1. 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

  2. How to Beat Depression… with Diet

    August 24, 2013

    beat depression

    Depression is a common problem though its severity and symptoms do vary. Unlike occasional sadness that we all feel from time to time, depression is a chronic issue that claims around 850,000 lives each year. There are different types of depression including:

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – A disorder that only affects people at certain times of he year, most notably around the winter months with a kind of ‘cabin fever,’ where you may find yourself feeling more sad than normal.


    Postpartum Depression – A type of depression that occurs within women that have recently given birth. This form of depression can be a result of powerful emotions that can lead to psychotic episodes.


    Bipolar Disorder – This affects 3 out of every 100 adults and can occur when the chemicals in your brain are not balanced.


    How to spot the signs of depression?


    There are ways to spot if you or a loved one are depressed, here are a few of the telltale signs:


    • Constantly feeling sad, irritable or tense
    • Lack of interest in the usual hobbies
    • A lack of energy
    • Changes in appetite, with either weight loss or gain
    • A change in sleeping patterns
    • A lack of concentration
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • Thoughts of suicide and death


    If you experience any of these thoughts for an extended period of time then it is important that you  talk to clinical psychologist or psychotherapist, if left untreated depression gets much worse. Remember that depression is not always just a state of mind, often there are other factors too including hormone or chemical imbalances. I know that there is a social stigma surrounding depression and that it may feel easier to bottle up your feelings but this will not help in the long run.


    Could your diet help?


    Although depression is not always caused by one issue your diet can help you to take a step in the right direction. A lack of certain vitamins, nutrients and fatty acids can contribute to depression so it is important that you try to eat a healthy balanced diet, while avoiding any unnatural and processed food choices.

    Here are a few food options that could help to improve your mood:


    An omelet

    Eggs contain important B vitamins that have been shown to help lessen the severity of depression. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are particularly important as they can improve neural function, meaning your moods can be improved.

    Eggs also contain protein so can help keep you full for longer and can stabilize blood sugar levels meaning you wont experience those sugar highs and lows associated with high sugar foods.


    Nuts and seeds

    Both nuts and seeds contain magnesium that can naturally increase your production of serotonin, a chemical that helps you to feel good. They are the perfect alternative to traditional snacks as long as you stick to the unsalted and unsweetened versions.


    Cold water fish

    Cold water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are full of omega-3 fatty acids that can help increase the amount of grey matter in your brain. These fatty acids are an essential material for our brain. Those with severe depression have been noted as having less grey matter than others. Again fish is a good source of protein, so the usual benefits of protein can be experienced. It is unlikely that you can enough enough fish to get sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, you will likely need to take supplements as well. In case of depression you need supplements with high EPA-to-DHA ratio.


    Ancient grains

    Grains such as quinoa and barley are less likely to be processed and refined with sugar so will not be digested as quickly as those refined with wheat flour and sugar. This will stop any blood sugar spikes and subsequent drop that can result in fatigue, food cravings and mood swings.


    Green tea

    In most green tea varieties you will find the amino acid L-theanine that has been shown in EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves, which can help to improve your focus and have a calming effect on your body.


    In conclusion


    Depression is a serious condition and if you suffer from it then you should speak to a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist. A healthy diet can help, but it can only supplement psychotherapy.


    Author Bio: Jac Jenkins is a stay at home Mom passionate about health and fitness. She writes about diets such as the Fasting Diet at her own blog.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abstrato/418493178

  3. 5 Most Common Mental Illnesses Seen In High School Kids

    April 25, 2013


    by Cindy Peters, School Psychologist

    Struggling with a mental illness at any age can be emotionally devastating and overwhelming for some. High school students have difficult enough time fitting in, maintaining their grades and planning for their futures let alone struggling with a mental illness during the process. Understanding the five most common mental illnesses seen in high school kids can help to better relate and empathize with individuals who may be facing a challenge during some of the toughest years of their lives.


    Depression is a common mental disorder and illness that not only affects high school students, but children, adults and the elderly alike. Depression causes overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, sadness and in severe instances, thoughts or actions related to suicide. Depression can be brought on by stress, interference with home life and other relationships in a high school teen’s life. Avoiding family and friends, withdrawing from everyday activities, an increase in sleep and the inability to focus are also signs of depression. Overcoming depression is possible with psychotherapy, becoming self-aware and in some cases, even medication.


    Anxiety is another common mental illness that can become overbearing depending on the severity of the disorder and the patient’s surroundings. Anxiety causes individuals to avoid situations and people, especially when being around them triggers sweating, nausea and full-blown panic attacks. Teens struggling with anxiety may ultimately begin slacking in class, avoiding friends and even skipping school altogether. Anxiety can make it increasingly challenge to feel safe and without worry, even in a classroom environment. Recognizing triggers and causes of anxiety in an individual is a key factor in recovering and determining the right methods of treatment. According to psychologists, anxiety and depression are two most common mental health issues causing people seek psychotherapy.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Obsessive compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a mental illness that can feel suffocating to teens and any individual suffering with it. OCD can cause mental blocks that trigger patients to feel the need to count obsessively, move objects without reason and worry and fear unnecessarily. Repeated cleaning and washing while handling intrusive thoughts are all part of OCD, which can wreak havoc on anyone’s life. Various forms of psychotherapy, medication and self-reflection treatments are available when overcoming OCD depending on the symptoms the patient is dealing with and the severity of the compulsions.

    Substance Abuse

    Substance abuse is another disorder that can ultimately lead to an out of control lifestyle, especially for teens who are still in high school. Abusing substances is often a behavior that is picked up and learned from a parents or guardian. Becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs and even prescription pills can cause teens to depend on them to function with everyday activities and social situations. Substance abuse can be treated by enrolling in a rehabilitation center or by becoming self-aware that there is a problem that needs to be fixed to live healthier and happier.

    Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder is another mental illness that can wreak havoc on anyone’s life, especially teens who are trying to get through their years in high school. Bipolar disorder is an illness that causing an imbalance of chemicals in the brain of the patient. The individual suffering from bipolar disorder often experiences extreme mood swings referred to as “mania” and the “depressed” phases. Feeling extremely high and optimistic one day and devastatingly sad or hopeless the next may be signs of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is very serious mental illness and requires treatment and monitoring by a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist.

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sluys/6267948293

  4. 5 Ways To Fight Off Winter Depression

    April 23, 2013

    winter depression

    Image Credit: Marina

    by Nancy Woo


    With winter in full swing, and for approximately 5% of the U.S. population, so too is winter depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The acronym is ironically appropriate, as seasonal affective disorder can drastically shift a person’s mood, appetite and energy levels during certain times of the year, usually winter. Symptoms may include becoming uncharacteristically lethargic, fatigued, depressed, anxious, withdrawn, irritable or hopeless. You may sleep more, care less about work, relationships or health, experience decreased sex drive, isolate yourself from friends and family, and crave carbohydrates and gain weight. Though seasonal mood changes can occur during the summer, SAD is generally used to describe the period beginning in late autumn and ending in early spring; during this time, sufferers experience an extreme form of “winter blues.” SAD is a subtype of major depressive disorder.

    So, you’ve noticed yourself getting more depressed during the winter. Some theories attribute SAD to the lack of light available during winter months, especially in northern regions. Women tend to be more prone to SAD, and some hypothesize it is to curb reproductive urges during the hibernation period. Whatever the cause of major winter blues, it can really drain the color from life for a significant portion of the year. The good news is that after becoming aware of the condition, you can definitely take steps to alleviate symptoms.

    Here are 5 ways to fight off those ugly winter blues:

    1. Light therapy

    Because the winter has shorter days and less sunlight, most theories pinpoint this lack of light as a major cause of SAD. Investing in some sort of light therapy can be very helpful in keeping mood levels stable. Light boxes that intentionally mimic the sun’s UV rays are available in some specialty stores and online. Using this light for 30 minutes a day, preferably in the morning to mimic sunrise, has been shown to stabilize mood in 3-4 weeks when started in early autumn. Talk to a health professional before beginning light therapy.

    2. Take Vitamin D Supplements

    With a lack of sunlight also goes a lack of vitamin D, a very important mineral used to produce seratonin, the “happy” hormone. Sunlight naturally carries vitamin D, which we absorb through the skin, so losing that regular amount may account for depressed mood. Drinking a lot of milk rich in vitamin D and taking vitamin D supplements during the winter can help offset the environmental change.

    3. Exercise

    For all types of depressive disorders, exercise has been proven over and over again to be one of the most important factors to recovery. Exercising regularly releases important neurotransmitters such as seratonin and dopamine, those hormones responsible for feelings of happiness and joy. Exercise is a wonderful stress reducer; keeping the body healthy directly translates to keeping the mind healthy, too. The only obstacle to overcome during the winter is finding the motivation to go out and actually do it, but keep in mind how much better you will feel with regular exercise, and have the strength of willpower to brave the elements and get your body moving. Moderate to strenuous exercise 3-4 times per week is recommended.

    4. Counseling and/or Support Groups

    Coming down with a case of the winter blues, which may include losing interest in normal activities and feeling suddenly hopeless and tired all the time, can be extremely confusing and disorienting. SAD can compound other depressive factors, too, so seeking therapy from a psychologist can do wonders to help sift through the reasons behind the mood changes, and help provide concrete behavioral changes that can improve quality of life. For any type of depression, simply talking about the feelings can start to relieve the misery, and a psychologist can provide valuable insight on your mind. If you can’t afford psychotherapy, find a support group near you, or confide in a close friend who will understand. Isolating yourself is one of the worst things to do when suffering from depression, seasonal or not, so get yourself out there and don’t be afraid that other people will judge you; you may be surprised to find how many sympathizers there are, as long as you are actively seeking solutions.

    5.  Consider Antidepressants

    If seasonal affective disorder has taken over your life and you’ve tried all over methods of relief, it may be time to consider taking prescribed medication to manage symptoms. Of course, you will need to discuss this option with your healthcare professional before making any decisions, but it may be worth trying if you feel suicidal or seriously impacted in your day to day life and nothing else has worked. A pharmacy technician can fill your doctor’s prescription for you. Sometimes chemicals in the brain are simply out of order, and medicine can help rebalance them.


    Other general ways of combating the symptoms of SAD include maintaining (even if you don’t feel like it) a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and good sleep habits. Stay social! Oftentimes, hanging out with friends and family can serve to lift your mood, even if at first you feel like you’d rather curl up in bed and go to sleep. Staying active and doing your normal activities even when depressed can help you feel better; going through the motions often leads to eventually feeling normal again. Do the things that you know make you happy, and appreciate the little positive moments in life rather than dwelling on the bad ones. The key to beating the winter blues is to first acknowledge your seasonal shift in mood, and then commit yourself to taking action to stay healthy and mentally stable even during the dark times!

    Nancy Woo is a writer from southern California who is fascinated by how the brain works. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/fancifulnance.