Archives for 

seasonal affective disorder

Getting Out of Depression

Some tips to get you out of depression

Major depression is the third most common mental disorder in the US.  Nearly 7 percent of the US population is affected in any one year.  Incidentally, if you are keeping track, the two most common mental disorders are Anxiety disorders and Phobia disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Major Depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has an average onset of 32 years of age and is more common in women than in men.  It is also called “unipolar depression” by those who are familiar with Bipolar disorder.  It may include a subset of depressive disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects people yearly – usually in the winter and Dysthymic Disorder, which is a less severe form of depression.

In order to be diagnosed with Major Depression, a person must meet the DSM criteria including at least five of the following for at least two weeks:
•    Depressed mood most of the day
•    Diminished interest in all or most activities
•    Significant, unintentional weight loss or gain
•    Insomnia or sleeping too much
•    Agitation or psychomotor retardation (slow movement) noticeable by others
•    Fatigue
•    Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
•    Diminished ability to think or indecisiveness
•    Suicidal thoughts

In some cases, depression can be relieved by changes in lifestyle or with psychotherapy, but in severe cases – medication may be warranted.  We are fortunate today in that there are a number of effective medications that have fewer side effects than previous treatments, and the category continues to evolve.

Even with medication – that may not begin working for at least several weeks – some lifestyle changes, and habits may help a person “emerge” from their depression and manage symptoms in the future.

Major DepressionLifestyle changes are difficult, particularly when depressed, but the effort it takes to “soldier through” is worth it in the end.  These tips for helping with depression are not easy – especially when you do not have any energy and don’t feel like getting up, but even though they may not provide a cure – they almost always provide some help.

  1. Get up and move – this is the hardest for most people to do.  It may take a tremendous amount of efforts but even simply getting off the couch or out of bed and walking around the house will help.  Getting up and moving around will increase your blood flow and heart rate will help increase blood flow to your brain and may convince your body that “hibernation” is over.
  2. Get dressed – you may have been wearing the same clothes for many days.  Changing into a “daytime” outfit can help regulate your time clock and may help you feel like you can accomplish something.  If you wear makeup or fix your hair, do so – and by all means, take a shower.
  3. Get out in the sun – don’t stay long enough to get a sunburn but studies have shown that bright light helps your brain wake up.  It resets your internal clock by adjusting your melatonin levels (a hormone responsible for inducing sleep).  It also triggers a “springtime” effect – that again tells your brain and body that winter is over, and it is time to come out of hibernation.
  4. Talk to a friend – making a phone call may not be tops on your mind, but even a wordless chat can help you feel like someone else is aware of your existence.
  5. Watch something enjoyable – even if you don’t want to enjoy anything, do something that would normally make you happy.  Just a little bit of happiness peeking through can go a long way.
  6. Go to bed and get out of bed at normal hours – sleep patterns are often destroyed by depression.  Reestablishing those normal patterns will help reset your internal clock to a natural level.
  7. Don’t take naps – again with both the normal sleeping hours and with the “getting up.”  Reinforcing physiologic habits will help establish normal brain functioning.
  8. Eat healthily – you may want to eat everything, nothing, or only certain foods.  Likely, no matter how much or how little you are eating, you are deficient in some of the necessary vitamins and nutrients – so eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin mineral supplement is a good idea.  B vitamins are especially helpful to restore nerve cell functioning, C and E are useful for combating inflammation that can cause sluggishness, D vitamins are useful to aid in the “sunlight” phenomenon discussed before, Calcium and Magnesium are good for the brain cells which are malfunctioning.

Most people who are depressed will find a lot of these activities difficult – and you may only be able to do one or two a day.  None of this is meant to be insulting, but there is science behind all of it – and others have been through it before.
With the help from the medication and the lifestyle adjustments – you will feel like you are coming out of the fog – and be able to do all of them – or sometimes, choose not to.  Choosing not to do something is different than feeling like you are unable to do something – and you want to have control of your life.

– Melissa Lind

Twelve Days of Seasonal Depression

The Twelve Days of Seasonal Depression – and How to Survive Them

Happy New Year, fellow freaks!

Congratulations on surviving the holidays. This time of year is rough on lots of folks. It’s so bad that psychologists actually had to come up with the term Seasonal Affective Disorder to give a label to the depression many people feel during this time of year. Statistically speaking, more people commit suicide during the holidays than any other time of year.

Bi-polar-2In case you can’t think of a good reason to be bummed, here’s a list. In fact, since we’re all so freakin’ festive, let’s sing it!

The Twelve Days of Holiday Depression (opus 42)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

  • Twelve pounds of gained weight
  • Eleven in-laws bitching
  • Ten hours of sunlight (if I’m lucky)
  • Nine days snowed-in
  • Eight (eight, I forget what eight was for)
  • Seven months of payments on my…
  • Six maxed-out credit cards, and (deep breath)
  • FIVE EXISTENTIAL CRISES wherein I wonder if I’m celebrating for no reason other than to pad some corporation’s bottom line because there just might not be a God after all and this one life might be all I get and I’m wasting it just like my mother always said I would after I dropped out of law school to become an artist and now I have to look her in the eye and tell her “sorry, I couldn’t afford to get you anything this year, but I hand-painted you a card and no, it’s not supposed to be a fish, it’s supposed to be a Christmas tree so I guess you were right all along, so I think I’ll have cup after cup of eggnog until the gift you find under the tree tomorrow will be me, face down in a pool of my own vomit, but what the hell, it’s not like it matters anyway because Santa was a lie you told to get me to behave which makes me wonder if God might be one toooooo! (Pant… pant… pant…)
  • Four calling birds (birds piss me off, OK?)
  • Three French hens (enough with the damn birds, already!)
  • Two turtle doves (See? My TRUE LOVE gave me BIRDS! It’s like she doesn’t even KNOW me!)
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (sigh)

To make matters worse, you could be singing about all these things your true love got you and be single… on Christmas… again. So, now that we’ve had our little sing-along, here’s a bullet list for people who don’t have time for such silliness.

88% Nonsense-Free Checklist of Causes of Seasonal Depression (v2.0)Bipolar?

  • Weight gain leads to lowered self-esteem
  • Debt due to holiday overspending
  • Cabin Fever due to cold weather conditions
  • Stress (due to shopping, family, travel, debt, etc.)
  • Little exposure to sunlight
  • Religious doubt
  • Loneliness
  • Alienation, feeling like an outsider
  • Birds

If even “normal” people tend to get the blues in the winter, just think of how it can affect someone with bipolar disorder! With all of these forces conspiring to make angst the reason for the season, what can you do to avoid the deluge of yuletide despair?

  1. Set a spending limit. Does Uncle Frank in Hoboken, New Jersey really need that 88” plasma TV? Didn’t he get you a bird last year? Send him a more reasonably-priced gift. Don’t have an anxiety attack over whether or not you spent the same amount on someone as they spent on you. That’s not the point! If he or she is the kind of jerk who is going to judge you based on how much you spent on their gift, well… that’s one less person to buy for next year, now isn’t it?
  2. Take time off from shopping to talk with friends and family. Instead of buying someone a gift that will most likely “accidentally” get thrown out with the wrapping paper, take them out to dinner or a movie, something you BOTH can enjoy. Chances are, they need a break from shopping, family, etc. too.
  3. Slow down! Admit that you are human and cannot possibly attend each of the seventeen Christmas events in four different countries you’ve been invited to. Go ONE place Christmas Eve, and ONE place Christmas Day.
  4. Buy full-spectrum light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs may be more energy-efficient, but they can completely suck your will to live. Full-spectrum bulbs are special bulbs used in light therapy treatments. They produce light that is nearly identical to sunlight. Natural light will work WONDERS for your mood. Seriously. I can’t stress this enough. FULL-SPECTRUM LIGHT BULBS. I keep one in my bedside lamp year-round.
  5. If you live someplace with terrible winters, get out of the house BEFORE the storm hits and again as soon as the roads are clear. Facebook will be there when you get back. I promise.
  6. If you ARE snowed in with your family, play in the snow. It’s exercise, which is good for your mood anyway. Consider having a snowball fight. It’ll relieve some of that pent-up frustration. If you live alone, launch a surprise snowball attack on an unsuspecting neighbor. The ensuing chase will provide a few extra moments of fun, and hey, technically, the police count as having company. Make sure to have plenty of cocoa on hand.
  7. Buy a cat. Petting a cat can lower your stress level. Your partridge, on the other hand, will not be pleased.

These are only a few ideas I’ve got on how to beat the wintertime blues. Can you think of any? If so, let us know in the comments section below. If they’re serious suggestions, great! We can use the help. If they’re silly, great! We can ALWAYS use a laugh. When it comes to depression, laughter might just be the best medicine.

Until next time, keep warm, and keep fighting!

-Bruce Anderson

Read more from Bruce: How I Became the Freak in the Corner