder anymore under the new DSM-5.

Postpartum Depression is when a woman has symptoms of Major Depression during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Same symptoms as Major Depression but the symptoms have lasted for at least two years.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Severe mood swings, feeling sad or highly sensitive, anger outbursts, irritable mood, anxiety, trouble sleeping, low energy, and changes in appetite are present at least one week before getting period.

Symptoms are so severe that it interferes with going to school, work, or socializing.

Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder

Having symptoms of Major Depression while taking or have stopped taking drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.

 

All of these disorders could be treated effectively with psychotherapy. When symptoms are too difficult to handle, medication could help. However, you could also do some things to help yourself when feeling down. Studies show that spending time with supportive people, practicing gratitude and exercising are just a few things you could do to help increase mood. You can read my post on 3 ways to help you when feeling depressed

If you liked this post, share it with your friends. And remember to subscribe below to automatically continue getting great posts like this one.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.

 

 

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3 Ways To Help You When Feeling Depressed

Everyone feels sad at times. Sadness is a normal emotion. But when you can’t shake off that sad feeling for a long time, it could turn into  depression. Different things could cause symptoms of depression. A break up, a fight with a friend, loosing your job…sometimes just simply growing up and feeling confused.
However,  you can do a few things to help alleviate those negative symptoms.
Here are some proven ways to reduce symptoms of depression. If you practice these consistently, slowly you’ll start to feel some relief and start getting back on track.

1. Surround yourself with positive people.

This is hard to do when you just want to be left alone. Being depressed could make you want to sleep all day and care less about anyone else. However, staying alone could make those symptoms of depression stay longer than it should.
Studies have shown that our relationships are a major factor in giving us a sense of connection to others. If the cause of your depression is the negative relationships in your life, take small steps to try to limit your interaction with those people. I know, easier said than done. Setting boundaries and standing up for yourself is something that therapy can teach you to do.
If you don’t have positive, supportive, caring people around you, surround your mind with people you never met through listening to Podcasts, reading uplifting books and watching motivational You Tube videos. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than only having negative influences in your life.

Some of my favorite authors are  Les Brown, Brian Tracy, and Wayne Dyer.

Some positive You Tube channels that I also love are TED talks, Mindvalley Academy, Jubilee Project and Soul Pancake. Or just check out your own favorite authors/celebrities and watch their interviews.

2.Try scheduling out your day.

Don’t you feel purposeful when you have things scheduled? You might have to be running around but you’re keeping busy. Laying around and having nothing to do will not help your mood out when you’re depressed.

Try scheduling out your day. Also add to your schedule tasks that you look forward to doing. It could be anything from cleaning out a room in your house or organizing a closet, going out to lunch with a friend (also helps with #1), or creating a small “to-do” list for the day. What are some things you have been putting off? Put on your to-do list one step that will get you closer to that one thing. For example, if you’ve been putting off organizing your closet, the first step you could schedule is getting garbage bags ready for the garbage/donation pile.

Having a schedule will give you a sense of purpose and will slowly get you motivated. It’s not overnight, but stick to your schedule and you’ll see a difference.

3.Exercise.

I know, you probably are tired just thinking about it. But this does not have to be going to the gym and lifting weights. Check out my post on creative ways to fit in exercise without going to the gym here.

Exercise is natures mood lifter. We release chemicals in our body when we get our heart pumping from physical activity, which gives us energy. One of the best physical activities you can do when feeling down is going for walks in nature. This could be the park, woods, or the beach if you live near one.  There’s something about being surrounded by trees and/or water that grounds us.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near a park, try stretching out your body. You could even follow along to a beginners yoga video online. The point is to get your body moving and slowly start lifting your energy.

 

If you liked this post, share it with your friends. And remember to subscribe below to continue regularly getting great posts like this one.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

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Simple Activities To Boost “Happiness Chemicals”

How we feel in life basically has to do with our  “brain chemicals” These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Although we don’t have a way to measure how much you have when giving diagnosis, scientist do know that certain chemicals create specific feelings. Sadness, anxiety, excitement…all these feelings are produced by neurotransmitters.

How much or how little of these chemicals are produced depends on a lot of different things. Genetics, environment, past experiences, and diet to name a few.

The good news is that we can do things, on purpose, to help our body out in creating some of these chemicals. Try to do at least one of the following suggestions, everyday.

Eat organic yogurt. We’re talking about “brain chemicals” but the truth is that most of these hormones are in the lining of our stomach. The health of our stomach greatly affects our mood. Think about it. When you have  a “bad” feeling, or feel nervous, what part of your body do you feel it most? It’s usually the stomach.

Probiotics and prebiotics help keep our gut healthy. Drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in fiber to keep your gut healthy.

Give or get a hug. When you give a long hug to someone that you really care about, and you get that warm loving feeling, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. Basically, physically intimate moments releases this hormone. This chemical calms down the amygdala, the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when we think we’re in danger. Oxytocin has been called the “bonding hormone”  or “love hormone” because it makes you feel closer to people.

For women, oxytocin helps in contractions when giving birth and it’s released during breast feeding.

Shock yourself with cold water. Either splash your face with cold water if you’re at school or work, or turn the water to cold at the end of your shower. The cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that goes from our head all the way down to the gut. It helps regulate a bunch of bodily functions like the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract, and other organs of the chest and abdomen.

Reminisce about happy times. Remembering happy memories helps increase serotonin. Serotonin does a bunch of things like helping neurons communicate with each other, improve memory, and most popularly known for increasing our mood. Anti-depressants (SSRI, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is supposed to help our brain “lock in” the serotonin that we already have by preventing it from “fading away” (This is my explanation of it, not the scientific explanation.)

Watch a comedy. There’s a reason for the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. I completely agree with this. When we laugh we release several hormones responsible for releasing stress and tension and making us feel good, including serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

Create small, challenging goals for yourself. Remember when you finished up a presentation you worked hard to prepare for, graduated from school after all those years, or completed a challenge you set for yourself? That small rush of pleasure was your brain releasing dopamine, the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure.

Try setting goals that challenge you in some way. It could be something as simple as cleaning up a messy room, or bigger goals like getting a new job, or getting fit.

Write down how you feel. Writing doesn’t necessarily release hormones, but it does calm down the mind. You could journal, or write short stories. A study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that writing calms down amygdala activity. As I said before, the amygdala is the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when it thinks we’re in danger. Our brain can’t tell if something is real or you’re imagining it. That’s why just thinking about certain things will cause you to feel stressed and activates the amygdala.

None of us can feel happy all of the time. But staying positive and healthy will help you feel more satisfied with your life. And when you feel satisfied with your life, everyone around you benefits.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. And remember to subscribe below to continue regularly getting great posts like this one.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

 

 

 

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Surviving the Winter Blues

With the cold weather, shorter days, and less sun, it’s no wonder that people get the winter blues. Some people even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression that happens during a certain season every year, most commonly in the Winter.

Winter does not have to be this dreaded season. It’s actually the perfect time to relax and recharge. Here are some tips to prevent and survive the winter blues by making the best out of this season.

Cuddle up by the fireplace.

Make Hot Chocolate.

Use a Bright Light Box

Go Snow tubing/sledding or skiing.

Be a kid and make snow angels or a snow man.

Enjoy your favorite soups and stews.

Bake cookies.

Curl up under the blankets with a good book or watching movies.

Go to an indoor pool.

Go ice skating.

Take pictures of the snow falling.

Donate food/clothes/toys you no longer use.

Hit up a Holiday concert.

Go camping.

Go ice fishing.

About the author

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Bethlehem, PA area.

 

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