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

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