Struggling in Silence: Stress, Depression, Anxiety & Panic
January 2022 Issue
Struggling in Silence: Stress, Depression, Anxiety & Panic
Too often, the stigma that still surrounds mental health has caused people to struggle in silence. We at Pink want to help put an end to that stigma by shining a light on Stress, Depression, Anxiety, and Panic. These are all real health issues, not character flaws or weaknesses. The strongest thing we can do is seek help. Here is advice from experts for dealing with these serious issues.
Diane G. Bowen, MD
How can stress affect my health?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. While we recognize some stress, other stressors become so familiar that we no longer emotionally perceive it as stress. Think of a teacher who has trained herself to delay the call of a full bladder. Whether it is perceived stress (loss of a family pet), silent stress (the full bladder) or even exciting stress about a vacation, our bodies do not differentiate. In all these situations, our stress system kicks in by calling the adrenals. The familiar “fight, flight, or freeze” describes our initial protective responses to a threat, but unless that threat is quickly resolved, our bodies transition to a more complex and damaging stress response headquartered in our adrenals. The stress response, which includes cortisol release, is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert, but the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.
Chronic Stress, or constantly being in fight or flight, disrupts nearly every system in the body. It causes elevated cortisol and other stress hormones, resulting in things like elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and elevated blood sugar. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even impact the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.
Things you can do to help handle stress:
• Get Moving! Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries. This allows you to break the cycle of
negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises, such as walking, swimming and dancing, are particularly effective.
• Connecting with Friends and/or Family! Talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress.
A brief exchange of kind words can help calm and soothe the nervous system.
• Find the relaxing technique that works for you! When done regularly, relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation
and deep breathing can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity.
• Trade the sweets for some protein! Processed food, refined carbs and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress.
Instead, stick to fresh fruits, vegetables, high quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
• Get some rest! Being tired and run down can increase irritability and lower your immune system. Avoid screen time right before bed.
This might be a great time to try out some of those breathing techniques you learned. Improving your sleep can help you feel more emotionally balanced and productive, in turn reducing stress.
Stress is a normal part of life. How can I tell if my stress has gotten bad enough to mention to my doctor?
Stress is dangerous in that it can creep up on you. You get used to it, and it starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you. There are common warning signs and symptoms to be aware of if you are experiencing stress overload.
Common Cognitive Symptoms Include:
• Memory problems
• Trouble concentrating
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying
Common Emotional Symptoms Include:
• Easily agitated
• Moodiness, irritability, or anger
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Loneliness and isolation
Common Physical Symptoms include:
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heart rate, irregular heart rate
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds or flu
• Muscle cramps
Common Behavioral Symptoms include:
• Eating more or less than usual
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Withdrawing from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Nervous habits, such as nail biting or pacing
• Using alcohol or drugs to relax
If you are experiencing many of the above symptoms it is time to consult with a physician. Learning to recognize your body’s stress response is important. Don’t wait for it to be too late.
Cassie Latham, ANP-C
Obviously, depression affects mood, but how else does it impact the health of the patient?
When a person is depressed, they may not take their meds—this alone could be devastating in any patient—think about a person with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc., not taking their meds and the consequences that may follow.
Another or same person may have more tension in their muscles, creating more pain. They may have more physical complaints, such as stomach issues, headaches, back pain, chest pain. If agitated, they may experience increased blood pressure readings or unstable blood pressure readings.
Depression can also result in malnourishment from not eating, or obesity
What sort of treatments are available for clinical depression, anxiety or panic disorders?
It is important to get enough sleep and exercise and to eat a balanced diet. In addition, sometimes these disorders are treated in primary care with medication and referrals for therapy. If medication is the right option, there is also technology now available to determine what medications the patient is more compatible to take.
Lastly, I would say don’t give up. This is about your overall health, so get a checkup. You may need to have blood work done. The important thing is to realize you are not crazy, and you are not alone! You can feel better mentally, physically and spiritually. You’ve got this! Just talk to someone.
Thom Davis, C.N.
Are there homeopathic remedies available as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical interventions for anxiety and depression?
Helps relieve stress, increase energy levels
and improve concentration.
Studies have shown this herb helps with anxiety and
depression while also helping people feel more social.
Lowers cortisol levels while increasing alpha waves to feel better
Reduces overactivity of stress response to help calm you down
An estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression, but it does affect some groups of people more than others.
Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of the Lowcountry