What’s The Cure For Depression And Anxiety?
Ever wonder about a cure for depression and anxiety? You’re in good company if so.
Depression and anxiety are often misunderstood. And both are more common than you might think.
In fact, depression affects more than 16.1 million American adults over 18 every year.
And, while struggles with depression can develop at any age, 32.5 years is the median age of onset. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, depression is most common in people ages 18 to 25.
Worldwide, 322 million people live with depression. That is according to the World Health Organization. Yikes! That’s a lot of people.
Speaking of a lot of people….
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults over 18.
The ways to cure depression and anxiety overlap.
What is depression?
Everyone feels sad at times.
It’s part of being human. For people with depression, though, sadness is more intense, far-reaching, and persistent. It’s so much more than “just sadness.”
Depression negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. When depressed, you may question if you’ll ever feel better. Sometimes there’s a triggering event, but not always.
Clinicians categorize depression by type. The most commonly diagnosed clinical form is Major Depressive Disorder.
Other symptoms of depression may include:
- Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Feeling down or sad
- Trouble concentrating
- Low motivation
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep, sleeping too much and still feeling tired)
- Appetite/eating changes
- Thoughts of death – your own, someone else’s, or in general
- Feeling badly about yourself (e.g. you are a failure or disappointment)
- Walking/talking more slowly or rapidly than usual,
How about some good news? Depression is treatable.
“Treatable” means symptoms can be alleviated. Although there is no clinical cure for Depression, it can go into remission.
Definitions of remission vary, but generally have to do with no longer having symptoms. In other words, the disorder is “at rest.”
Please hear this:
Speaking clinically about depression is one thing. But how you live your life and feel is another.
Treatment options for depression include (among others):
Some treatment approaches require working with a professional. There are also many things you can do on your own.
A catch-22 with depression is that the very things you know would be helpful are the same things you have a hard time motivating yourself to do.
Start small. What can you do?
The more your lifestyle is geared toward a healthy mind and body, the better you’ll be able to cope with symptoms of depression (and with life in general).
Examples of lifestyle changes:
- Social connection
- Caring for a pet
- Meditation or yoga practice
- Time in nature
- Meaning and purpose in the everyday
- Eliminating use of alcohol, tobacco, and other ‘vices’
One of the best lifestyle changes you can make is to ditch dieting. In my experience, quality of life soars when Diet Culture rules no longer hold you hostage. Try Intuitive Eating instead.
There are many different forms of therapy and lots of experts to choose from. Providers vary in their credentials and theoretical approach.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common and effective psychotherapy for treating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other issues.
CBT focuses on changing a person’s thoughts and beliefs. It also highlights the impact of thoughts and beliefs on mood and actions. (More information on this is below.)
Participating in a support group can be an excellent way to help you feel better.
People with depression meet as part of a psychotherapy group to talk about their experiences. Usually there is a mental health professional who is the group leader. Group members provide each other encouragement, understanding, and support.
Being in a support group is different from talking with supportive friends and family. People who have had similar experiences often have a deeper understanding of what you’re going through. They know firsthand what depression feels like.
The main benefits of joining a depression support group include:
- Ongoing social contact with people in a similar position
- Opportunities to share struggles and solutions
- Advice from mental health professionals/co-facilitators
Depression medications are grouped into categories based on how they work.
The most common antidepressant categories include select serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and atypical antidepressants.
- SSRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples: Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac
- SNRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Examples: Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq
- Atypical antidepressants work by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Examples: Trazodone, Wellbutrin XL, Remeron
Every person’s body is unique and metabolizes medications differently. Trial-and-error is often needed to find a medication that works. A good place to start is with a medication that a first-degree relative has had a good response to.
People often ask about side effects with antidepressants. As with every medication, there may be some. The most common side effects are constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headache, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, difficulty sleeping, and drowsiness.
Another common question is how long a medication will take to work. If it works, you’ll know within a month or so. Even when you find the “right” medication, you might not notice an improvement in how you feel right away.
What is Anxiety?
Most people know what anxiety feels like because at some point they’ve felt anxious.
Anxiety is a natural human emotion that includes worry, tension, and changes within your body such as increased pulse. As a species, we’re wired to respond to fear (by our fight, flight, or freeze response). That’s how we’ve survived as a species.
So anxiety can be a good thing. It helps you recognize potential threats and keeps you alert.
For some people, anxious feelings quickly come and go. For other people, not so much. They may have an Anxiety Disorder, for which more formal treatment is available.
Anxiety is normal, not a flaw. However, people may get into coping patterns that make anxiety feel like something is very wrong, especially when anxiety is persistent and overwhelming. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, it’s considered a disorder.
Anxiety can take different forms. Symptoms of anxiety, for example, exist as part of several mental health conditions, such as mood disorders and eating disorders.
Anxiety Disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. How sad is that?
The seven most common “official” anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder.
- Social Anxiety Disorder.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
Are there treatments for anxiety?
Yes! Treatment categories for anxiety are the same as those for depression:
The specific type of anxiety determines the best course of treatment.
There are things you can do to help manage anxiety. They are useful to consider, and many are common sense. Things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, having a mindfulness practice, and eating foods that benefit the brain are healthful habits regardless of anxiety. But they become game-changers for the person suffering from anxiety.
Psychotherapy is another effective way to manage different types of anxiety.
One of the best approaches to help with anxiety is Cognitive behavior therapy. The same CBT that is recommended for treating depression is helpful to treat anxiety.
Thoughts affected by depression or anxiety are often negative. You may not even realize that the way you think is problematic. Even though the negative thoughts bring you down and interfere with your daily life, you may think of them as facts.
We commonly accept our thoughts as facts. But they aren’t necessarily facts. They’re cognitive distortions, aka thinking mistakes that you can correct.
Examples of cognitive distortions include:
- All-or-nothing thinking: “I have to be perfect, or I suck.” Or “I ate a ______ so now I can’t eat the rest of the day.”
- Filtering: “No one ever compliments me” (disregarding the times people have complimented you).
- Catastrophizing: “My friends did not invite me to join them. They hate me.”
These are just a few of the several categories of cognitive distortions. When you know how to identify distortions, you can more easily recognize them in your self-talk. In other words, name it to tame it!
And, upon recognizing the distortions, you can reframe them so the thoughts are more neutral and realistic.
Reframing is not about being a Pollyanna. Nor is it toxic positivity. It’s about removing exaggerations and subconscious conclusions that aren’t based in reason or fact so you can “soften the edge” that you experience as anxiety.
Depending on the type of anxiety, medication may be prescribed.
While meds don’t cure anxiety, they can help with symptoms so you can function well and feel better in your day-to-day life.
Many types of medications are available. Because every person is different, your doctor may have to prescribe several different medications before finding the one that’s right for you.
Common medications for treating anxiety include:
SSRIs are used to help improve symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety. Examples include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) is used to treat OCD, Bulimia, Panic, and Depression
- Escitalopram (Lexapro) is used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Sertraline (Zoloft) is used to treat OCD, PTSD, Social anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox) is used to treat OCD, PTSD, Depression
- Paroxetine (Paxil) is used to treat OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Depression
ANXIOLYTICS are used to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. An example is:
- Buspirone (Buspar) is used to treat anxiety. It works as well as benzodiazepines, but with fewer side effects. Also, it’s not habit-forming like benzodiazepines are and can be used in addition to an SSRI.
Benzodiazepines are used to help calm your mind. Doctors prescribe them to treat different types of Anxiety Disorders, including Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.
A downside of benzos is that they can be habit- forming. They also tend to increase drowsiness and worsen balance and memory.
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)/
- Lorazepam (Ativan)/
Other resources for learning more about depression and anxiety:
Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit that helps people living with mental illness. Its mission is to promote overall mental health.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a national peer-oriented mental health organization. Their mission is to provide support and education.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America is geared toward improving quality of life for people with anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD through education.
Chances are you or someone you love has been or will be affected by depression and anxiety. So learning more is important. Awareness and knowledge are empowering and provide a solid base for getting help, whether for you a friend, a loved one, or a colleague.
Depression and anxiety can (and do) happen to anyone. Sometimes it’s obvious when someone is struggling with depression or anxiety. However, many people hide it well. They may deny anything is wrong, even though their struggles are beyond what other people deal with. Stigma can make it harder for people to be honest about feeling depressed or anxious.
While there is still no permanent clinical cure, the way you deal with depression and anxiety is its own type of “cure.” And, even as you read this, clinicians are working to find a permanent clinical cure. It’s just a matter of time.
In the meantime, you have resources within you to help you through.
If you are feeling unsafe, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all calls are confidential.
How do you know if your child’s body image problems are cause for concern?
If you’re thinking, “Oh great! Now this to worry about?” I get it. Just what you need –yet another thing on the mile-long list of concerns.
Please don’t panic!
At every phase of body image development, parents can do a lot of things to support their children’s body image and address signs of body image problems.
Whatever your child’s age, his relationship with his body is important. In fact, his body image is central to his sense of who he is. And it lays the foundation for well-being throughout life.
What is body image?
Body image is how your child feels and thinks about his or her body.
Positive body image means she’s relatively happy with how her body looks and moves. A child’s positive body image is central to confidence and self-esteem.
If a child has poor body image, she feels negatively about her body. Shemay not like how her body looks, or, for some other reason, may feel unhappy about her body. ‘These negative feelings lower confidence and self-esteem.
A child’s relationship with his or her body is one of the most important relationships he or she will ever have.
Children and Body Image
Everyone with a body has a body image — a relationship with that body. As with teens and adults, children can have body image problems, too.
Babies and Toddlers
- We are all born with a body. And that’s where body image begins – as a newborn, with a body.
- A year or so later, babies become toddlers and learn to crawl, stand, and walk. They take pride in doing things themselves.
- Parents can help babies and toddlers feel good about their bodies. You may do this through smiles and praise or by cuddling and playing. Tuning into and responding to their needs is another important way of nurturing children’s developing body image.
- Spend time 1:1 if possible and be mindful of maintaining direct eye contact.
- Body image grows as your child grows.
- Poor body image occurs in children as young as 3-5 years of age.
- For each child, positive body image moments look different. ‘For example, when your son smiles in the mirror after a dental cleaning, delighting in his ‘shiny whites.’ Or when you include your daughter in your gardening, and she enjoys the feel of the dirt on her hands.
- All of these moments are rooted in body image and are an opportunity for you to support your child’s relationship with his body.
- Children naturally want to feel good about their bodies and how they look. They want to be able to do what other kids can do.
- As your child gets older, he will likely compare himself to others. This is normal. But comparisons can go south over time and cause body image problems.
According to research on body image among children:
- More than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as ages 6-8 say their ideal weight is less than what their actual weight is.
- By age 7, one in four kids has attempted some sort of dieting behavior.
- As many as 41% of girls say they use social media to “make themselves look cooler.”
- A whopping 87%of female characters on TV that are between the ages of 10 and 17 are below the average weight for girls their age.
Body image problems are most common during adolescence.
- Puberty is one of the most challenging times for body image (among other things) So much is in flux at this time in children’s lives. The way they feel about their bodies may be one of many changes happening all at once.
- Body image problems are common during this phase of development.
- Your teenager may be excited about the way hisbody is changing. Or she may feel shy and modest. Or your teen may have feelings somewhere in between. All of it is normal.
- Being in a body that is changing can be stressful. Hair grows where it had never been. Body shape changes. Weight gain is biologically natural and common.
- Adjusting to a changing body is about more than just looks. Boys’ voices become more like men’s. Girls begin to menstruate.
Getting used to a body that looks and feels different takes time. It’s an adjustment.
There may be more body image problems than victories. And that’s ok.
- Kids who develop early may feel super awkward at first. Some feel proud.
- Teens who develop late may be excited to finally fit in with their friends.
- Or maybe their self esteem has already taken a hit.
- Your role as a parent is to educate, support, and provide assurance.
Being in a teenager ‘s body can = body image problems: What’s normal?
- Adolescence is a time when your son or daughter is prone to worry about weight.
- Kids become more aware of looks around the time bodies start to change, making physical changes difficult to deal with.
- Some kids grow wider before they grow taller.
- Some become taller and then fill out.
- Their relationship with their bodies can be challenging, especially if their growth sequence causes them to feel like they don’t fit in.
- Preteens and teens may try out new looks and styles, often dressing to fit in or to stand out.
- Some kids focus on what they don’t like about their bodies.
- Boys may wish they had more muscles. Girls may wish they were thinner or had a bigger butt.
- Being self-critical about looks hurts everyone’s body image. This is especially true for teens.
- In addition to speaking negatively to themselves, some kids are teased or shamed about their bodies.
- Bullying in all forms, including cyberbullying, is harmful, whether it happens on social media or in person.
What can parents do to help with body image problems?
It seems almost inevitable that, at some point, Aunt Phyllis or some other well-intentioned person will make a comment about your child’s body. Maybe the comment is in the form of a diet recommendation. Any such talk is likely unhelpful and may negatively affect body image.
Parents have limited control of outside forces, such as peers, media, social media, classmates, and teachers.
But parents do have some agency in their child’s relationship with his or her own body.
If you’re reading this article, you’re clearly a parent who wants to do your best to encourage your teen to feel comfortable in his or her body.
Remind yourself and your teen that health and happiness are not equated with weight loss or weight gain, nor with appearance in general.
You could help your teen focus on his or her talents, passions, strengths, and other valuable qualities, along with appearance.
Talk with and listen to your child. Talk about everyday things — school, friends, sports, classes — and even bodies and body image.
Show interest in your child’s interests, hobbies, opinions, and schoolwork.
Minimize the focus on appearance. Encourage your child’s passions and the discovery of special skills, talents, and joy.
A healthy body image comes from accepting one’s body, liking it, and taking care of it. Even when there are things kids can’t do, they can feel good about what they can do.
Talk about your own body in positive ways. Accept your own body and take good care of it. Kids will pick up on this and do the same for themselves.
A child’s body image can improve, even if it has been hurt.
The most important thing for you as a parent is to be a good body image role model.
Dr Elayne Daniels is in private practice in the Boston area. Areas of expertise include body image and eating disorders. She’s passionate about helping people improve their relationships with food and their bodies.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? Or married to a Highly Sensitive Person? Either way, you’re a lucky duck! Especially when you understand what being an HSP means. Certainly the more you know about High Sensitivity, the more ease you’ll have navigating unexpected challenges and enhancing unexpected joys.
Don’t worry if you’re feeling frustrated or confused about your spouse’s High Sensitivity. Once you understand what it is, you’ll be able to identify it and discover all the joys of being married to someone who is highly Sensitive.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
An HSP’s nervous system is hardwired to process subtleties and notice details others often miss.
Dr Elaine Aron literally wrote the book on HSPs. She and her husband have conducted extensive research since the 1990s.
The only way to definitively determine if someone is an HSP is by a brain scan. Using questionnaires is more practical and common. Approximately 15-20% of people are HSPs, with an equal distribution across genders.
High Sensitivity has four main features, present from birth and throughout life. The acronym “DOES” is a handy way to remember the core characteristics.
The four characteristics of an HSP include:
D: Depth of Processing:
Depth of processing is at the core of High Sensitivity. And is central to the challenges and joys of being married to a Highly Sensitive Person.
HSPs process just about everything deeply, thanks to a part of the brain called the insula. It’s here that self-awareness and perception are intensified in the HSP.
You can’t see depth of processing externally, but you can definitely notice it indirectly. Typical presentations would be when your HSP spouse is deep in thought or responding strongly to something happening nearby.
Here’s another way to think of depth of processing: Everything HSPs experience leaves “residue.” The residue may be in the form of thoughts, feelings, impressions, bodily sensations, or memories.
HSPs deeply experience the negatives and positives in life. Stress and fatigue naturally result. Deeply experiencing life can be tiring, even when life is filled with lots of positives and good things.
“Pause and reflect” is standard operating procedure for those who process deeply. A slower transition between tasks is common.
HSPs react to what happens in the environment and then deeply process it. Reactions include observations, reflections, and feelings.
Overstimulation is likely because of all the deep processing. Things simply become “too much”.
High arousal levels affect cognition. The HSP may experience poor concentration or a sudden blanking on words. Becoming tongue tied, especially when put on the spot, and then feeling tense or anxious are additional cues of over-stimulation.
HSPs become over-aroused and overstimulated more quickly than non-HSPs. High levels of input can be exhausting.
E: Emotional Responsiveness/Empathy:
From the first moments of life, HSPs experience emotions intensely. Even as young children, HSPs have deep empathy. They are the children who insist on bringing the spider outdoors instead of flushing it down the toilet. They can also tell when a classmate feels sad, and may feel compelled to offer comfort.
HSPs tend to respond more emotionally than non-HSPs to the same situation. This is true whether the situations are good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.
Brain studies demonstrate that HSPs’ mirror neurons are more active than those of non-HSPs. This explains why the capacity for empathy is so intense.
S: Sensitivity to Stimuli/Sensory Awareness:
A personality trait called sensory-processing sensitivity, or SPS, is present at birth.
HSPs are born with SPS. That’s why Highly Sensitive People respond strongly to internal and external stimuli.
Examples include hunger and pain, noise and light. HSPs, for instance, are more likely to feel the uncomfortable effects of getting too hungry. They also tend to feel pain more intensely than non-HSPs. Their response to things like sounds and light in the environment also tends to be greater.
What are unexpected joys of being a Highly Sensitive Person?
1. They’re thoughtful and conscientious, with a commitment to doing things the right way. They can be quite principled.
2. HSPs are intuitive and perceptive. They naturally pick up on nuance, micro-expressions, and nonverbal cues.
3. Creativity and imagination are common among HSPs. Vivid dreams and a rich inner world are common, as well.
4. HSPs are emotionally responsive toward people and animals. They’re caring and have a lot of empathy.
5. Most HSPs are spiritual and feel a connection with nature.
6. Everyday beauty and joy are deeply moving to HSPs.
7. HSPs notice little things that others miss, like the cloud formation that looks just like a happy smile.
HSPs thrive in environments – and relationships — conducive to their DOES needs. Perception, empathy, creativity, and spirituality prevail when HSPs thrive. (This is called vantage sensitivity.)
What are the unexpected challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person?
1.HSPs tend to ruminate, feel overwhelmed, and have a difficult time making decisions.
2. Transitions are difficult and take longer.
3. HSPs often feel misunderstood, different, weird, and/or lonely. The world isn’t set up for HSPs.
4. HSPs tend to feel guilty if they prioritize their own needs.
5. They perform worse when observed.
6. HSPS are more prone to anxiety, depression, and sleep deficits.
7. Effects of lights, noise, scents, and textures are amplified for HSPs.
HSPs don’t function as well in overstimulating environments. Why? They feel anxious, ill at ease, depressed, and irritable, and they have trouble concentrating. Challenges prevail over joy.
What are typical challenges and joys of being married to a Highly Sensitive Person?
The same HSP qualities can be a challenge or joy, expected or unexpected, depending on context and perspective. This is true for both the Highly Sensitive Person and the spouse.
Here are four challenges of being married to a Highly Sensitive Person:
1. HSPs need time to recharge their battery, especially at the end of the day, after a social event, or even upon the start or end of a vacation. Taking time to process, rest, and restore each day is a necessity, not simply a luxury.
Non-HSPs aren’t likely to consistently need time to process, rest, and restore. Their “battery” tends to remain sufficiently charged.
The difference in need for downtime can create a challenge if you don’t recognize and honor each other’s needs
2. HSPs can rapidly go from feeling totally in the mood, i.e. sexually turned on, to shut down.
HSPs have the capacity for intense passion and pleasure. They can be super in-tune with their own experiences of ecstasy and can seamlessly join with yours. However, one seemingly “minor” (but not minor to you) remark can shut down the whole scene, just like that, especially if she perceives rejection or unfavorable comparisons.
An unexpected noise, the doorbell or phone ringing, or the kids’ voices can also cause her to lose interest. And……it’s over.
3. The ‘thin skin’ of HSPs means they’re vulnerable to hurt feeling
“I’m just joking” comments sting HSPs. And the sting lasts. There is no “just get over it”.
You may lament that you have to think before you speak, or that at times you’re walking on eggshells.
You may have thoughts like, “Why is she so sensitive?” or “I was just kidding. She really needs to find a way to take a joke!” or “I don’t even know what I said to upset you.” (Which can make her feel even worse.)
4. Hunger and low blood sugar levels quickly become ‘hanger.’ Feeling tired and ready for bed easily become utter exhaustion. The needs to eat and sleep are non-negotiable.
So telling your HS spouse to just wait a couple hours and you’ll grab a meal is not going to work. She will become hangry – irritable, out of sorts, and even mean. The same thing happens when she is tired. As an HSP, sleep is central to well-being. She can’t skimp on sleep without negative effects.
And she probably knows from experience that having snacks with her is essential!
Here are four joys of being married to a Highly Sensitive Person:
- When HSPs have downtime after a period of stimulation, they recalibrate their nervous system. Their creativity, humor, silliness, and best self shine. They go from being a wilted flower to bright and perky.
The joys that ‘stem’ (pun intended) from their replenishment remind you that her High Sensitivity can be a beautiful thing!
- HSPs deeply experience sexual pleasure. When they feel sexual desire, you become the recipient of stuff dreams are made of! Being present to the delight she is feeling in her body and in yours is a turn-on that’s unlikely to get stale.
- Sincere compliments and everyday thoughtfulness go a long way. Her love language often includes all five! HSPs are loyal and love deeply.
- When an HSP’s system is well balanced physically, you know it. She functions best when she has had enough sleep, is properly nourished and hydrated, and has had time in nature. The formula for optimal functioning is simple and consistent.
The gifts HSPs bring to the world – and to your relationship – are meaningful and unique, especially if you remain aware of the High Sensitivity trait and maintain open communication.
You’ll minimize/avoid inevitable pitfalls by remembering that your Highly Sensitive spouse’s brain is finely tuned to notice and interpret just about everything around her — including things you say and do. Even when you may not be aware of what you’re saying or doing or mean anything personal by it, she’s aware.
Keep in mind that HSPs are not deliberately monitoring your every move, although it can certainly feel that way if you’re unfamiliar with “DOES”.
Your HSP spouse processes information on a deep level. She sees multiple connections between things in the world. And she profoundly cares about people, the environment, and social issues. Her everyday experience of sounds, sights, tastes, fragrances, and touch is intense. All of this is her nature. At most, she may be able to override her DOES for short periods of time. But she will likely require a longer period afterward to recalibrate.
Exploring and understanding the unexpected challenges and joys of being married to a Highly Sensitive Person are an investment in your relationship. They are also an investment in the quality, depth, and meaning of your own life.
Your HSP spouse has superpowers. Understanding the High Sensitivity trait benefits you, your spouse, and your relationship.
Its benefits are far-reaching, even beyond your marriage. Especially when you recognize the gifts of “DOES”.
Hi! I am Dr. Elayne Daniels, a psychologist in the Boston area specializing in helping Highly Sensitive People thrive. Click here if you’d like to learn more about working with me.