1. When will Spring come? Overcoming Seasonal Depression

    March 12, 2014

    When will Spring come? Overcoming Seasonal Depression

    by Daniela Aneis

    I had a depressed patient in psychotherapy that used to ask me frequently “When will Spring come?” meaning when would she overcome depression and see the light at the end of the tunnel (We started treatment in the Fall so her question made sense at the time). A few months into treatment and feeling quite better, she said to me: “I don’t know why I thought it would all be better in the Spring. It’s still raining and cold and I feel better. It’s all me [referring to several changes she made in herself, her habits and the way she saw herself and depression].”

    To set the record straight: clinical depression is a life threatening condition if not properly treated and needs professional treatment. Both pharmacological and psychological treatment. But I’m not going to talk to you about clinical depression but about what might be called seasonal depression – a mood fluctuation due to seasons passing and usually is felt during the Fall or Spring. People go through it without realizing but it can make small damages into your life. You may feel inexplicably sad, without the motivation and energy to pursue your goals, isolated. And if you’re having other problems in your life, you might just be opening the door to let the clinical depression settle into your life.

    So watch out for the signs before you open the door to let depression in. Instead try to make it feel like Spring is here earlier.

    Seasonal Depression: What are the signs?

    • Do you feel drained? Without energy?
    • Do you feel like sleeping too much or not enough?
    • Are not motivated to do things or start new projects?
    • Having been feeling sad lately for no good reason? Or experiencing mood swings?
    • Have you cried more than usual?
    • Do the things you used to love doing not give the same pleasure as they used to?
    • Do you feel like staying at home all the time and don’t feel like going out or being with friends as often as you did?

    If you’re experiencing some or must of these signs, you may be experiencing a seasonal depression. Watch out for these signs and try some of the strategies presented below.

    A few to tips on how to let the Spring in earlier:

    • Open your windows, let the sun in. Winter is a season where there’s less natural light, the weather is gray and rainy most of the days and lack of natural sunlight often aggravates depression.
    • Clean the house. Literally! Organizing your home space and getting rid of the junk will make you feel lighter.
    • Make the best out of the sunshine. Are you feeling tempted into spending a lazy Sunday indoors? Go outside and get some sun!  Even if just for an hour it will have enduring effects on your mood.
    • Practice exercise. Exercise creates a relaxation state and helps you take off the steam.
    • Be with friends. Isolation is not only a sign of depression but it works as fuel to the depression cycle. Break the cycle and set a date with your friends.
    • Sleep well. Not much! And wake up early. A good night sleep is usually everything. So try to keep health sleeping habits (like going to bed at the same time every night, doing relaxing stuff before going to bed)
    • Make the best out of your day. Try to do different things and step away from your routine.
    • Watch out for the signs. And make necessary adjustments to counteract its effects. What do you need to change in your life that will ease some of the seasonal depression’s signs and effects?

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35924887@N02/5448338240

  2. How to Identify and Manage Depression and Anxiety

    December 12, 2013

    Manage Depression and Anxiety

    by Vickie Parker, LMFT

    In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, # IV) there are three stages of depression; mild, moderate, and severe. There are nine criteria used to diagnose Major Depressive Disorder (MDD);   


    –  Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.

    –  Mood represents a change from the person’s baseline.

    –  Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.

    –  Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these, present nearly every day:

    1.  Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly everyday, as indicated by either  subjective

    report: (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).

    2.  Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day

    3.  Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite

    4.  Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia

    5.  Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation

    6.  Fatigue or loss of energy

    7.  Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

    8.  Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness

    9.  Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide plan

    Depression can be caused from unfortunate circumstances in our life, like loss of a loved one, losing a job, or moving to a different location.  There are many other examples, but these are just a few.  When depression is caused from a situation it is called situational depression and the depression should pass in a reasonable amount of time.

    If the depression continues for more that 6 months it could turn into clinical depression, which means the brain is not producing enough neurotransmitters for us to work through our depression and a lot of times antidepressants need to be prescribed from a physician to help us think better, thereby helping to alleviate the depression.

    Depression is usually treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  One book that helps to deal with depression is “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns.  This book discusses the exercises that help with identifying destructive thought patterns, so we can change them and start looking at things differently and “feel better”.

    Depression can also be cause from a lack of connection with others.  We isolate ourselves when we start feeling depressed or we feel isolated from others and that leads to depression.  It is important to always stay connected to others through some sort of social activities.  Could be through your church, volunteer groups, or social clubs.

    If we do not have a good balance in our life, depression usually only gets worse.  It is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of good sleep every night and have a routine of going to bed and getting up at a regular time each day.

    Exercising helps us sleep and feel better. Without some form of exercise in our life we are much more prone to depression.  Just taking a 30 minute walk daily can make the difference in how we feel. Work on getting a walking partner and that will help you stay connected to someone.

    Eating a balanced diet and keeping our weight down is also essential in feeling good and not getting depressed. There is good information on eating a good balanced diet on the web and creating a healthy lifestyle. Make a plan and find an accountability partner to help make the changes. Discipline and a desire to change and do the work makes the difference in our success.  It will not happen over night so be patient with yourself.  The secret is commitment and consistency.

    Anxiety that escalates to the level of clinical condition is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and the symptoms are;

    • Irrational worry
    • Preoccupation with unpleasant worries
    • Trouble relaxing
    • Feeling tense
    • Fear that something awful might happen

    Anxiety is also treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and relaxation exercises help with relieving the intensity of the anxiety.  Practicing the relaxation exercises daily trains our brain to know what it feels like to relax.  Deep breathing and visualizing a peaceful place is where it starts.  Don’t get discouraged if your brain has a hard time staying focused and slowing down, just keep practicing.  It works. Create a quiet, peaceful environment with some soft music and low lights to practice every day at least three times.

    Often anxiety can lead to clinical depression, if not treated properly. When we are anxious our bodies are in a constant “Fight or Flight” mode. This puts a great deal of stress on our bodies and eventually we crash and go into depression. Feeling “Burned Out” is a term we use when we are feeling exhausted and have no energy for an extended amount of time.

    If you think you are depressed or have anxiety, seek professional help. It can make the difference in overcoming the sadness or anxiety.  Depression and anxiety are not fun and it can suck the life right out of us. It is important for you to know that you are not alone in how you are feeling, but there is hope. It takes courage to seek help and make the changes, but it is worth it.

    Author Bio: Vickie Parker, is a therapist licensed in Marriage and Family Therapy. To read more of Mrs. Parker’s blogs visit her web site vickiemft.com

    Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evarinaldiphotography/9213376274

  3. How My Personal War Affects My Son

    October 1, 2013

    by Matthew L (personal story)

    During my last hospitalization the ex wife and I came to the decision that my son would not come to visit me while I was on the psych ward. At the time he was three and we did not think that a visit on the psych ward was appropriate for him. Normally the ward is a rather calm and boring place to be but there is times when the floor goes off so we did not want to take the chance plus I was going through withdrawal off of Effexor, Wellbutrin, Remeron and Lithium which had my brain going every which way but the right way. Not exactly the image I wanted to be presented to my son.


    Every couple of days I would call my son to see how he was doing and what he was up too. These phone calls were essential for the father son relationship but at the same time they took their toll. Mentally I was in an awful place so I needed to psych myself up for the phone call so he wouldn’t have any reason to be worried. My son was told the reason I was in the hospital was because my medications were not working right so the doctors were trying to find the right ones which is basically the reason I was there simplified.


    During every phone call my three year old would ask when I was going to be coming home and if I was better which tore my heart out but I always managed to answer him that Daddy was working very hard and would be home soon. After the calls mentally I was a wreck as I felt I was a terrible parent causing stress on someone so young and a couple of times it put me right over the edge. Thankfully every time this happened a good nurse would be on and helped me to work through it.


    When it came time for me to go home and my son started his routine visits again every time he saw me he would ask if I was okay which is a brutal question to answer for a parent as it makes you realize that you are not the only one being affected by mental illness. Since my ex wife became pregnant I promised my child to be the best father possible and always be there for him and my personal demons are preventing this from happening to the full extent.


    There have been occasions when I have compared whether or not my son would be better off if I was dead and there is a lot of reason on how it could be viewed as positive but I also know that the odds of a child committing suicide because his or her parent did is sky high. The part that always stops this train of thought is that even though at times I am not on top of my game at least I am still there trying and the hope that with time I can be the parent I want to be so I continue to fight.


    My son is what stops me from ending this hell that I live in, my son is the reason I have been trying so damn hard to win this war and my sons laughter is what fuels me for the battles ahead. I don’t really care what happens to me but I care what happens to him and that is all I need to keep going.

    Image Credit: Daniel Horacio Agostini – www.flickr.com/photos/dhammza/100817327