Best ways to “get out of” depression and anxiety!

Physicians in all professions are seeing more of their patients (seen for the first time or for follow up) are on an antidepressant or antianxiety medication.
It can be surprising to seemingly happy patient in front of me who are on a daily antidepressant or antianxiety. While it is true, that many patients really do need a medication to chemically alter a chemical or hormonal imbalance or a significant life event warrants medication to prevent or help with depression or anxiety. 
However, I wonder how many have tried more natural techniques: maybe all. But I feel I should share some tools that have helped me and many friends. Many psychiatrists or MDs who prescribe these medicines may not have time to discuss natural options. 
While all medicine changes should be discussed with one’s primary MD or one who prescribes the medicine, consider trying to increase your happy moments with the following ways that have helped me personally. [These are my personal thoughts on the issue.]
1. Be grateful and thankful as many times a day as possible. 
A friend once noted to me that Pope Benedict wrote something about how “God loved us first.” For years, this did not mean much to me. “So what?” I think was my first reaction. Recently, though, this simple truth really hit me: Yes! This is true! And for this very reason, I should be grateful every moment of the day! 
Yes, this is true, but still it can be very difficult to emotionally and physically get to the tipping point into happiness or a non-depressed/anxious state. 
So practically:
-Say, “Thank you, God” each day at least once. Even if you do not believe in God, say it! You could say, “higher power” or just “thank you” but say “thank you!” Ideally with a smile if possible even if it is fake (there is science behind a fake smile connected with chemical release which improves happiness scores: 
-Put notes on light, water tap, kids photos stating: “Thank you, God!” Sometimes we have to practice and persevere in our thoughts and words of thankfulness before we can start to incorporate this into each second of the day.
-Write a list of things you are grateful for and put it someplace you can see it every day.
Great video on being grateful:
2. Call a friend at least once per week if not more often.
View this as a penance offering for your friend: sometimes your friend on the other side of the phone is struggling with sadness just as much as you are but will not talk about it. 
3.  Be confident that you are going to get better! A great component of depression and anxiety in many people is fear: fear you will never get better and other lists of fears. 
-repeat out loud: “With your help Lord, I will get better, please help me” or “I will get better, please help me.” I believe asking God to help you, will actually help you. But even if you do not believe in vocal prayer, just try asking out loud for help and see what happens in a few months. It is important to remember that if nothing happens right away, that is ok. It takes awhile to get better. Have hope! You can get better.
A great video on confidence help:
4. Imagine sadness as a game that you can conquer. 
While I cannot agree with the general “gaming” encouragement of the speaker, she has a great point: our mind, if put in a different context, can sometimes drag us out of the pits of despair.
5. Pray.
Most physicians would never prescribe prayer and confession and saying the rosary every day as a treatment, but a contemporary psychiatrist of Freud once said that if everyone in the world went to confession every week, he’d be out of a job. There is some truth to this statement. Going to confession every week is likely more effective than psychotherapy every week for most patients (no study has ever been done, though).
6. Sun exposure daily
If you really are down most of the time, think about going or moving to a place where you can get more natural Vitamin D from the sun. 
7. Low carb, no gluten diet
So many friends and colleagues have been telling me how they feel generally happier since they changed their diet (after the short term carb withdrawal though 🙂
8. Exercise: move your body! This has been proven to increase the good chemicals and hormones in your body and improve your mood.
9. Sleep at least 8 hrs a day (if you can). This is the hardest for me, but it helps when I can get those crucial sleeping hours!
10. Ask for help often & surround yourself by cheerful, positive, encouraging people if you can. 
You are not alone! The vast majority of people are depressed once in a while in their life or more often. Ask for help (ask someone you know to help you: it will help them as well as we know generosity increases people’s happiness scores.

Stats and Facts About Depression in America

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

According to depression statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9 percent of adult Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression. At any given time, about 3 percent of adults have major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, a long-lasting and severe form of depression. In fact, major depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the CDC. Understanding these very real depression statistics helps paint a fuller picture of the impact of depression in America.
Prevalence of Depression in Men vs. Women
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the largest scientific organization dedicated to mental health issues, women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during the course of their lifetimes. Research has shown that this is in part due to hormones. Depression risk goes up for women after pregnancy, during menstruation, and during menopause. Another reason for higher recorded numbers among women? They are more likely to seek help and be diagnosed. “Men are more likely to try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, whereas women are more likely to seek help from friends and family or psychiatrists,” explains Carole Lieberman, MD, a psychiatrist, author, and member of the clinical faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
The Rising Rate of Depression
Statistical trends related to depression are hard to come by, but most experts agree that depression rates in the United States and worldwide are increasing. Studies show that rates of depression for Americans have risen dramatically in the past 50 years. Research published inThe American Journal of Psychiatry found that major depression rates for American adults increased from 3.33 percent to 7.06 percent from 1991 through 2002. Depression is also considered a worldwide epidemic, with 5 percent of the global population suffering from the condition, according to the World Health Organization.
Depression Comes in Different Forms
“People who have stressors in their life that make them feel hopeless and helpless are more likely to become depressed,” says Dr. Lieberman. However, she notes that “there are many different types of depression, from the garden-variety sad mood to major psychotic depression.”
Major depression is defined as a severely depressed mood that goes on for two weeks or more, interfering with a person’s daily functions. Other types of depression include:
  • Dysthymia. This is a type of minor but chronic depression that lasts two years or longer. Dysthymia affects about 1.5 percent of American adults.
  • Postpartum depression. This form of depression affects about 10 to 15 percent of women shortly after childbirth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This type of depression usually occurs during winter months and is probably caused by lack of natural sunlight. SAD affects 4 to 6 percent of Americans and is more common the farther north you live.
  • Bipolar disorder. This condition involves moods that cycle between depression and extreme excitability, called mania. Bipolar disorder affects about 2.6 percent of American adults.
  • Psychotic depression. This type of depression is the most severe form and includes breaks with reality, such as hallucinations or delusions. It is less common than other forms of depression; according to one study, psychotic depression occurs in about 5 percent of people who suffer from major depression.
The Prevalence of Depression in Combination With Other Conditions
Many conditions may coexist with depression. Depression may increase the risk for another illness, and dealing with an illness may lead to depression. “Depression is anger turned inward toward the self,” explains Lieberman. “This anger is self-destructive and therefore harmful to the body.” In fact, according to the NIMH, depression affects:
  • More than 40 percent of those with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 25 percent of those who have cancer
  • 27 percent of those with substance abuse problems
  • 50 percent of those with Parkinson’s disease
  • 50 to 75 percent of those who have an eating disorder
  • 33 percent of those who’ve had a heart attack
Depression, Marriage, and Divorce
Many studies have found that being divorced, separated, or widowed is closely linked to depression. The loss of a marriage may lead to depression, or depression may lead to loss of a marriage. A 2000/2001 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety that analyzed depression statistics from the Canadian National Population Health Survey found that major depression doubled a person’s chance of becoming divorced or separated.
The NIMH also notes that:
  • Married women are more likely to be depressed than unmarried women.
  • Married men are less likely to be depressed than unmarried men.
  • Unhappily married women are three times more likely to be depressed than unhappily married men.
In other words, marriage seems to create a protective buffer against depression for men, but not for women.
Prevalence of Depression by Race and Age
Race seems to make a difference in the prevalence of depression, but the difference depends on the statistics you look at. According to the NIMH, African-Americans have a lower lifetime risk of depression than whites. But according to a 2010 study by the CDC, African-Americans have the highest rate of current depression (12.8 percent), followed by Hispanics (11.4 percent), and whites (7.9 percent).
The average age for a person to be diagnosed with depression is 32. Those diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 24, when there’s a 10.9 percent rate of depression, are at the greatest risk for self-harm. The depression rate drops to 6.8 percent among those age 65 and older, however, suicide rates in elderly men are higher than other age groups, perhaps due to untreated depression and other illnesses.
Americans With Depression: How Does Your State Fare?
According to the CDC, where you live has an effect on your risk of depression. This may reflect other influences on depression, such as access to health care in the area, the population’s education level, and opportunity for employment. Among the states surveyed by the CDC in 2010, those with the highest levels of depression are Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia. By contrast, North Dakota, Minnesota, Alaska, and Iowa have the lowest depression rates. The prevalence of depression ranges from 4.8 percent in North Dakota to 14.8 percent in Mississippi.
Depression and Suicide
Depression is involved in more than two-thirds of the 30,000 suicides that occur in the United States every year. For every two homicides, there are three suicides. “Elderly men may feel especially hopeless when their bodies break down with illness because it can destroy their sense of masculinity,” says Lieberman. That may be why the highest suicide rate among Americans is in white men who are 85 or older, many of whom may have a depressive illness.
So what do all these depression statistics tell us about Americans with depression? Perhaps the key take-away is that depression is a powerful condition affecting many. If you have symptoms of depression, you are not alone and help is available. The earlier you start treatment, the more likely you are to get a handle on the condition. The best defense against depression may very well be knowledge and awareness.

Last Updated: 01/23/2013
This section created and produced exclusively by the editorial staff of © 2014; all rights reserved.

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