There is still a huge stigma attached to mental health disorders. One in four of us will suffer from anxiety and/or depression at some point in our lives, yet many people don’t understand the symptoms of these illnesses or what causes them and many people simply turn a blind eye. If you haven’t suffered from anxiety and depression yourself, you are bound to know at least one person who has.
Anxiety and Depression (A&D) can overwhelm you and both of these illnesses can affect absolutely anyone and at any time. They can be triggered in many ways. If you have suffered from either of these illnesses, you will probably not have recognised the initial signs and were scared about what was happening to you.
Anxiety and depression usually go hand in hand and if you have one of these mental health disorders, it is highly likely you will also have the other at some point.
Most people are too embarrassed to talk about A&D, especially men, as we don’t like going to see the doctor. Opening up about A&D can be very difficult and it takes real bravery to do so, but the worst thing you can do is to become introverted and think to yourself that your A&D will just disappear. Even recognising the signs of A&D can be hard if you have symptoms for the first time. If you feel you have A&D, you need to make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible and talk to them about your issues.
I have suffered from A&D myself in the past and I am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit this. When I first had a panic attack many years ago I thought I was having a heart attack and I’ve never been as scared as I was then. I sought help at the time and I did my own research too. Over time, you get to know what the triggers are for your A&D. This is really important, as it will enable you to manage your A&D better and keep both illnesses at bay.
Anxiety and depression can lead to many problems and they tend to cause a chain reaction. It’s quite common that you don’t feel good about yourself and you might need reassurance from people, as you often lose any confidence you had. A&D usually leads to nervousness as well as loneliness. Bad hygiene can be another result of suffering from A&D. Due to not feeling good about yourself, you might not feel like washing, or you might not have the energy to do this.
You might feel tired most of the time as A&D can affect your sleep pattern. It can lead to lots of thoughts and worries swirling around your head and you will over-think too much. You may suffer from hair loss. Maybe you put on weight as you don’t have the energy or willingness to exercise or socialise with people and you might start comfort-eating. Even a short walk to the shops can feel like a real chore when suffering from the pain of A&D. Your once-satisfying sex life may take a hit as well, as A&D can affect your libido and you can’t enjoy physical intimacy. Your emotions can feel out of your control and you sometimes say things or do things that you later regret. A&D can affect your family life, social life and work life and these two illnesses can turn you into a completely different person as it can lead to you avoiding people and becoming more of a recluse.
It’s natural to feel embarrassed sometimes, but you need to know that there is no shame in struggling with A&D.
A&D does not discriminate and does not care about a person’s shape, size, weight, height, age, colour, wealth, fame, sex, or religion. It can strike at any time and can affect absolutely anyone, including people who have always thought of themselves as being mentally tough.
The ex-wrestler turned actor, The Rock, has recently opened up about his problems and battles with A&D, so even though he’s a big tough guy physically and is the highest paid actor in Hollywood, no amount of fame, wealth or physical strength can protect you against A&D.
Triggers of A&D:
We’re living in a fast-paced society where everyone is constantly on the move. Recent advances in technology have put many added pressures on us all. People want things immediately and are more demanding than ever. There is more choice out there for everything and it’s easy for people to shy away from everyday pressures and become lonely. Whilst it’s good to relax at times, it’s also important to talk to people and have routine in your life, as loneliness is a big trigger of anxiety and depression. Don’t suffer in silence!
A&D can also lead to people drinking alcohol, not sleeping properly and not doing any exercise. If you can talk to people often, socialise and have fun, not drink too much alcohol, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep and rest, plus, you can exercise regularly, these will all help prevent against you becoming anxious and/or depressed and will help you keep it under control.
1) Loneliness – If possible, surround yourself with good people and around those people who can make you smile and laugh. Smiling, laughing and just being around people really does help.
2) Alcohol – This is a friend of A&D so be very wary. Most people with A&D look for a release and for an escape from normality when trying to deal with a tragedy or a trauma in their lives. Alcohol is not the answer and will make it worse. Alcohol can actually increase anxiety and stress levels, rather than reduce them. Alcohol also dehydrates you and hydration is so important in combating A&D. Becoming dry or dehydrated can occur when you’re in confined spaces, such as being on an underground tube train or on an aeroplane. You might get anxious even when driving, so try to avoid long journeys if possible, where you can become tired and therefore more anxious.
3) Another trigger is not having enough sleep and rest. If you’re tired or sleepy, it will make you more anxious and depressed. I do understand though that it’s not always easy to sleep, as those who suffer with A&D have very active minds and they find it hard to relax and switch off. One tip is to have a hot shower to relax and unwind just before you go to bed. Drink a glass of water too.
How to help combat A&D:
Anxiety and depression are generally controlled through medication, but counselling and therapies, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are also available.
1) Talking to people – Talking to someone about your problems really does help. If not partaking in CBT or counselling sessions, then try to confide in a good friend, colleague, or a family member, with whom you can talk to about your problems. As the late actor, Bob Hoskins once said, “It’s good to talk”.
2) Exercise – An often neglected intervention when dealing with mental health is exercise. Exercise is an amazing way to help battle anxiety and depression.
Mental health and physical health have been treated separately in the past, yet evidence has shown there is a link between physical activity and positive mental health.
Exercise can greatly benefit those suffering with poor mental health. It can also protect people from developing depression and/or anxiety through chemical changes in the brain which positively alter mood. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain and endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body.
It is very daunting to visualise yourself doing any physical exercise if you don’t do it often (if at all). If this is the case, you need to build it up slowly. Begin by walking for a short distance at first and gradually increase the distance that you walk and the length of time that you walk for, until you can walk for an hour. You can then begin to jog or run. It’s good to remember that even a 15 minute walk can help you relax and clear your mind, as any exercise is better than none at all.
Being involved in sport, particularly a team sport, means you will mix and socialise with other people, so on top of the release of endorphins, you are also attacking A&D by socialising and talking to other people.
3) Antidepressants – A&D affects around 350 million people worldwide and cases rose almost 20% from 2005-2015. To give you an idea on how big a problem A&D is becoming, John Geddes, a professor of epidemiological psychiatry at Oxford University, advised: “Depression is the single largest contributor to global disability that we have – a massive challenge for humankind’’.
“Antidepressants are an effective tool for depression. Untreated depression is a huge problem because of the burden to society,” said Andrea Cipriani of the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, who led a recent study on antidepressants.
It was a six-year study, which was carried out by a team of international experts and was published in the Lancet. The most famous antidepressant of them all, Prozac (now out of patent and known by its generic name, fluoxetine), was one of the least effective but best tolerated antidepressants, as there were fewer side-effects reported. The most effective antidepressant was Almitriptyline, which was the sixth best tolerated.
However, the first antidepressant that your GP prescribes you with may not work for you, so if you feel worse after a few days, you should go back to you GP immediately and tell them. They may ask you to try something different, or it may be that your dosage needs to lowered, as it may be too high.
If you know of anyone suffering from A&D, or if you haven’t heard from a friend or family member in a long time, pick up the phone and speak to them, knock on their door, or at least send them a message to see how they are. You sometimes won’t know if a person is suffering from A&D, as most people don’t talk about it, or they won’t admit to having it, due to the shame and stigma that both A&D still carry. I repeat again that you should feel NO shame or embarrassment at all, but loneliness is the terrible cruel curse of A&D, so if people know that someone cares about them and that they can talk to someone about their problems, it will generate positivity and they will feel that their life is meaningful. Doing this really will help anyone suffering from these terrible illnesses. Be there for someone with A&D. I hope my post has gone some way to help raise awareness.
Here is a useful link to the NHS website which provides further help and advice on dealing with depression: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/dealing-with-depression/
You can also contact helplines, such as Samaritans on 116 123, for 24-hour confidential, non-judgemental emotional support. They offer a safe place for you to talk and any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal. You can also contact them at: https://www.samaritans.org/