Anxiety & Depression
Octoberber 2020 Issue - Pink Prescriptions
Anxiety & Depression
Really? Do I still need the sex talk?
Of course you do! Sex isn’t a one-and-done when it comes to talking and learning about your sexual needs, desires and health. Our bodies change as the decades go by, which impacts your sexual health with new issues always arising. To achieve your best sexual health—and keep your intimacy in shape—be sure to talk to your doctor regularly about any concerns, strange sensations, or noticeable changes you may be experiencing. Don’t be afraid to ask any question, even if you find it embarrassing. Remember, sex is a science that your doctor has studied for years. One last thing: Tell all! You have to be 100 percent honest and detailed with your physician if you want the best solution. Rest assured, doctors really have heard it all!
I’m recently divorced, postmenopausal and haven’t dated for years. I’m nervous about dating again. What do I need to know about safe sex and new intimacy?
by Deana Harmon, D.O., FACOOG
There is no doubt almost everyone in the world has had a brush with stress this year. For many, daily living routines have become overwhelming, sparking a growing trend of sadness, anxiety and depression. In our modern-day world, where we flit here and there, overload our to-do lists, argue over every little thing and rarely relax without some type of electronic device, the rat-race now sets the pace many follow. That combined with Covid-19, elections, violence and social distancing—it’s no wonder feelings of panic and hopelessness are at an all-time high. However, there is help. We asked our local health professionals to weigh-in on anxiety and depression to help us understand what it is, how it affects us and what we can do about it.
by Ross Watson, M.D.
How did I develop anxiety and is there a
chance I could pass it on to my children?
Anxiety is a natural reaction to dealing with something stressful in your life. It becomes clinical anxiety if the worry and fear is so intense and excessive, it interferes with your daily activities and keeps you from doing things that used to bring you pleasure. As our lives have become more stressful, we have seen anxiety increase in the last decade, spiking in recent months with the outbreak of COVID-19. Patients who have always been anxious, now feel overwhelmed. Anxiety is ruling their lives
While we don’t know if there is a hereditary component to anxiety disorder, it does seem to run in families. An anxious parent is more likely to make their children anxious. If your child starts showing signs of anxiety, be supportive and talk to their physician about available treatments.
What lifestyle changes can I make to help alleviate anxiety?
Guided meditation is one of the validated tools you can use to reduce anxiety. Anyone can do it, at any time of day, and it helps with both anxiety and depression. Meditation apps, like Headspace, provide a wide range of guided meditations for everything from improving your health to sleeping better.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) also has been shown to alleviate anxiety. Originally designed for stress management, it combines mindfulness, a healing approach practiced by Buddhist monks for centuries, and yoga. Clinical studies have documented both physical and mental health benefits from the practice. In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn developed an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program to treat patients struggling with the daily stresses of life. The basis of the therapy is non-judgmental awareness of what we are experiencing in the moment.
There are a number of medications also available to treat anxiety in combination with therapy. If you are suffering from anxiety, I recommend speaking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or religious counselor.
Dr. Ross Watson is a board-certified family medicine specialist with Beaufort Memorial Primary Care in Beaufort. He recently joined the practice after completing his residency at Central Maine Medical Center. He can be reached at (843) 522-7600.
by James F. Gigante, MD
How do I find the right health professional to help me with my depression and anxiety problems?
Finding the right health care professional for depression and anxiety can be complicated. It is really important to start with your primary care doctor to discuss whether this is a mental health issue, or if you may have a chemical imbalance. They require different approaches.
Another vital piece is finding a therapist you connect with, if you do need to talk to someone. I always suggest talking to your primary doctor about the type of therapist who would make you feel the most comfortable, or who can address what your specific needs are. You should never feel bad or guilty about changing to another therapist if you start with someone and it isn’t a good fit. Therapy works best if you are relaxed and can really open up.
James F. Gigante, MD is a Board Certified doctor of Internal Medicine and a fellow with the American College of Physicians. He has been practicing medicine for 25 years, the last 17 here in the Lowcountry. 843-681-2222; 35 Bill Fries Drive, Bldg H, HHI.
by Ravi Srivastava, MD
Panic attacks are starting to control my life,
what can I do to win the battle?
Panic attacks are symptoms of a medical illness called panic disorder. There is no psychological cause for panic attacks. They occur for no rhyme or reason and come out of the blue. Isolated panic attacks could be transient and self-remitting, however, if they persist for more than six months, then it is considered to be a panic disorder and requires treatment.
Often times, we correlate panic attacks to the situation they first came around, for example, in the movie theater, or a crowded elevator, etc. This is only coincidental, and soon the panic attacks occur in any situation without any precipitant. It is not worthwhile trying to find out what happened before attack. Once you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, it requires treatment for it to go away. Panic attacks can occur on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. It is a completely treatable illness. The symptoms can be relieved immediately with medications called benzodiazepines (like lorazepam) or cognitive behavior therapy. However, to keep the symptoms from coming back and have a more permanent resolution, we require medications called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (like Prozac), which take about three to four months to completely control panic attacks.
What is the difference in being sad and depressed?
Sadness of mood is a normal human emotion. We experience it when we’re exposed to situations that make us unhappy. The word depression is commonly used interchangeably in the English language for sadness of mood. However, in psychiatric terminology, sadness of mood and depression are two different things. Sadness of mood is a transient emotion within the normal range of human emotions.
The word depression in psychiatry is used to describe abnormal sadness of mood, which occurs in absence of a negative experience and/or it is more severe and persistent. When is it in the illness form, then it is called depression. The illness of depression is a severe and persistent negative emotional state, which is also accompanied by lack of pleasure, decreased energy, decreased activity, disturbed sleep, ideas of helpless, hopeless and worthlessness, decreased appetite and sometimes, suicidal ideation. It usually lasts somewhere from a few weeks to a few months and can be episodic in nature. It requires both medical and psychological treatment to decrease its intensity duration and complications.
Dr. Ravi Srivastava is a psychiatrist and medical director of The Cove, Hilton Head Hospital’s Senior Behavioral Health Program, where he specifically tailors to the needs of seniors and their loved ones.
by Kerri Dodson, MCHC, CNT
How can I control emotional eating when I’m feeling anxious or sad?
Anxiety and sadness can certainly be difficult to deal with, especially during these uncertain times. The good news is there are nutritional protocols and personal care strategies that can help minimize those feelings and combat emotional eating. First and foremost, nutrition is key for proper hormone production and to optimize the gut microbiome. The gut is now being called “the second brain”. When our “gut bugs” are not in the proper ratio, and/or we have “leaky gut”, we are unable to properly produce serotonin, which is our feel good hormone. Approximately 90 percent of our serotonin is produced in our gut. Therefore, nutrition is key for proper production.
Nutritional strategies for proper gut function include eliminating gluten (key for reversing leaky gut), limit or eliminate processed foods/fast foods, increase consumption of fiber through fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, and reduce or eliminate any unnecessary over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol or Advil, which can kill off the good bugs. The fiber in whole foods feed the good bugs in the digestive tract, ensuring they are in the proper ratios to assist in hormone production. Gluten increases leaky gut and can cause gut cells to release a protein called zonulin, which can break apart the tight junctions that hold the intestinal cells walls together. If this occurs, toxins, undigested food, antibodies and microbes can travel through your body in the blood stream. It also disrupts the production of hormones such as serotonin. Therefore, focusing on a whole foods, high-fiber diet is important for anyone with anxiety and/or sadness/depression.
Non-nutritional strategies include: Yoga: Can help center you. Meditation: Calms the central nervous system. Exercise: Increases dopamine and reduces anxiety. Natural Sunlight: Increases Vitamin D levels. Studies have shown those who suffer from depression are also Vitamin D deficient. Sunlight exposure is the best way to get your Vitamin D. However, specific exposure is important. For most people, approximately 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight exposure on uncovered skin is sufficient. For those with a darker complexion, 30-40 minutes is required. Foods that include Vitamin D are salmon, mackerel, fatty fish and foods fortified in Vitamin D. Supplementation is also beneficial for those that are deficient.
The takeaway should be: eat a healthy, non-processed, whole foods diet, eliminate gluten, get exercise, do yoga, meditate, exercise and get some Vitamin D in order to combat anxiety and sadness.
Kerri Dodson is a Certified Nutrition Therapist and Master Certified Health and Wellness Coach for NuBodia, LLC. She specializes in Nutritional Counseling and nutritional protocols to help clients overcome chronic diseases such as high cholesterol, high A1c, Type II Diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Call today: 843-816-3733.