At some point in our lives, most of us will be personally affected by our own or a loved one’s mental illness. In fact, 1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime.
Depression and anxiety are common, and tend to go hand in hand.
Many people are reluctant to ask for help or are unsure when to ask for help. The good news is that in addition to psychiatrists, primary care providers have the knowledge and experience to address these concerns and do so on a daily basis.
It is generally understood that anxiety and depression can be caused by psychological factors, biochemical factors or some combination of both. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include counseling, medications, exercise and a host of holistic practices.
Here is an example. Grief is the normal human reaction to loss. This may be due to the death of a loved one, divorce or separation from a partner. Mourning and the passage of time are what’s needed for the healing that may take months or sometimes years. But we know that about 25 percent of people will go on to develop what we call a major depression.
So what’s the difference?
Grief involves intense sadness, it is very painful, but it makes sense and does not include a loss of self esteem.
Major depression on the other hand often involves significant sleep disturbance, especially early morning awakening, loss of interest in usual activities, erosion of self esteem, anxiety, agitation or even thoughts of suicide.
What else causes depression and anxiety?
We are still learning but much is known: Family genetics, naturally sad or very stressful events that we don’t bounce back from, biochemical changes and a history of abuse or trauma may all contribute.
We may put off care for months believing that we ought to be able to just buck up and tough it out. Well meaning friends or family may say things to discourage us from taking a medication or seeing a counselor.
When depression takes hold we naturally escalate caffeine use, which at first acts as a mild antidepressant, but when caffeine exceeds 250 mg a day (6 oz coffee =125 mg, caffeinated 12 oz soda 50 mg, Black tea 50 mg ,Energy drink 12 oz 200 mg, choc bar 20mg) or is consumed later in the day it can reduce the amount of time spent in deep restorative sleep and inadvertently worsen depression.
We may unconsciously self medicate with alcohol. Alcohol increases the neurotransmitter Serotonin in our brains and we temporarily feel better, but the net affect is increasing depression.
Be on the look out for these signs of depression and anxiety:
Losing pleasure in simple things, feeling irritable, crying, sleeping more, hardly sleeping at all, or worst of all, believing life is no longer worth living.
If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one I hope you will seek help. Every primary care provider at Meriter can help you get started on a path to feeling better. Please don’t wait.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Join us on Oct. 5 for NAMI Walks at Olin Turville park.