Signs of Depression

Statue of man hugging knees

Uncontrolled Depression

You may have experienced depression five or ten years ago but it doesn’t mean that you’re now in the clear. Depression can always reemerge like a deadly virus that no one expected to turn into a pandemic. That’s because unresolved depression can go unnoticed for years at a time, only to make itself noticeable unexpectedly. You may have been feeling depressed this whole time and not even know it. Sometimes life has a way of keeping you distracted from your own feelings! Signs of depression sometimes go unnoticed.

The last thing you want to do is ignore your depression and bury it somewhere in the closet. This is a recipe for disaster. Depression is not something that you sweep under the rug only to return to it years later. The symptoms of depression are too powerful to ignore and often catch up with you when you least expect them. You will either seek treatment and recover or spiral down into a dark pit full of misery, potentially succumbing to alcohol and drugs.

Signs of depression - depressed man sitting on floor with head in lap

Signs of Depression to Look out For

So what is my recommendation? Don’t be afraid, shy or ashamed to seek help and talk about your feelings. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll be judged? If someone is judging you because you are depressed, it’s time to cut them out of your life. You only have everything to gain by opening up with a mental health professional and seeking treatment. It’s time that you put your ego aside and seek the care that your mind, body and soul deserve. So what are some signs of depression to look out for?

  • Increased or decreased sleep
  • Decreased interest in activities or goal-directed behavior
  • Guilt
  • Decreased energy
  • Low concentration
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Psychomotor slowing
  • Suicidal ideations

No one knows what causes depression. We have theories about biochemical imbalances in the brain, but as we both know, we’re not machines; we have feelings too. Mental illness is complex because it’s also a subjective field of medicine. We are dealing with the brain and it’s hard to tell how your brain is different than mine. How can we measure that? Everyone experiences different thoughts, perceptions and outlooks on life. Everyone has a different personality. While many depressed people share the same symptoms as listed above, the etiology can be quite different. What makes you depressed may only make me slightly sad. What trips you up and spirals you out of control, may only make me pissed off for an hour before recovering.

Treatments for Depression

Therapy often helps to get to the source of depression, but there also patients who have no idea why they feel depressed. These patients struggle to even identify something wrong in their life. To their shock, they cannot understand why they are depressed when they have a good family, marriage, job and even upbringing. In my professional opinion, these are the patients that demonstrate an example of biological depression. Something is malfunctioning in their brain with no apparent outward source behind their depression. These are the cases in which antidepressants are definitely recommended and they often work within 1-2 months of starting them.

Please open up about your symptoms with a mental health professional. It even helps to open up with someone who you really trust, like a significant other or a really good friend. No matter what you do, please don’t isolate yourself and harbor symptoms all to yourself. You need to speak out.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychosis Meaning

Abandoned psychiatric asylum

What is Psychosis?

One thing to keep in mind with psychotic patients is their very unpredictable behavior. The unpredictability of psychosis is very obvious; they can literally be having a pleasant conversation with you in one moment, and then yelling, cursing, and agitated in the next. You scratch your head and wonder, “What in the world? I was just talking to them and everything seemed to be going well!” Psychosis could care less if everything was going well. When it wants its patient to terrorize, it will unleash all hell’s dogs to get its fix. This doesn’t mean that you should always expect psychotic patients to become dysregulated and violent. Just be aware that the chances of that happening are higher than with other patients. What’s a psychosis meaning? Let’s expand below.

Psychosis Meaning – Unpredictable Patients

You should never assume that you’re on the good side of a psychotic patient. This is because their psychosis does not care if you’re nice, treat them well or say good morning every day. Their psychosis is unpredictable even when you think they’re doing well. They can snap at any moment and randomly assault you when you least expect it. The unpredictability of psychosis is not always due to their treatment. Many patients are on multiple antipsychotics and mood stabilizers and still become aggressive without anyone expecting it. A combination of factors is responsible for their aggressive behavior: receiving bad news, fluctuating hormones and neurotransmitters, not taking their medications or a psychotic break. You don’t want a taste of psychotic aggression.

Even with stable outpatients, you never know how they’re really doing. They can present to your office in one way, and a totally different way when out and about. Keep in mind that patients with psychosis often abuse tobacco and drugs, in particular cheap drugs such as K2 and synthetic smart drugs. My point is that you should never underestimate their mental status. Sometimes you don’t suspect them of using any drugs and that is when they can snap and become violent. Always keep your guard around a person with a history of psychosis. This applies to families, friends and healthcare workers who spend time with psychotic persons.

Psychosis meaning - disheveled girl holding knife

There is Hope

Now this doesn’t mean that psychosis can’t be treated. Many people suffered from psychosis at one point in their lives and successfully recovered. Some people experience drug-induced psychosis caused by the abusing of drugs. They may be psychotic for a few days to a week after stopping the drug and become normal again after the drug clears out of their system. Others suffer from psychotic depression, bipolar depression, brief psychotic disorder, schizophrenia, etc. All of them have the potential to become violent! But they also have the potential to become normal and lead successful lives again. The beauty of psychiatry is that medications work and we have a lot of great mental health professionals who demonstrate a lot of empathy and patience.

Have you experienced psychosis or do you know anyone who has?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Unpredictability of psychosis GIF face

Mental Pain

Topless sad woman holding head down with both hands

Positive Affirmation: I am Free of Mental Pain

“I am free of mental pain because I have learned to manage my negative emotions and redirect my attention on the positive things in life. When I feel sad, I allow the pain to surface without any hesitation; fighting back only causes the pain to persist. I give my pain room to breath but I do not identify with it because it is not really mine. The pain just comes and goes like passing gray clouds in the sky above. Just as I cannot feel the clouds in the sky but just observe them, the same applies to my emotional pain. I can’t physically touch my pain but I can observe it from the sidelines. Just as I can’t make a storm go away, the same applies with my emotional pain. I let the pain take its course until it evaporates into the distance. I am free of pain because I have learned how to respect my mental health and take care of it every day!”

Mental pain - green anxiety logo

Chronic Pain

“My chronic mental pain haunts me every day, but I do my best to keep my head above water. I can’t always identify the source behind my pain, but that does not matter. As long as I do my best to stay positive, I am happily moving forward. My mental pain comes at random times. Sometimes it haunts me first thing in the morning, while other times it surprises me before bedtime. I cannot avoid my mental pain because it sporadically appears when it wants to. The only thing I can do is learn to live with it and be happy in the process. How do I stay happy? By practicing positive affirmations and reminding myself that pain is temporary; it always eventually goes away.”

“Pain does not define me. I am not my pain even though it tries to trick me. It can be deceiving too, sometimes manifesting as anxiety, depression or intrusive symptoms such as nightmares. Sometimes my pain makes me avoid certain people and places. I have to constantly fight back to set my pain in its place. It can be a challenge to interact with it, but I often overcome it. I am stronger than my pain and have gotten this far in life. I will continue to flourish despite knowing that my pain will revisit me in the future. No one can prevent me from being the master of my mind; pain is only an uninvited visitor. I am strong and courageous.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Feeling Depressed

Feeling depressed - grayscale photo of depressed woman sitting next to window holding doll

When People Stomp All Over You

Many people are raised not to disobey their parents or argue back. As children, they fear their parent’s disapproval and do everything they can to appear perfect. As they slowly exit out of adolescence and enter the real world, they realize that their upbringing was not suitable for people outside their culture. They find themselves depressed because they care too much about what others think of them. They also don’t develop the strength to stand up for themselves; so they end up feeling depressed.

Your upbringing defines your adulthood to a great extent. It’s when you’re a child and adolescent that your personality is molded and shaped into your adult persona. If your personality is not well-shaped from a young age, you will experience relationship difficulties during your adulthood. When people stomp all over you, it means that you don’t have the courage nor strength to stand up for yourself.

You give others too much power and even turn them into authority figures, similarly to what you did with your parents growing up. When others make fun of you or point out your flaws, you become ashamed of yourself, internalizing and believing everything they say. Instead, you need to be standing up for yourself. You may experience what some like to call a “shutdown;” an episode of low energy, drive or motivation to do anything. You become a doormat with everyone walking on you.

Feeling depressed - sad women holding cup of coffee next to window

Feeling Depressed – It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Even though you have a job, raise children and are functional, your interaction with others limit your happiness. If people are nice and get along well with you, you find yourself having no problems. It’s only when those who argue back and critique you that you become frozen in time and don’t know how to react. You want to fight back, experiencing an internal desire to stand up for yourself and tell them, “Stop saying these things!” But sadly, you never learned how to do so growing up.

But it’s never too late! Psychotherapy is the process of analyzing your life and learning how to change your thoughts and behaviors. Anyone can benefit from psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy; you don’t need a mental illness to be qualified for therapy. If you find yourself in this category of persons who are functional but struggling with depression and problematic behaviors, then I highly recommend you start psychotherapy. You will not regret it.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

How to Stop Feeling Sad

How to stop feeling sad - selective focus photography of sad woman surrounded by people in the street

Repetitive Lifestyle

How many of you feel tired of the same things happening every day? No matter what you do, you feel like your life is repetitive as if you’re stuck in a sad loop. The worst part of this loop is that you have no idea how to get out of it. This loop is not necessarily bad, but it slowly eats away at your happiness because it prevents you from experiencing new people, places and things. You keep searching for a solution and wonder how to stop feeling sad, but don’t see any results.

So what is the solution? You have to make a positively productive change; it doesn’t matter what it is. Change is the process of breaking old patterns and habits and instilling new ones. Change is the gasoline for your vehicle, in this case, your life. You are the driver of your life; not the other way around. You need to make a change but no one can tell you what that change is; you have to discover it for yourself.

Change is not always easy because we often hold ourselves back. We often know what we have to do and change about ourselves, but we don’t because we are comfortable with our current habits. See the irony? How can we be comfortable if we admit to being stuck in a sad loop? That’s the point! You’re stuck in a comfortably sad loop that is difficult to step out of.

How to stop feeling sad - sad black woman holding hands against face

How to Stop Feeling Sad – It’s All About Change

Think of a hamster running back and forth on its wheel; that’s you in a nutshell. Many of us keep running on that wheel until we hop or fall off and realize that we’ve wasted years of our life. Don’t wait for tomorrow to make a change that you can make today! Even if making a change feels uncomfortable, force yourself to experience the discomfort. Oftentimes, once you get past the discomfort, you’ll experience a sense of satisfaction, something along the lines of, “I actually feel better now! I can’t believe this.”

We all go through this sad loop from time to time; it’s not something easy to escape from. But if you have the determination to step out of it with the intention of improving the quality of your life , then you are on the right track. Only you can find that inner drive to make the necessary changes; no one can do it for you. We can give advice to each other but at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make it happen.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed Americans

Depressed Hispanic woman crying while laying on gray furniture

Coronavirus: An Era Of Depression

I have talked to so many mental health patients who are sitting at home in a depressed state of mind ever since the coronavirus pandemic started. The key word is at “home” because they are functional and not so depressed that they require a hospitalization, but this does not mean that they don’t experience some of the symptoms that come with depression. Even before the coronavirus, there were many Americans already depressed; now, that number has substantially increased.

Some of the symptoms of depression may include a decreased sleep, decreased interest in activities, decreased concentration, decreased appetite, guilt, loss of energy, slowing of body movements or even suicidal ideations. Many Americans experience at least a few of these symptoms while sitting at home with no agenda for the rest of the day. The recurring theme is that they lost their job and are not leaving the house; in other words, they lack activities to keep them preoccupied during the day.

Some people also become very anxious at home and anxiety and depression often go together. They will complain that there’s so much negative news or that people in the neighborhood are not wearing masks, “as if they don’t care that there’s a pandemic going on.” What’s important to understand if you are a reader who identifies with these thoughts is that we cannot force others to wear masks, nor should we expect them to; it’s a free world and people have the right to do what they want.

So why am I pointing out the obvious? Because clearly it’s making you anxious and more depressed that others aren’t following health officials’ recommendations. But why are you getting hurt in the process? You should not be anxious or depressed because of external factors; you need to learn how to put uncontrollable external factors aside and focus on bettering your life. Do your due diligence by wearing a mask and washing your hands but don’t expect others to do the same.

It’s not easy being home because of the coronavirus and not having a job. Some people work from home but still feel depressed because their previous routine of leaving the house and coming back in the evening has been taken away from them; they are not used to using their home space as a work environment after working away from home for over twenty years. As I have mentioned in many previous articles, depression is like a wave and many times you don’t see it coming; you just have to ride it out without falling down.

This coronavirus is a similar wave but much bigger and deadlier. It may be harder to hold on but it’s definitely doable. So don’t allow this wave of depression to knock you off your surfboard. Many people are experiencing the negative emotions that you are; you are never alone in this. So maintain a positive mindset, keep yourself preoccupied during the day by finding work, taking long walks outside, reading, exercising and socializing with others. Don’t allow anxiety and depression to get to you and certainly don’t allow them to bring your down!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Talking To Mental Health Patients

Male psychiatrist sitting on couch talking to patient with hands on head

Holding A Normal Conversation

Many mental health patients are sick of their doctors, friends and family members always asking them questions about their illness. Imagine always being asked the same questions, “Any auditory or visual hallucinations? Do you believe others can put thoughts into your mind? How’s your mood? Do you have any anxiety? How’s your sleep and appetite?” It not only feels robotic to ask them the same questions every day, but it also feels robotic for them to provide the same responses.

Don’t get me wrong; psychiatrists do need to ask these questions in order to assess patients’ mental status, but we also need to learn how to incorporate more normal conversations during our encounters. When we ask mental health patients the same questions every time we see them, it can make them feel like they are less than us. This is because we give them the impression that they are “different” and that we can’t hold normal conversations with them.

At the end of the day, mental illness or not, patients are still human beings who can hold normal conversations and discuss everyday events; we must treat them like so. You’ll bring much more happiness into their lives if you can discuss everyday events without jumping to questions that dig away at their symptoms. A patient will tell you their symptoms even if you don’t rush to those particular questions, because they are the ones suffering from the symptoms in the first place and need them addressed.

So let them discuss everyday events and address their symptoms at their own pace. This applies to whether you have a relationship or friendship with a patient; don’t look at them differently and definitely don’t treat them differently. Do you treat people with diabetes differently? The same applies with mental health patients. Even if they are extremely psychotic but not dangerous to anyone, you can still say something as simple as, “Hi Leonard! Hope you have a good day.”

At the end of the day, let’s normalize mental health and hold normal everyday conversations with each other. Forget the stigma and judgmental ways of the past; those need to be buried for good. Rather, let’s move forward together and create a worldwide platform that will be of help to anyone in need. This platform should be based on honesty, love, sincerity and the desire to improve and help one another.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Experience Your Sadness

Sad woman leaning on windowsill staring outside

Not Running Away From Sadness

Whenever we experience sadness, we tend to bury it right away rather than allowing it to linger. This is because nobody likes the feeling of sadness so it’s easier to just brush it under the carpet and clean it up later. The problem with doing so is that you are not processing what is making you feel sad in the first place. Even though sadness is an uncomfortable emotion, you want to fully immerse yourself in it and see what thoughts and feelings will come out of it.

For some, it’s not an easy process because they feel like their ego is being jeopardized. They believe that if they feel sad, their masculinity is being threatened. For others on the opposite end of the spectrum, they tend to spend too much time dwelling over their sadness, experiencing it all day and never letting go of it. You don’t want to be at any end of the spectrum; the happy medium is always best.

This involves experiencing sadness when it kicks in but also knowing when to turn it off when certain circumstances arise. If you’re at work, it’s better to suppress it for the time being and revisit it later on. But if you’re at home and have nothing important to do, you can try practicing mindfulness while also becoming in touch with your sadness. This will allow you to process the thoughts associated with your sadness and potentially help you recover from it.

It’s always better to process your sadness rather than leaving it unhinged. There’s almost always a reason that you are feeling sad and you need to get to the bottom of it. Don’t be afraid to reveal new thoughts and feelings which are foreign to you; this is the process of growing in life. And always remember that you are never alone in experiencing sadness; millions of people all over the world are experiencing it with you this very moment.

What are some things that you are sad about?

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You Are Free Of Emotional Pain

Red human eye with pink liquid dripping out

Positive Affirmation: Emotional Pain

“I am free of emotional pain because I am in tune with my emotions and I am in control of them at all times. Even when people hurt me, I know how to immediately recognize negative emotions and process them effectively. I don’t allow emotional pain to hold me back in life. Emotions are like clouds that come and go; I observe and process them and allow them to float away. I am in control of how I feel today and tomorrow!”

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed On Drugs

Person sitting on train track with cloud of smoke in the dark

Using Drugs To Cope With Depression

Not everyone will admit that they use drugs to cope with depression, but it’s quite common. Whether it’s your bottle of liquor, line of cocaine or blunt of marijuana, substance use comes in quite handy in times of depression. But there’s a catch; they actually make your depression worse in the long run because they don’t fix the problem to begin with. Substances only mask the problem, allowing you to believe that you can now live your life without experiencing the symptoms of depression.

Another danger with using substances to cope with depression is the increased risk of impulsive acts. Substances give you more power, freedom and ability to perform acts which you otherwise would not have if you were sober. In relation to depression, the most severe act is a suicide attempt. Because substances impair your judgment as well, you can end up doing something very dangerous towards yourself or others.

Many patients will deny having problems with substances and you can tell so by observing how they become defensive about the topic when you inquire more about their alleged use of a substance. If you pay attention to their body language as well as to the tone of their voice, you will realize that they experience your questions as intrusive, judgmental and even accusatory.

But you’re not doing any of that (hopefully)! What you’re in fact doing is called motivational interviewing; a technique utilized with substance abuse patients that attempts to understand where they are coming from and whether they are ready to make a change, the change being to eventually quit the substance. But patients who are depressed may have a more difficult time with motivational interviewing because many will hide their substance abuse in the first place.

Depressed patients typically have a low self-esteem during their depressive episodes, so the last thing that they want to do is to reveal their problems with substances; some might, but many won’t. Depression and substance abuse is a deadly combination because the substances give more power to the user to commit suicide. In addition, substances and psychiatric medications are never a good mix, sometimes even inducing serotonin syndrome if a combination of cocaine and SSRIs are used.

If you encounter a depressed person and you suspect substance abuse, then you’re likely right. But don’t pressure them to reveal their use; this will almost always backfire. Inquire and show your concern, but allow them to slowly reveal it to you when they are ready. Rather, you want to focus more on their depression because often times, it’s their depression that made them start abusing substances in the first place.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)