Depression 2.0 – Enter Technology

Depression in the modern day is changing. Sure it has the traditional components that we associate with depression. Sadness, restless sleep, withdrawal, irritability and lethargy still exist. But the explosion of technology in the last generation is unavoidable. And it is impacting “traditional” depression.

Technical saturation can prevent mental down time and warp our thinking. 24/7 social media, online bullying, auto emails/texts, and pages of mobile apps on our phones can not only be consuming, they can become addicting.

What does that mean to someone suffering from depression?

Technology and Depression

Some studies are linking excessive social media use and depression. We use social media for connection and affirmation. But subconsciously, many compare what they see and read to their own lives. This can cause us to feel inadequate, unsuccessful and uninformed. For someone struggling with depression, these feelings can exacerbate their grief.

One doesn’t need to look far to be experience discourse online, on the radio and on television. Political, social, and even sports programs thrive on bitter exchanges. For those struggling with depression, repeated exposure to negativity can reinforce their feelings of despair.

Anxiety and Depression

This technology phenomenon is also driving a significant increase in anxiety. For many, anxiety is now becoming synonymous with depression. While different diagnoses, about half of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. Approximately 16 million U.S. adults experienced a significant depression episode in the last year. About half of those, eight million, also experience serious anxiety with their depression.

When both are experienced together, characteristics are often amplified. Recovery can be slower. Recurrence rates are higher. Chronic symptoms are more pronounced. Social and familial impact can be greater.

With technology having a deeper impact on our lives, co-occurring anxiety and depression is increasing. Fortunately, both depression and anxiety are treatable, individually and as co-occurring disorders.

Depression, Technology and Sleep

Are you using your mobile device in bed right before bedtime? It may be adversely affecting your sleep. Excessive use of your computer or mobile device close to bedtime can have a negative impact on your sleep. Emotionally, interacting with upsetting, negative or argumentative content close to bedtime can contribute to restless sleep. Physiologically, the lights from electronic devices can impede melatonin secretion, the hormone that promotes sleep.

What Can I Do If I Have Depression (and Anxiety) Affected by Technology?

The first thing to “do” is to know that both depression and anxiety are treatable. Even if you have both together, a licensed professional or treatment center can help restore your balance. It can return you to the normal functioning, happy person you know still exists inside you. The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, is an excellent center that is recognized nationally for its success treating depression and anxiety.

Here are tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to help.

It sounds simple, but use less technology. Disengage as much as possible from social media. Do not watch or listen to programs you know will be filled with arguments and negativity. Spend that time to journal. Write down each day three things for which you are grateful. Write down one thing that inspires you. Write down one goal. Spend time with those who uplift you and do not judge you. Avoid those who bring you down and who do not encourage you.

One hour before bedtime, quit watching television. Do not eat heavy foods within an hour (or more) of bedtime. Create a quiet, dark cool and comfortable sleeping environment. Good sleep will provide restoration and support for your immune system, support cognitive function, and provide more energy for your body. More energy and better cognitive alertness can help minimize depressive and anxiety episodes.

Modern depression is becoming more complex for many. Fortunately, our understanding on how to treat depression, anxiety, and both together has advanced. If you or a loved one are struggling with either or both, contact a mental health professional.

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with depression and anxiety. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

 

Emotional Abuse Can Lead to a State of Depression

The negative effects of emotional abuse can be overwhelming and debilitating.  This can lead to a state of depression when the effects of the abuse compromise your ability to hope, cope, envision a future, and to find the strength to carry on each day.  Without optimism, it is difficult to drown out many of the negative messages you heard growing up that damaged your emerging sense of self.  When these negative messages become too loud and strident to overcome, physical depression can be the result.

In my counseling experience, people are baffled as to why they are feeling depressed. They are unsure how to get over it.  They want answers to “fix” the problem; they want drugs to “fix” the problem.  At the heart of so much of the depression I have treated is emotional abuse as children.  Because they are now adults, they can’t see how what happened to them twenty, thirty, even forty years ago could make such a difference.  Often they have spent their adult lives “moving on” and attempting to put the past behind them.  What I help them learn is that it is only possible to move on from the past once you have acknowledged and dealt with it.

I also help them to see that the ways they have chosen to put the past behind them end up pushing patterns of the past to the forefront.  Ignoring the past doesn’t make it go away.  Accepting the past does.

Depression has been described as a deep, black hole you find yourself falling into.  The sides are steep and slick.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop your descent.  It happens in slow motion — flailing of the arms, twists and turns of the body, agonizing movements that produce no results.  Eventually you stop fighting and just slide down into the pit.  No light, desires, energy.  No hope.

But also no pain.  No anger.  No emotion to deal with at all.  Just a numbing grayness hanging over your life.  When pain is too great, anger too consuming, and emotions too conflicting, the blurry haze of depression has an allure.

Emotional abuse leads to intense feelings of anger, rage, resentment, and bitterness.  Submerged feelings of guilt and fear of your abuser can lead you to choose a safer target for your anger than your abuser.  All too often that target is you.  Unspent anger continually works inside the body, using up energy, causing feelings of fatigue and apathy.  Unable to see any hope in your life, you slowly begin to isolate yourself from others, from getting out and socializing, from exercising or taking care of your body.  So often in your abuse nothing has seemed to work.  Every time you thought it was going to get better, it got worse.  So what’s the use? you wonder.

This world we live in can be a difficult place.  Pressures and stresses that come from everyday living are enough to temporarily sideline even the healthiest of us.  When emotional abuse has battered your defenses, maintaining a successful stand against those forces can be almost impossible.  That is why it is so important to gain support from others:  from healthy relationships, from friends who love you, even from caring professionals who can assist you in rediscovering your strength to face each day successfully.  You may also need a professional to assist you in rebalancing your body’s natural chemistry when necessary.[1]

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of fear, anxiety and depression, and uses a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in mind, body and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

[1] For a thorough discussion of the effects of depression, see Gregory L Jantz with Ann McMurray, Moving Beyond Depression:  A Whole-Person Approach to Healing (Colorado Springs:  Shaw, 2003)

 

Feelings Are in the File Cabinet

When you woke up this morning and prepared for your day, do you remember everything you did? You may remember that you showered, dressed, had breakfast, and went to your car. Do you know how many seconds you washed your hair or if you washed your ears first or your elbows? Do you remember what contributed to the decision of which cereal to eat (or whatever)? My guess is probably not. Most day-to-day, trivial, or familiar thoughts, actions, and feelings fly under the radar in the “non-conscious” zone.

Just as we can be unaware of our routines, we can also let negative feelings or self-defeating thinking slip by unnoticed. You may occasionally notice them, but you will likely also have a list of reasons they belong there. Most of the time, you go back to your daily routine, feeling low, but at some point, you stop questioning these thoughts and feelings. Over time, your self-esteem erodes. You may even struggle with anxiety or depression, but it all feels true and right.

Let me encourage you to question such things. Ask yourself why you feel so bad.

To understand a common reason for our negative self-image, picture your brain is a file cabinet. These files are tagged either with words or emotions. In the frontal lobe of your brain, in the place right between (and behind) your eyes sits someone called the, “Executive Assistant” – the EA. The EA runs the office and works with millions of little couriers. Some of them go on their own and the EA has no control (such as the ones who run the heart). Others can be told what to do to a point (such as the ones who can make you hold your breath). Others are fairly easy to manage (the ones who want the same thing the EA wants). Finally, there are some couriers you have to pretty much kick into shape (the “but I don’t want to clean and organize my garage this weekend” couriers, for example).

You may have read about “Brain Babble” – the thing that happens when automatic, but inappropriate or inaccurate thoughts run the show. Did you know a similar phenomenon can happen with emotions? Emotions can also be filed incorrectly.

Imagine you observe a classroom of six-year-olds. Ten minutes before class is to end for the day, the teacher announces that everyone can spend the time coloring. At the end of the time, little Jay-jay comes to show the teacher his picture. Jay-jay is smiling ear-to-ear and the teacher beams as she congratulates him on his good work. How do you think Jay-jay feels in that moment? What do you think will happen the next time he is given time to color?

Now imagine the same scenario, except this time when Jay-jay proudly displays his masterpiece, the teacher replies with, “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know by now that frogs are green and not purple? Goodness! Go try again!”

How do you think the little guy would feel then? Pretty terrible. What do you suppose he will do next time he is faced with a pack of crayons and blank paper? Can you hear what his little brain would say to him? “Give it up, Jay-jay – you can’t color right!”

Is that true? Did Jay-jay do anything wrong? NO! Where was the problem? With the teacher who put down his work. But, what did Jay-jay end up feeling? Deflated and inept.

Emotions experienced in such situations are intense and are tagged into the brain with “danger signs” attached to them. They feel real and unless you are aware and can access your wise mind, the temptation to believe these types of false messages may seem too great.

If you find yourself struggling with overwhelming emotions, a poor self-image, or even numbed-out feelings, or if you fear that you may be believing lies about yourself, extend compassion to yourself the same way you would to someone else who believed untrue things about themselves and go on a quest to find the truth. If you cannot seem to do this on your own, then consider taking time away in the supportive environment of The Center • A Place of HOPE. The staff knows how the file cabinet works and have helped many people in their pursuit of truth as they take the journey to build a healthier life.

Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Program Coordinator, she is a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist. Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.

Allowing Food to Nourish You

Sally was overweight, unhappy, and on the brink of emotional exhaustion.  She had an unhealthy relationship with food, After numerous counseling sessions, this is what she decided to do:

One, I started eating a simple, healthy breakfast each morning.  This was my only guideline; that it had to be healthy.  No list of special foods, no restrictive diet, no calories to count, lie about or eat.  Nothing.  What surprised me was that I was being asked to make my own decisions, and not rely on someone else’s idea of what I should consume.  I was given complete freedom to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted.  It just had to be healthy.  Actually, this frightened me, because I wanted to be told what to do.” [1]

Sally was really frightened when I asked her to make her own decisions about food and about making food the right kind of friend.  Here’s the rest of Sally’s story:

So I chose to eat a large breakfast of whole grain cereal and lowfat milk and some fruit each morning.  It was bulky so it made me feel full.  It wasn’t sugary, so my insulin level did not increase.  I knew all about this theoretically, but it wasn’t easy to put into practice.  A big part of me (which was most of me) hated it.  I missed my usual two jelly donuts and three cups of coffee with lots of cream, followed in a few minutes by grazing in the fridge for a few leftovers from the night before.  But I’d made an agreement with Dr. Jantz to do this, and besides I was desperate.

The second thing was even more amazing to me.  I was asked not to weigh myself at all in between sessions.  I’d already sent my scale “on vacation,” so there was no way to weigh myself at home.  But I was not to weigh myself anywhere.  This was difficult.  How would I know if I was making any progress if I couldn’t weigh myself two or three times a day as I’d done most of my life?  I didn’t understand it, but I said I’d stick with the program and obey the rules. [2]

I’m happy to report that Sally is doing quite well, self-correcting along the way as she’s still tempted to return to her old way of thinking about food.  She’s rediscovering what food is all about — it’s there to nourish her body and is not a substance for abuse.

When recovering from emotional exhaustion, you quickly learn the benefits of decreasing the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet.  Additionally, when you start to take seriously the reports of increased risk of heart disease and cancer associated with these high levels of fat, I hope you will quickly choose to self-correct.

You will read food labels more carefully and seek to interpret the wealth of information they contain.  This is a far cry from the ineffective calorie counting and roller-coaster dieting you may have engaged in before.  You will also stop frying your foods and breading your meats.  You will learn that broiling and baking are better alternatives to cooking foods in fats and oil.  You will also begin to investigate food supplements that are specifically designed to help rebalance the body chemistry of those who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sally had to learn that dieting and bingeing were terrible obstacles to her stressed physical health and mental stability.  Each round of dieting caused increased hypertension and a rise in her blood pressure.  When she finally understood that dieting and bingeing were making her more prone to stress-related illnesses, heart and kidney disease, and stroke, she knew she had to make a change.  To do this, Sally had to start listening to her body.  She had actually forgotten what it was like to eat normally.

This all began with a commitment to a proven, effective program of permanent weight loss and a deep desire to join the 2 percent who succeed in losing weight permanently.

Can you relate to Sally?  Perhaps now is the time that you, too, need to learn to see food as healing you, making you strong, and filling you with vitality.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[1] Jantz, Losing Weight, 110.

[2] Ibid.

 

Part 1: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Consider a single trip to the grocery store.  On your list today is a new toothbrush, soda, sandwich bags, ground meat, milk, bread, eggs, and tissues.  Pretty standard.  Should be an easy trip, right?

  • There are 15 types of toothbrushes, all different colors, from extra soft to extra firm.  Which is the right one?
  • Regular or diet or caffeine-free soda — and which brand?
  • Sandwich bags come in 50 or 150 or 300, fold-top, single or double zipper-top.
  • Ground meat is available as extra lean, lean, or regular, in varying package sizes.
  • Milk can be whole, 2 percent, non-fat, skim, fat-free, enriched, in regular, soy or almond.
  • Bread in plain white or honey wheat or 7-gran or 12-grain or multigrain all in different brands.
  • Seven types of eggs – organic and how many do you need?
  • Tissues come in small square boxes or medium boxes or large rectangular ones.  They could be scented or non-scented, colored or not, with lotion or not, in 100-count or 200-count boxes.

Then when you’ve overcome all of those choices and make your way to the checkout, do you choose the regular line, express line, or the self-checkout line?  Paper or plastic or both?  Cash, credit, or debit?  Any coupons?  Cash back?  Need any help out?  Groceries in the front seat or trunk?

We live in a complex world that has the capacity not only to trigger our emotions but also to inundate our minds.  The more we feel compelled to do, the more energy our lives require.  A hurried, fast-paced life is draining.  Bit by bit, detail by detail, the sheer weight of our lives can wear us down, leaving us feeling inadequate and devastated.

The pace of life can be daunting, threatening to overwhelm even the resilient.  Keeping your emotional balance from jumping from task to task, demand to demand, can be acrobatic even for the resilient.  But what happens when you take a stressful life full of tasks and demands and add onto that a belief system that “knows” you’re not good enough, that “knows” you don’t deserve to be happy?  Or what happens when you take that stressful life and add onto it a belief system that says happiness can only be found when you’re in total control?

In order to recover from depression, understanding the role of emotions is vital, but you must also understand the role of the intellect, of the mind.  Recognizing what you feel is one step in the recovery process, but another step is recognizing what you know — what you believe to be true — because what you “know” may not, in fact, be the truth.

Let’s look at the example of a half-empty glass.  The truth is, yes, the glass is half empty, but is that all there is to it?  If the glass is half empty, isn’t it also half full?  The truth of a half empty glass is that the glass is also half full.  Those people who see a half empty glass actually see an empty glass because, to them, the glass should always be full to the brim.  If the glass is not brimming, then that glass is unsatisfactory; it will always contain emptiness and loss.

No one’s glass is ever truly filled all of the time.  Life simply doesn’t operate that way.  instead, the truth is even a half empty glass has fullness.  Those who are depressed don’t see half empty, they see completely empty.  Some will rage because the glass never seems to be full.  Others will despair because they are convinced they aren’t worthy of even a half empty glass.  Others will quietly accept the fact that the glass will never be full for them.  They look at the glass and see what isn’t there instead of what is.  They focus on the lack of what is absent instead of the presence of what is there.

To learn more about intellectual integrity, and how it assists in depression recovery, read Part 2 of this article.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.