Clinical Counselor

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Recognizing the Signs of Depression

Published Hulyo 2, 2012 by jptan2012

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve received two ‘suicide email’ in one day, and because of that I’ve decided to ask my clinical counselor friend to share with me some tips on how a person can recognize depression on themselves or a loved one.

Please fine below the things that she shared with me. I’ve decided to simply copy paste it.

PERSISTENT SAD, ANXIOUS, OR ‘EMPTY’ FEELINGS. This symptom looks like a low mood but persists even after time goes by and the cause of the bad mood has cleared up or receded.

What to look for: Blank stares, loss of interest in life, an inability to feel or express happiness or other emotions. Or the person may report just feeling “empty” or “numb.”

What else to know: Often the depressed person isn’t fully aware of this symptom. Try asking, “When’s the last time you were happy?”

FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNESS, WORTHLESSNESS, OR HELPLESSNESS. In an “Eeyore-like” pessimistic way, the depressed person can’t help feeling that everything is wrong and it’s his or her fault (rather than the fault of the situation or the illness itself). It’s a hallmark sign of major depression. In mild depression, the feelings are similar but less extreme.

How to tell: The person seems unable to see any positive flip side to things or light at the end of the tunnel — and feels little sense of control over choices or events. The person talks and acts as if he or she has no options, can’t see a different path, is useless and meaningless. He or she may fixate on past mistakes, ruminating over them and expressing guilt and self blame.

What else to know: Listen for comments like these: “It’s hopeless.” “I can’t do anything about it.” “I have no choice.” “Nobody cares.” “I’m stuck.” “I should have/could have/ if only….”

FREQUENT CRYING EPISODES. The crying may not seem to have a direct or obvious trigger; sobs often come “out of nowhere.” But it’s not normal to cry every day (though the depressed person may not realize this).

What to look for: In between episodes you witness, you may notice red eyes, sniffles, cracking voice, balled-up tissues, and other trails to tears.

What else to know: Not every depressed person cries; in fact, some never do. Research has shown that women are more inclined to this behavior than men. A 2001 University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study found that crying isn’t related to the severity of depression and that people who cry more may have briefer depressive episodes.

INCREASED AGITATION AND RESTLESSNES. Some people with depression fall on the “hyper” end of a spectrum of behaviors, where others are the opposite (see symptom #5).

What to look for: The person may seem unable to relax, more irritable than usual, quicker to anger, full of restless energy, seldom calm. Look for pacing, lashing out at others, frequent standing up and sitting back down.

What else to know: For the depressed person, everything seems magnified. So small slights or irritations aren’t just pebbles in the psyche, they’re giant boulders that get in the way of ordinary life.

FATIGUE AND DECREASED ENERGY. Typically depressed people who don’t show a lot of agitation and restlessness (symptom #4) experience the flip side of those behaviors — an increased sluggishness and slowness.

What to look for: The person may complain of having no energy, of feeling unproductive, or of “slowing down.” He or she may have quit exercising, seem tired a lot, move more slowly, and have slowed reactions. “To-Do” lists never get finished the way they once did. The person may skip work.

What else to know: Fatigue is a real mind-body problem. Low mood and loss of motivation are partly at work, as well as a physiological depletion of energy — and the two forces keep reinforcing each other.

LOSS OF INTEREST IN ACTIVITIES OR HOBBIES THAT WERE ONCE PLEASURABLE. This is one of the single most telling symptoms of depression.

What to look for: The person no longer takes pleasure in things that once brought enjoyment, whether the lives of children or grandchildren, a hobby or craft, exercise, cooking, book club, watching sports — or anything. The person may begin to decline invitations, refuse to go out, not want to see friends or family.

What else to know: Some depressed people lose interest in sex. For others, sex functions as a kind of escape, used the same way some depressed people turn to alcohol or drugs.

 DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING, REMEMBERING DETAILS, AND MAKING DECISIONS. “Fuzzy thinking” is often apparent both to the depressed person and his or her family, friends, and colleagues.

How to tell: Various mental slips may become obvious, such as forgetting appointments and errands, making checkbook errors, misplacing objects, forgetting names, avoiding making plans, postponing decisions or deferring them to others. The person may begin writing reminders to himself or herself or take a long time reading (because it’s harder to focus). It may become harder to perform complicated tasks.

What else to know: Cognitive changes associated with depression can look like dementia; in fact, people with dementia are prone to depression, and vice-versa.

 SLEEPING TOO MUCH OR NOT ENOUGH. Disordered sleep and depression are closely related; in some people, depression manifests as insomnia (inability to fall sleep or to stay asleep), while others experience the opposite extreme: All the person feels like doing is sleeping.

What to look for: Regular sleep routines are disrupted; staying up too late or going to bed unusually early; being unable to awaken on time; complaining about a poor night’s sleep; sleeping long hours but fitfully — so the person never feels rested; excessive napping by day.

What else to know: Depression is a leading cause of sleep problems, in part because it interferes with natural biological rhythms.

POOR APPETITE OR OVEREATING. Again, the symptom tends to show up as one extreme or the other: The person loses interest in eating or falls into a pattern of constant, emotionally triggered eating.

What to look for: Missed meals, picking at food (especially if this is a change for the person), lying about food intake; loss of interest even in formerly favorite foods, mindless munching and other mindless eating, throwing up after eating; weight gain or weight loss.

What else to know: Depression is a common cause of the eating disorders anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. It’s true both that depression can lead to eating disorders and that people with eating disorders can develop depression.

 EXPRESSING THOUGHTS OF DYING OR SUICIDE. Depression is one of the conditions most commonly associated with suicide. It begins to seem like a logical way to end the pain and suffering. As many as 90 percent of those who commit suicide are clinically depressed, have a substance abuse problem, or both, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Many people with depression self-medicate with alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and increases the risk for suicide.)

If you think you or a person you know has depression there are only two things that you can do. REACH OUT and GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!

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Suicide is Not a Solution

Published Hunyo 27, 2012 by jptan2012

I’ve received some emails from some of you inquiring as to why I haven’t post anything the past few days, in fact, for 20 days. I’ve been quite busy with work and I have to personally attend to two readers who sent me an email about suicide. I’m writing this post with their permission but I won’t really discuss their situation.

It feels weird that I’d received two emails from two different people contemplating suicide. Having a received a number of hoax emails, my initial reaction was to ignore the email or simply write a standard response, however, the emails felt real and more than that it is as if fate has ‘commanded’ to read their emails that day. I received several emails a day, and I have a huge backlog in responding to the said emails, as some of you may have experienced. Nevertheless, for some weird reason my attention was caught by this two different emails sent on two different dates.

There is something about their emails that really bothered me and it seems like there was a force that push me to reply. To make the long story short, I soon found out that those were real email, and real situations. The first thing that I did was to recognize the gravity of the situation, and the second thing that I did was to recognize the fact that I’m not trained to handle these kinds of situations.

I called up a clinical counselor friend to inquire how to handle the situation, she recommended some ways on how should I respond and then I hooked the two readers with her.

For Christians, suicide is a grave sin, and we’re taught that committing suicide will surely make your soul burn in hell for all eternity. In Buddhism and Taoism, it’s much more complicated, there is no clear response whether it is a sin or not. It really depends on the situation and the intent of the deed. However, one thing is clear though, suicide is not a solution.

In a Buddhist perspective, we are here on earth to achieve Buddhahood. Each lifetime is a consequence of a previous one and hopefully, the last one is always a little better than the previous one, until, one reaches Buddhahood. Unless, in extreme cases like when one commits suicide to save somebody else, or a nation, etc., committing suicide is definitely a solution, and it pulls you back several karma back from attaining Buddhahood.

It is in this sense, that for Buddhism, it is quite clear that suicide is not a solution, committing suicide will definitely bring you back to the same solution in your next lifetime or maybe even put you to a situation that’s even worse than your current situation.

If one is depressed and/or is contemplating suicide, the first thing that one should recognize is that you need to talk to somebody. It can be a relative, friend, or try one of those counseling hotlines.

If you’re Buddhist, you can also constantly recite the Mantra of the Buddha of Compassion – OM MANI PADME HUM.

If you’re Taoist, you can simply take a bath in a tub of water with salt. If possible do include some flowers.

If you believe in Feng Shui, you can also do the first two, and you can put salt in your room and make sure your room or house is well lit.

But most important of all, seek help!

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