March 09 2021
This year has witnessed a steep decline in the mental health of people, primarily due to the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19. The world coming to a standstill during the earlier months of 2020 is still dreadful to imagine. Declining health and recession introduced a detrimental impact on the psychological well-being of people.
Anxiety and depression are psychiatric disorders that must not be used in layman language to express sadness. Every individual has ups and downs in life like the crests and troughs of a wave. However, depression is when chronic and severe conditions of sadness are present, and when nothing can turn that frown upside down.
Let’s look deeper at what depression and anxiety entail and how we can prevent them.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), depression is a medical illness causing feelings of sadness and loss of interest in everyday activities. The symptoms of depression vary across people. These warning signs include:
- Loss in energy or increased lethargy
- A feeling of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty in concentration
- Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
- Changes in sleep pattern- insomnia or sleeping too much
- Thoughts of suicide
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- A slowed pace of speech or increased number of mindless activities like pacing around too much, restlessness, etc.
Around 250 million people worldwide experience depression every year, women more than men. Depression might also be hereditary, observed in 40% of cases. If a person is undergoing these intense symptoms for more than two weeks, he/she is likely suffering from clinical depression. But worry not, it is treatable in 80-90% of the cases.
Risk factors of Depression:
- Underlying medical condition: Three neurotransmitters have a role to play in depression- Serotonin, dopamine, Norepinephrine. Serotonin and dopamine are the ‘feel-good’ hormones. Reduced levels of both hormones lead to an increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. Norepinephrine is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone released in stressful situations. Reduced levels of this hormone also contribute to depression and elevated levels lead to mania. The causes for depletion of these hormones range from a shortage of supply of molecules that constitute them to the inability of cell receptors to utilize them. Anti-depressant medicines presently in use target serotonin re-uptake receptors on neurons so that serotonin is available to be used.
- Depression can run in families! Research has proven that depression also has a genetic basis.
- Environmental factors: Many incidences in life like the loss of a loved one, job, or a negative atmosphere of violence and poverty can lead to depression.
- Perpetual thoughts of self-pity, low confidence, and low self-esteem can bring in feelings of worthlessness. It is, therefore, critical to put a reign on your negative thoughts and inculcate habits of looking at the brighter side.
Treatment of Depression
Treating depression entails several approaches. Psychotherapy is a popular one. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is the approach of identifying negative thoughts and behaviours and replacing them with positive behaviours. Medications like anti-depressants are also available that target the shortage of biochemical substances in the brain.
Anxiety is indicated by extreme and constant feelings of tension and worry accompanying physical changes like erratic and rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure levels, trembling, dizziness, and sweating. People with anxiety have shown to have repetitive thoughts of concern that hamper their normal functioning.
There are subtypes of anxiety disorders. These are:
- Generalized Anxiety disorder: Excessive worry without any reason.
- Panic disorder: Sudden and intense fear that manifests itself as palpitations, similar to having a heart attack
- Social Anxiety disorder: Worrying about the everyday social situation like fear of getting judged, embarrassed, or ridiculed by people.
- Phobias: include sudden and irrational fear of people, situations, or objects. For example, claustrophobia is the irrational fear of small spaces.
- Agoraphobia: intense fear of being in a place where it’s difficult to escape. For instance, a person can be anxious just by being in a crowded place.
- Separation anxiety: include fear or worry when a close one leaves your sight.
Risk factors associated with anxiety involve:
- Childhood abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse may lead to anxiety disorders later in life
- Traumatic events: Losing a parent or loved one, living through a disturbing accident can increase the risk of getting anxiety.
- Shy or isolated as a child may lead to the development of anxiety during the teenage years.
- Low self-esteem
Management of Anxiety
Anxiety can be nerve-wracking, literally. However, it is possible to delete it from your life.
Based on the diagnosis, a person can be prescribed medications or recommended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
Some lifestyle tips include:
- Cutting down on alcohol and caffeine: Substance abuse increases the risk of anxiety. Caffeine is a central nervous system acting drug that can alter your mood and emotions. It is best to stay away from such substances.
- Exercising: Daily work-out keeps both your body and mind fit. It releases chemicals in your brain, especially endorphins, which are ‘feel-good’ hormones.
- Getting better sleep: anxiety and sleep problems are inter-related. Sleep problems can cause anxiety and vice versa. It’s imperative to have routinely 8-hour sleep.
- Stress management techniques: Yoga and meditation can help immensely.
- Seeking support: talking to a close friend or family member can keep your thoughts on the right track to positivity.
Sleep is an essential activity that rests the body and the mind. Any disruption is likely to harm the physiological and psychological state. Both Anxiety and Depression can seed from and lead to sleep disorders.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person is unable to fall asleep or remain asleep. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, and hormonal problems. It is extremely common worldwide with about 50% of the adult population experiencing it at a certain point in life. It can be classified as chronic when it happens regularly for at least a month. Other sleep disorders include parasomnias when abnormal movements like sleepwalking, sleep talking are present during sleep and narcolepsy, which is a state characterized by sleep attacks that occur while being awake.
Treatment of sleeping disorders usually involves medication and lifestyle changes.
Medical treatment comprises sleeping pills and melatonin supplements. Melatonin is the natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland during the night. It is responsible for maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm or the ‘sleep-wake’ cycle, thus helpful in jet lag and insomnias. Alvizia Healthcare’s Alensleep consists of 30 soft-gel capsules containing 10mg of melatonin helpful in managing sleep disorders. It is recommended to be used after consultation with the dietician.
Lifestyle Changes include exercising, incorporating vegetables into the diet, and limiting alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine intake.
Remember, body and mind go hand in hand. Holistic health is dependent not only on what you eat but also on what you think. So, takeaway, eat healthily, and think positive!