National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week in the first week of May is designated to recognize and bring awareness to anxiety and depression. Raising awareness surrounding the most common mental health disorders this week is very important for ending the stigmas regarding mental illness. Oftentimes the social attitudes and conversations surrounding mental health and mental illness bring a cloud of shame and secrecy that causes many to suffer in silence.
It is important to understand that depression and anxiety are both often debilitating and can greatly impact all areas of someone who battles these disorders in their daily life. Depression is clinically defined within the DSM-5 as experiencing five or more of the following depression symptoms over the course of a two-week period in conjunction with a depressed mood or loss of interest.
Depression can have a variety of causes. Chronic depression may also have a biochemical aspect such as a neuro-chemical (chemical) imbalance. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD disease) is a form of depression caused by changes in dopamine produced by sun exposure. Depression can also be caused by traumatic life events like an injury, illness, dissolution of a long-term relationship or death of a close loved one.
No matter the source, it’s important not to invalidate a person’s struggles. Depression may occur on its own, or concurrently with other mental health disorders. Depression can present itself as irritability, anxiety, brooding, or even as symptoms of physical pain. People who are depressed may not be willing or able to readily identify their symptoms. Saying things like “I just don’t feel well” or “I’m tired” can be a sign of concealed depression.
For some, depression coincides with other mental health issues like anxiety.
The DSM-5 characterizes anxiety disorders as an excessive fear or worry caused by anticipation of a threat or conflict. Even though being anxious is a part of daily life, anxiety disorders can greatly have an effect on daily life.
Here are 10 Tips on how you can provide support to someone who is dealing with anxiety and/or depression:
- Check on them, send a text or call with just a couple of words of encouragement.
- If they are exhibiting “reckless behaviors,” take a moment and talk to them. Try not to judge and just be supportive.
- Get them outside. The sun exposure will help produce dopamine that will help them cope.
- Be on the lookout for “Oh I am just tired” or “I am not feeling well.”
- Sit with them and be present. Sometimes your presence makes a huge difference.
- Do not dismiss or invalidate their struggle. The ability to articulate may escape them, so be patient.
- Look for the signs of panic attacks. These symptoms include insomnia, being hyper-vigilant, increased heart rate and/or palpitations.
- When hearing expressions regarding suicide or self-harm, take action do not dismiss this speech.
- If they have experienced a death or end of a relationship or injury, be on the lookout for changes or detachment from reality.
- Most of all, be understanding and open-minded.