Social Isolation…or Hibernation?

hibernationI’m hibernating…yes, it’s Winter in Australia. I don’t want to leave the house (not even to step outside to get the mail) and I just want to sit quietly, alone, on my couch.

Avoiding social contact is a common pattern you might notice when falling into depression. Some people skip activities they normally enjoy and isolate themselves from the world. Others turn to alcohol or junk food to mask their pain and unhappiness. I do both.

I’m doing it all at the moment…BUT I don’t feel depressed (I think!) I just want to stop for a little bit – I don’t want to fight at the moment, I don’t want to search for answers at the moment.

So, maybe I am depressed? I just can’t tell anymore.

Depression traps vary from person to person, but what they have in common is that they can serve to worsen your mood:

Trap #1: Social Withdrawal

isolationSocial withdrawal is the most common tell-tale sign of depression.

“When we’re clinically depressed, there’s a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down,” says Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author of books including The Depression Cure and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. “It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need.”

“In depression, social isolation typically serves to worsen the illness and how we feel,” Ilardi says. “Social withdrawal amplifies the brain’s stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it.”

The Fix: Gradually counter-act social withdrawal by reaching out to your friends and family. Make a list of the people in your life you want to reconnect with and start by scheduling an activity.

Trap #2: Rumination

A major component of depression is rumination, which involves dwelling and brooding about themes like loss and failure that cause you to feel worse about yourself.

Rumination is a toxic process that leads to negative self-talk such as, “It’s my own fault. Who would ever want me a friend?”

“There’s a saying, ‘When you’re in your own mind, you’re in enemy territory,'” says Mark Goulston, MD, psychiatrist and author of Get Out of Your Own Way. “You leave yourself open to those thoughts and the danger is believing them.”

“When people are clinically depressed, they will typically spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing negative thoughts, often for long stretches of time,” Ilardi says.

The Fix: Redirect your attention to a more absorbing activity, like a social engagement or reading a book.

Trap #3: Self-Medicating With Alcohol

cocktailsTurning to alcohol or drugs to escape your woes is a pattern that can accompany depression, and it usually causes your depression to get worse.

Alcohol can sometimes relieve a little anxiety, especially social anxiety, but it has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, Goulston says. Plus, it can screw up your sleep.

“It’s like a lot of things that we do to cope with feeling bad,” he says. “They often make us feel better momentary, but in the long run, they hurt us.”

The Fix: Talk to your doctor if you notice that your drinking habits are making you feel worse. Alcohol can interfere with antidepressants and anxiety medications.

Trap #4: Skipping Exercise

If you’re the type of person who likes to go the gym regularly, dropping a series of workouts could signal that something’s amiss in your life. The same goes for passing on activities – such as swimming, yoga, or hydrotherapy – that you once enjoyed.

When you’re depressed, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep up with a regular exercise program, even though that may be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise can be enormously therapeutic and beneficial, Ilardi says. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect because it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that often ebb when you’re depressed.

“It’s a paradoxical situation,” Ilardi says. “Your body is capable of physical activity. The problem is your brain is not capable of initiating and getting you to do it.”

The Fix: Ilardi recommends finding someone you can trust to help you initiate exercise — a personal trainer, coach, or even a loved one. “It has to be someone who gets it, who is not going to nag you, but actually give you that prompting and encouragement and accountability,” Ilardi says.

Trap #5: Seeking Sugar Highs

When you’re feeling down, you may find yourself craving sweets or junk food high in carbs and sugar.

Sugar does have mild mood-elevating properties, says Ilardi, but it’s only temporary. Within two hours, blood glucose levels crash, which has a mood-depressing effect.

The Fix: Avoid sugar highs and the inevitable post-sugar crash. It’s always wise to eat healthfully, but now more than ever, your mood can’t afford to take the hit.

Trap #6: Negative Thinking

NTWhen you’re depressed, you’re prone to negative thinking and talking yourself out of trying new things.

You might say to yourself, “Well, even if I did A, B, and C, it probably wouldn’t make me feel any better and it would be a real hassle, so why bother trying at all?”

“That’s a huge trap,” says Goulston. “If you race ahead and anticipate a negative result, which then causes you to stop trying at all, that is something that will rapidly accelerate your depression and deepen it.”

The Fix: Don’t get too attached to grim expectations. “You have more control over doing and not doing, than you have over what the result of actions will be,” Goulston says. “But there is a much greater chance that if you do, then those results will be positive.”

 

Whatever…Nothing!

Yesterday, I (with my Mommy) was running late for my pain specialist. I hate running late. It stresses me out. I think it is incredibly rude. But, yesterday, when my Mommy was apologising for making us late, I was just ‘whatever.’

Then I thought about it and I’ve been ‘whatever’ for quite a while. It’s not such a bad feeling – it’s stress-less, very laid back and unemotional. But it’s very nothing.

I also noticed that I haven’t been writing anything personal on this blog – it’s been all about research and studies. It’s because there is nothing.

I think I’m on too many drugs…

When I was first diagnosed, (other than a quick dose of steroids) I was immediately put on Lyrica. Anytime I felt more pain, the doctors increased my dosage…my current Lyrica dosage is 225mg both morning and night.

I also take 150mg of Sertraline for depression – it used to 100 mg but during this ‘whatever, nothing’ stage, I felt that I needed something extra. My GP was happy to increase the dose. There’s also 1100ʮg per week of Thyroxine for my under-active thyroid; the Pill (I went off it (because who’s having any sex?) but my periods were unbearable!); and, of course, there’s all the supplements that we’re supposed to take: vitamin D, Red Krill Oil, D-Ribose, Sam-E, CoQ10, and a multi-vitamin.

Anyway, my point is that no-one tried anything except the Lyrica…why not?

So, having visited the pain specialist yesterday, we’re trying something else: I’m running out of all the supplements at the moment, so I’m just going to stop them as the bottles empty; and I’m going to wean off the Lyrica:

doses

Because this ‘whatever, nothing’ just isn’t good enough. I want more. I NEED more!

Spiritual Stability?

spiritualityPeople who are spiritual are more likely than atheists or the religious to be mentally unwell, according to a new study by University College in London.

They are also more likely to have used or abused drugs, to experience anxiety, neurosis or phobias and have ‘abnormal eating attitudes.’

Nearly 7,500 randomly selected men and women (average age of 46) were interviewed. They were asked about their spiritual or religious beliefs and their psychological state.

Of the participants, 35 per cent had a religious understanding of life, 19 per cent were spiritual but not religious and 46 per cent were neither religious nor spiritual.

Religious people and atheists were on par in regards to prevalence of mental disorders, but the religious were less likely to have ever used drugs or be a heavy drinker.

1300434290_164926594_1-Pictures-of--Spiritual-WorkshopsHowever, the spiritual people  were 50 per cent more likely to have an anxiety disorder, 72 per cent more likely to suffer from a phobia and 77 per cent more likely to have a drug dependency.

But, it is not all bad news for believers: other studies that have found performing religious or spiritual practices provides physical and psychological benefits and helps people to integrate intellectually and emotionally.

“Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are ‘built in,’ so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living,” said Ellen Idler, acting  dean  of  Social  and  Behavioural  Sciences  at  Rutgers  University, in a paper titled The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices.

20786675As for the latest study, published in British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers concluded that: “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.

“The nature of this association needs greater examination in qualitative and in prospective quantitative research.”