Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health disorders afflicting society. Even though millions of individuals suffer from these disorders each and every day, people are often left feeling as though they are isolated and alone due to the perceived stigma attached to them.
Depression affects over 350 million people worldwide and can affect all aspects of a person’s life. Those suffering from depression often experience a wide variety of symptoms such as low mood and motivation, low self-esteem, and loss of interest in activities they previously found enjoyable. In addition, those with depression often experience sleep disorders, irritability and anxiety, loss of energy and fatigue, problems with memory, suicidal thoughts or persistent thoughts of death. Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, sadness, and loss of self-worth are often seen as well. Physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, pain, and other physical ailments are often experienced.
Women are at a70% higher risk of experiencing depression at some point in their lives and their experiences tend to be different than those of their male counterparts. Women tend to experience more symptoms of guilt and sadness whereas men often feel more restlessness and anger.
Despite the common occurrence of this disorder and more campaigns surrounding awareness, only 50% of people will actually seek conventional therapy for their depressive symptoms. This disorder is experienced in both men and women and is not limited to adults. Children and adolescents can also suffer from this debilitating condition with over 3% of adolescents aged 13-18 having experienced a significant episode. Genetics and heredity also play a factor in the development of depression and anxiety. Those with family members who suffer from these disorders are more likely to experience them at some point in their lives.
Anxiety is a normal and healthy process which creates the fight of flight response within the body during times of stress or danger. This can become a problem when this high level of anxiety is experienced for a long period of time without any imminent danger being present. Anxiety disorder causes feelings of uneasiness, fear or worry. Other emotional symptoms can include racing thoughts, feeling of impending doom, and fear. Physical symptoms may include chest pain similar to a heart attack, racing heartbeat, rapid breathing, headaches, and sweating, in addition to many others. These symptoms will often come on in response to a non-dangerous situation and can cause people to avoid encountering the trigger by avoiding places, items, or people.
Both depression and anxiety have seen dramatic increases in the population over the last several decades. Increased work, family pressures and the habit of multitasking are seen as factors contributing to the rise in these two disorders. Social media and Internet use has also had a dramatic effect on how we feel about the world we live in. We are constantly exposed to the dramas of the world, which we were not previously exposed to with such frequency. Images on social media sites depicting abuse, war, government corruption, conspiracy theory, model-esque body figures and online bullying and trolling are presented to us thousands of times per day. This constant negative stream of images, videos, and news is often unbalanced by positive messages and can leave the population feeling depressed and anxious.
With so many factors influencing our mental health, what can we do to reduce our likelihood of developing these debilitating mental health disorders? One of the key factors to maintaining our mental health can be achieved through balance within our daily lives. It is important to provide ourselves with mental down time throughout our day to keep ourselves healthy. Exercise and participation in sports helps to keep our bodies and minds healthy through release of brain chemicals (endorphins), which are induced by exercise. This also takes us away from the negative effects of too much time on the Internet or on social media sites and provides us with more positivity through the social connections we form during these activities.
Limiting our work schedule to only that which is necessary is also very important. Overwork without enough leisure time can leave us feeling stressed and pressured, can increase our fatigue, and disrupt our social relationships and leisure activities.
Reducing the time we spend on social media sites is also very important as is choosing more positive sources of entertainment in the form of video games and movies. Elimination of negative people on our social media pages and our lives can also make our experiences on these sites more pleasurable and balanced. Movies and video games which have a more positive message and lack violence and despair are also a good way to balance the scales.
Knowing when you can’t do it on your own is also crucial. While some instances of depression and anxiety require only lifestyle changes to see improvement, many people will struggle to regain their balance. If you are feeling persistent symptoms of either of these disorders it is important to speak to your primary care physician. Certain medical issues may mimic or cause symptoms of depression and anxiety or contribute to their severity. Your mental health is as important as your physical health and physicians are more than familiar with both the physical and psychological issues surrounding anxiety and depression.
Should no underlying physical issues be present, medications or therapies such as counselling will often be suggested and are often used as a combined therapy. Not all depression or anxiety sufferers will require medication for extended period and some may not require any at all. Counselling services of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist are very helpful in their clinical environments and the methods learned at these sessions will provide sufferers with many useful tools to help eliminate or alleviate their symptoms in their day-to-day lives.
Campaigns for mental health awareness are becoming increasingly more popular and aim to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma often felt by those who are battling these symptoms. With so many people experiencing these invisible illnesses at some point in their life, it is important to realize you are not alone. If you are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, talk to a trusted loved one or friend, consult your primary care physician, or reach out to your local mental health and wellness service.
If you have further concerns about mental health or anxiety and depression, our team of physicians at www.askthedoctor.com is here to help find you a solution. We wish you well and hope to be of any assistance, any time!