Making Sense of Depression: 9 Ways to Manage
We have had an inordinate number of Anxiety Sisters write to us lately about feeling depressed—really depressed. Not being able to get out of bed depressed. Not washing their hair or brushing their teeth depressed. Not able to eat depressed. We’re not sure why all of a sudden we are hearing so much of this hopelessness, but we do understand all too well exactly what these women are experiencing.
Mags always says that anxiety makes you feel revved up (in the worst possible way, but revved up, nonetheless)—that, on some level, it is energizing. This makes sense because anxiety causes the body to engage the sympathetic nervous system whose job it is to prep for “fight or flight.” Thus the tense muscles, higher heart rate, etc.
Depression, on the other hand, makes you feel energy-less. Sucked dry. Flatlined, while still breathing. This explains the extreme fatigue, and general listlessness Depression Sisters report. (Which is not to say that anxiety can’t make you feel depleted or that depression can’t make you feel anger or other “energizing” emotions.)
Many of us feel, not only paralyzed when we are depressed, but also lacking a desire to do anything. What’s the point? we often find ourselves asking. Living in a joyless state doesn’t feel like living at all. For me, when I am depressed, I cannot see bright colors. Everything is muted and varying shades of brown and grey. And my body aches all over—like I have the flu.
So, despite having the same part of the brain affected (the amygdala) and the same medical treatments often prescribed (SSRIs, SNRIs and Benzos), anxiety and depression are usually experienced differently.
Before we talk about specific treatment strategies, we should mention that there are risk factors for depression including (1) trauma (2) grief (3) prior experience of anxiety (4) relocation and (5) drugs. While the connection between trauma and grief and depression may seem self-evident, the others require a bit of explanation. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), those who experience anxiety have a 60% chance of developing depression at some point thereafter. There are lots of theories about why this is the case, but the predominant assumption is that, once your amygdala becomes trigger happy, it becomes vulnerable to other disorders.
Relocation is a huge predictor of depression, especially in women, who often are pulled from a social support network when they move. Depression, like many brain disorders, is a very isolating condition. And, while anxiety sufferers often recognize how lonely they are, depression sufferers may not be aware of the extent of their alienation; that lack of energy mentioned above makes it difficult to distinguish precise feelings and even more difficult to try to do anything about them. Lack of connection to others both causes and exacerbates depressive symptoms.
Finally, although we must remind our readers that we are not medically trained, we feel it would be irresponsible not to mention that certain drugs are known to cause depression, namely Beta blockers, Statins (cholesterol meds), Proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid reducers like Prilosec and Nexium), Corticosteroids like prednisone, Hormones, and Anticonvulsants.
Ready for some irony? Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium and Klonopin and SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro are notorious for causing depression, especially after long-term usage. Yes, you read that right: antidepressants cause depression for some people.
So, what can you do to help you manage your depression? Lots of things!
- Ask your prescriber to either change your dosage or switch your medication to a different drug in the same class if you think it is making you [more] depressed.
- Boost your Brain Vitamins: B6, B9 (Folic Acid) and B12. Go easy on the B6 if you are not used to taking it—sometimes it can make people anxious.
- Try a Light Therapy Box or just spending time in the sunlight, which increases your body’s Vitamin D levels.
- Limit or abstain from using recreational pot and alcohol, both of which are depressants.
- Try Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive and painless treatment (you basically sit under what looks like a hair dryer while your nerve cells get stimulated) which has shown much promise in research studies.
- Connect with another human being every day—face to face is best but phone calls work too. I have a buddy who stops by and checks on me every day when I’m going through a depression. Set one up now—even if you aren’t depressed. It makes a huge difference. If you can muster the energy, volunteering can really help with depression as it not only promotes social contact, but also gives you a sense of purpose and worth.
- Connect with a furry being. Petting a dog or cat (or rabbit or ferret or hamster) releases your body’s feel good chemical Oxytocin. The benefits are astounding including reduced blood pressure and a decrease in depression. If you don’t own a pet, visit one at a friend’s or neighbor’s or the local pet store or shelter.
- Join a support group. Excellent resources for this include:
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
9. Lastly, if you are in crisis and need help immediately, you can always text HELP to 741741, which is the free, confidential Crisis Text Line, open 24/7/365. If you text this service, you will immediately be connected with a trained counselor.
We hope this is helpful for all of our Depression Sisters out there. Please stay in touch with us–don’t go it alone!