Depression: When Sadness Becomes More Than Itself

depression

Clinical depression is a growing concern in the Western World.  It has become a common debilitating mental disease with one in five persons in the U.K. having had depression at some point in their lives.  It hits all age groups, income levels, and communities.  Its growth is accelerating to the point that it could become one of the most incapacitating conditions in the developed world by 2020, second only to heart disease.

Normal bouts of sadness are natural occurrences.  Death of a loved one, for instance, may cause one, grief.  In a mentally healthy individual, the intensity may last for a short time and taper off eventually to a steady acceptance.  Grief that spirals into clinical depression however will stay with the individual for the long haul and could disrupt his daily functions.

Depression Is a Real Illness

A person with a depressive disorder is truly sick.  Much like a physical illness in which an organ or its system is weakened, so it is with depression of which its compromised organ is the brain.  Diabetes, for instance, is a physical disease that involves the impaired function of the metabolic system to handle the hormone, insulin.  Likewise, the condition of depression involves an impairment of the nervous system manifesting with the imbalance of certain brain chemicals; low production of neurons and nerve cell connections; and impaired nerve cell growth and nerve circuit functions.

Many factors can trigger depression.  Life events can traumatize people into a depression.  Our biological makeup such as genetics and brain chemistry are major factors as well.  Serious medical illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease can also lead a person into a depressive state.  Some medications used to treat physical illnesses may have depression as its side effect.

The State of Depression Varies for Each Person

The degree, frequency, and length of depressive symptoms are as individualized as the person afflicted by it.  Symptoms vary from person to person with the variety dependent on age, gender, culture, and other factors.  Some people feel only a few symptoms while others are burdened by many.  In addition, there are people, especially children and adolescents, who do not even recognize the symptoms of depression.  Men feel it differently than women and have different coping strategies as well.

Symptoms of Depression

The tell-tale signs of depression include but are not limited to the following:

  • Sad or anxious mood that does not go away for a long time
  • Chronic empty feeling
  • Thoughts of suicide; attempts at suicide
  • Increased pessimism; hopelessness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Decreased cognitive functions.  Depressed person has trouble remembering or making sound judgements or decisions.
  • Physical aches, pains, and other symptoms, such as headaches, palpitations, and stomach aches which do not test positive for any physical illness
  • Feelings of very low self-worth, inferiority, and guilt
  • Chronic reduced energy levels; exhaustion; fatigue
  • Fast weight changes and appetite changes
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed; loss of interest in anything and anyone
  • Markedly reduced libido

Some people may not be aware of their depressed state because symptoms can come gradually to them.  They may have kept themselves busy to avoid feeling sad or hurt.  Eventually the strain does catch up to them and they start to exhibit some of the above symptoms.  Physical pains however without any physical cause may also signal that a person has a psychological issue.

Treatment for Depression

The good news is that depression, even severe cases, can be treated; however, diagnosis and treatment is best at the early stages where recovery is faster.  When you suspect yourself of being depressed, seek professional help as soon as possible.  Expect treatment to include talking therapies with your psychiatrist.  Antidepressant medication may also be prescribed if your situation warrants it.

What You Can Do to Help Yourself

Aside from seeking professional help, there are a number of ways by which you can help yourself feel better.  First thing you can do is take charge of your physical health.  As the mind and body are tied together, whatever affects the body affects the mind and vice-versa.  You can start by:

  • Eating a well balanced diet everyday
  • Beginning and sticking seriously to an exercise program
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and illicit drugs.  These substances just worsen depression.
  • Fixing your sleeping patterns.  Getting a good night’s rest everyday is crucial to your recovery.

Your emotional state needs nurturing as well:

  • Find a trusted friend or family member you can talk to about your issues and emotional condition.
  • Approach depression with a plan.  Write down what you think is causing the problem and the positive ways you can fight your negative state.
  • Join a support group of people with the same problem.
  • Avoid making any major life decisions until you can handle big changes.
  • Avoid piling up more work to perpetually take your mind away from your issue.  You need to set aside time to go over the problem so you can eventually come to terms with it.

stronger than depression

Learn all you can about depression in order to understand the condition better.  The road to recovery may be a shorter path if you simply work positively toward achieving that healing goal.

Workplace Discrimination against Employees with Mental Health Problems

workplace discrimination

People with mental health problems may often exhibit behaviour that triggers bullying and other discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.  If you have a mental health problem, it is important that you know your rights, although applying them may not be easy.

Mental health issues are particularly in the gray area of human rights protection because the law only recognizes a disability if this can be proven under this definition:  “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his [or her] ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”  The difficult thing about proving a mental health problem as a disability is the fact that bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and the like may take on “invisible” symptoms.  Not many people will exhibit all-out signs of their conditions in a social setting much less a workplace setting.  People in these settings are trying their hardest to function normally to keep their jobs and dignity intact.  Mild behaviour may manifest, if ever, which is not enough to let others see the full-blown picture of an employee’s affliction.

The Equality Act

The Equality Act is a law passed in the U.K. to protect people with disabilities against discrimination at work.  If you are a regular employee, a contract worker, or an apprentice, this law protects you from being discriminated on the job, dismissed, made redundant, and even when applying for work.  Volunteers however are not covered by this Act.

A mental health disorder is considered a disability, although your particular condition must be proven in court as such.  If so, it is covered by the Equality Act which deals with:

  • Direct discrimination — you are treated badly at work because of your mental health issue or other employees are treated more favourably than you because of your disability.  This may involve all job stages including recruitment, employment, and dismissal including dismissal from redundancy.  Companies or employers are not allowed to make you take a pre-employment questionnaire concerning your health before a job offer.
  • Indirect discrimination — rules or practices that put workers with mental health illnesses at a disadvantage.  For example, obligatory shifting of work schedules to night hours which may affect sleeping patterns of employees with clinical depression.
  • Harassment/ victimisation — In a situation in which a worker with mental health disability is bypassed for a promotion in favour for someone with good mental health but with much less competence is an example of victimisation.
  • Employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for your disability — some workplace practices applicable to your job are not adjusted for your disability or no aids to help you adapt to the job have been made available
  • Discrimination arising from disability — arises when an employee is “punished” or meted out a consequence borne from his inability to perform his job for a short period of time because of his mental illness.  For instance, if an employee needed to take three days off from the job because of depression, disciplinary action against this employee may take the form of discrimination.

The Equality Act actually offers a broad range of protection against discrimination.  It also protects against discrimination of age, gender, race, religion, civil status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.

Should You Tell Your Employer?

Should you tell your boss or your colleagues at work?  The answer is ambiguous at best and it would depend on you, your situation, and the type of people you choose to reveal your illness to.  If company rules and practices have been unknowingly discriminatory to you and is affecting your working abilities, it may be best to be upfront with your boss or human resources.  Of course, you may not need to tell all; but a certain amount of information which can help them understand your needs may have to be disclosed.

Be prepared for both positive and negative reactions.  Negative reactions may stem from their concern that the job you are being paid for may not be performed properly.  In addition, many mental health illnesses are often misunderstood so that your boss or colleague’s idea of say, bipolar disorder, may be that of an acute case which may be many levels far away from your own.

Set a good time and the right venue to talk to your employer about your condition.  Timing is important, especially when you are dropping a bomb.  Expect a lot of questions or even none at all. Your news may shock so different people have differing ways of accepting the news and working around it.

Remember, the aim in disclosing your illness is to help you get some reasonable concessions so you can perform your job better.  For instance, if you have anxiety problems, you might be able to wrangle a periodic work-from-home compromise.  Or if you have depression, permission for a once-a-day check-in with your mental health provider during work hours may be sanctioned.

 

Having mental illness does not give anyone the right to discriminate against you.  Understanding and a reasonable bit of work flexibility is all that may be needed to help you do your job well.

end mental health discrimination

 

Emotional Issues in College Life

Girl, at table, having trouble studying

The transition from high school to college is one of the milestones that mark one’s transition from childhood to adulthood.  For emotionally healthy young people, the transition is a challenge, positively met with plans, goals, and tests of their newfound independence.  For those with some emotional instability, the transition may compound brewing stress and anxiety, a crippling disadvantage that may outweigh any educational gains hoped for.  Before a student can take on the more demanding life college brings on, he must be in good physical, mental, and emotional shape to cope with inevitable triumphs and pitfalls coming his way from a new environment.

Common Mental Health Problems in College Students

Stress in college is the overwhelmingly huge trigger for mental health problems that may have been absent, hidden, or controlled during high school.  A May 20, 2013 article in the Guardian states, “Those who do experience mental health problems cite coursework deadlines (65%) and exams (54%) as triggers of distress.  Financial difficulties (47%), pressures about “fitting in” (27%) and homesickness (22%) also contribute to mental ill health.”

Common symptoms of mental illnesses plaguing a significant percentage of college students are:

  • Depression — the most pervasive problem among the other mental issues.  Depression can be dangerous as it carries the high risk of suicidal tendencies.  Depression should not be left untreated.  Students afflicted with depression must be aware of the triggers and symptoms and seek professional help in school if available or outside.
  • Anxiety Disorders — Seventy five percent of people who have had panic attacks, social phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the like have had anxiety symptoms before the age of 22.  Anxiety can be debilitating when it morphs into extreme worry based on unrealistic perceptions.
  • Eating Disorders — Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are common eating disorders that affect more female than male students.
  • Self-Harm  — Cutting, burning, or banging one’s head for the purpose of inflicting pain are signals of deeper emotional disorders.
  • Substance Abuse — The abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, or recreational drugs is also a pervasive phenomenon.  Even mentally healthy individuals may fall prey to a drug habit when they start using drugs to stay awake for exams or simply to have fun.  The danger of substance abuse is addiction, sexual promiscuity without safety measures, and even sexual assault.
  • Sleep Deprivation — Drugs, depression, or simply a radical change in lifestyle of which college life can bring on, can trigger insomnia.  Bad sleep habits and chronic sleep loss can exacerbate any mental or physical health condition and even dampen coping mechanisms of mentally healthy individuals.  Insomnia is also a symptom of depression and anxiety.  Students need to factor in their sleep as an important necessity, one as vital as food is.

What Parents Should Know

Any adolescent can develop a mental health problem.  The problem is, parents often think these problems happen to other people’s children, not their own.  It is important to ascertain that your child has the emotional and mental capability to weather the ups and downs of being on their own in college.

Studies are showing that the greatest impediment to success in college is emotional instability caused by depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.  For the majority of emotionally challenged students, emotional instability can spell missed opportunities in their academic and social milieu.  For some whose mental health is in a more dangerous or debilitating condition, their lives could be at stake if their issues remain unaddressed.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the college populace.

It is important to catch the first signs of a deteriorating mental health so that symptoms can be easily reversed.  In such a case, communication, lifestyle changes, and treatment must be addressed in order to effect positive changes and boost coping mechanisms.

college mental issues

What Colleges Should Know

Colleges should be sensitive and alert to the fact that one in five of their student population may likely be suffering some form of mental health issue; but, only a rare few of their students actually avail of the university’s counselling services.  In fact, only a handful would probably admit that they are suffering from anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, impulse control issues, personality disorders, substance addiction, or other mental health problems.

In this regard, universities may need to seriously look into their current student services that aim to address mental health problems.  Are counselling services diverse enough to meet differing personal and psychological needs?  Expanding institutional services or creating partnerships and referral services outside the school to include those such as women’s health centres, spiritual or religious organizations, substance abuse clinics, and the like may be of huge help in boosting student morale and health.

Everything You Need to Know About Stress

Stress Man. Businessman suffers from a headache

What is Stress?

Stress is a normal part of a person’s everyday life. Stress is the way our body responds to daily occurrences and events. It’s a mental, physical or emotional condition which causes temporary mental or bodily tension in our bodies. It can be internal or external. Internal stress comes from an illness or a medical procedure while external stress comes from psychological, environmental, and social situations. Stress can also be bad (with negative effects) or good (with positive effects). The following areas of our bodies can be affected by stress: brain and nerves, muscle and joints, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines and the reproductive system.

stressed-woman-130417

What are the causes?

Stress can be caused by numerous factors. Here are the most common causes of everyday stress:

  1. Internal Stress – This is self-made stress. A person gets stressed because he worries about things that are out of his control or when he does stressful things on purpose like paying bills just a few minutes before the cut-off.
  2. Survival Stress – This is a common response to any type of danger. It triggers the “flight or fight” function of our bodies.
  3. Environmental Stress – This is when the things around you distract you or affect your bodily functions like too much noise, unnecessary pressure and unbearable traffic.
  4. Fatigue and Overwork – This is when a person works too much and overexerts himself for an extended period of time. Stress gradually builds up in months or years and stays for a long period of time.

Business man overworked asking for help

Types of Stress

There are three types of stress:

  1. Acute Stress – This is the most common type of stress. It’s short-term and it’s caused by daily occurrences and demands. Surprisingly, it gives joy, excitement and thrill. One of the examples of acute stress is when riding a dangerous ride in a theme park.
  2. Episodic Acute Stress – This is basically acute stress that happens more frequently. One example of episodic acute stress is when a person aims to achieve an impossible goal and suffers numerous breakdowns and frustrations while achieving that goal.
  3. Chronic Stress – This is the most dangerous type of stress. It can have a devastating effect on a person’s mental, spiritual and physical health. It’s caused by long-term stressful events like miserable marriages, disastrous careers, years of identity crisis or traumatic events.

stress

Overcoming Stress

Managing stress is not easy. But with the help of a professional and willpower, anyone can learn how to handle stress. Here are some tips on how to overcome stress:

  1. Learn some relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
  2. Improve your personal productivity skills.
  3. Keep a journal or diary.
  4. Engage in physical activities or sports regularly.
  5. Discover and practice your conflict resolution skills.
  6. Have a positive outlook on life.
  7. Lead a balanced life.
  8. Express yourself more.
  9. Learn how to say no.
  10. Spend more time with the people you love.
  11. Eat healthy and avoid too much sugar or junk food.
  12. If things become unbearable, never hesitate to seek the help of a professional.