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Women, Depression, Stress and Anxiety: Menopause, Pregnancy and Other Depressive Factors

Women are a high risk group for clinical depression. Twice as many women as men are diagnosed with depression, although the exact reason for this discrepancy is unclear. It’s possible that social conditioning makes women dealing with depression more likely to seek medical assistance than men. Hormonal differences between the sexes may also play a role.

Female and Male Depression

Until puberty, female and male depression rates have a 1:1 ratio. Boys are as likely to experience symptoms of depression as girls. By adolescence, however, the ratio changes to 2:1 and remains so throughout life.

Hormones are known to affect behavior and mood in both men and women. Hormonal changes over women’s lifetimes are generally more intense that those of men. Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause all have a significant effect on female hormones. Some research suggests hormonal changes at puberty make women more susceptible to depression than men.

Women, Depression and Symptoms

Women and men tend to report different symptoms of depression. Men report increased irritability, sleep problems and loss of enjoyment in pleasurable activities. Women tend to report feelings of guilt, sadness, worthlessness and fatigue. This does not necessarily mean symptoms of depression in women differ from those seen in men; only that men and women tend to focus on different aspects of depression.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

The months after childbirth are extremely stressful. In addition to caring for a newborn, a mother’s body undergoes significant hormonal changes as it adjusts to no longer being pregnant. Many women experience a period of sadness and mood changes commonly called the baby blues. Symptoms of the baby blues usually diminish over time.

For some women, however, baby blues symptoms increase in severity into full-blown depression. Postpartum depression can occur for several months after childbirth. The risk of postpartum depression is higher in women who experienced depressive episodes prior to (or during) pregnancy.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a depressive illness that affects some women in the week before menstruation. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (or PMDD) causes symptoms of depression including anxiety and irritability. PMDD is more than “just” PMS – symptoms are severe enough to prevent women from functioning normally.

Menopause and Depression

Menopause marks another major hormonal change in a woman’s life. Some women may experience depression as they enter menopause. Post-menopausal women, however, experience less depressive episodes.

Women, Stress and Symptoms of Depression

Both men and women experience stress, but some studies indicate that women respond to stress in ways that make them more susceptible to depression than men. Women, according to this research, have feel the effects of stress over longer time periods, which may raise the risk of depression.

It’s worth noting here that, interesting though such studies are, they deal in generalities. Everyone has a unique response to stress that affects their risk of depression either positively or negatively.

Women, Depression and Treatment

Women and men respond to the same depression treatments, with some differences. Women, for instance, tend to be more willing to engage in group therapy than men, possibly due to societal views on communication and male stoicism.

Pregnant women should consult their doctors before taking antidepressants, as some depression medication can cause birth defects. Postpartum depression treatment with antidepressants must also be handled carefully if the mother is breastfeeding, as depression medication can pass to the baby through breast milk.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is treated in much the same way as clinical depression, although PMDD may also be treated with nutritional or hormone therapy.

Many women who experience symptoms of depression never get the help they need. Those that do receive medical care usually find dealing with depression becomes much easier.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder: When Panic Attacks become Panic Disorder

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

The term ‘panic disorder’ is hotly debated. Conventially, it means someone who experiences a number of panic attacks which in turn, limit the extent to which that person lives her/his life. Panic attacks, as the words imply, are episodes of feeling high levels of fear, even terror, in situations where feeling so panic-stricken and afraid is totally inappropriate. While it’s life-saving to panic when there is real and present danger, many people who experience what we call panic attacks, feel intense fear in places like a shopping Mall, a movie theatre and while they’re out driving.

Panic attacks come out of the blue

Most people who experience panic attacks experience them out of the blue. The person is likely to feel any and all of the physical symptoms of intense fear including:

  • shortness of breath
  • racing heart beat
  • sweaty palms
  • dry throat
  • feeling sick in the stomach
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling lightheaded and faint

When you feel fear the very powerful hormone adrenaline is pumped into your system. That adrenaline is part of what is called the Flight/Fight syndrome. Under normal circumstances, adrenaline performs the very important physiological function of preparing you to run away, escape quickly from danger, or to stay and fight your way out of it. The most upsetting thing about a panic attack is that the person feeling those intense feelings knows full well that there is no sabre toothed tiger on the attack. There is nothing to fear – except the feelings of being out of control and of being afraid.

When someone experiences those feelings of inappropriate panic at, for example, the local Mall for the first time s/he may be able to write it off as something strange that happened on that day. When the same feelings of panic occur on several visits to the Mall, the person is very likely to avoid going to the Mall. That leads some medical practitioners and counsellors to use the label ‘panic disorder’ to describe that avoiding behaviour.

Considering the whole person and finding solutions to upsetting panic rather than in using labels that make people feel like they have an illness is the appropriate way forward. Experiencing panic attacks is not pleasant. It’s not a disorder. Panic attacks and even phobic responses are emotional responses that needed to be managed and rewritten. Not behaviours that need to be labelled as disorders.

A Panic Sufferer’s Plea: Dealing with Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia in Your Relationships

panic sufferer

Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia can negatively affect relationships. The sufferers may be more dependent on family members than they would like to be, and family members may resent having more responsibilities shifted onto them because of the loved one’s limitations. The sufferers often feel misunderstood by their family members who have never experienced the puzzling symptoms themselves. Good communication without blaming each other, and information are critical in coping with panic attacks.

The Plea of Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia Sufferers to their Family Members

Please don’t treat me as if I were defective, weak, or “crazy.”

You wouldn’t judge a person who came down with a heart problem or diabetes. Panic disorder has its roots in heredity and physiology, just like those other illnesses. People from all walks of life can have panic disorder, even the rich, famous, and successful. Just about everybody has some health issue. I have this.

Please don’t call me a hypochondriac.

My body is making me feel like I am terribly ill or losing my mind. These feelings are real, physical, feelings and they can be observed in a laboratory. Panic disorder symptoms are not imaginary like in hypochondriasis. They mimic the symptoms of some serious illnesses. It would be helpful if you would offer to accompany me to the doctor so we can rule out any medical problem.

Please don’t tell me to calm down, I have already tried that a million times.

All I do is try to calm down and it doesn’t help. Telling me to calm down makes me feel like a failure, even though it is well documented that simply “calming down” doesn’t work with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. Medicine and/or cognitive-behavioral treatment with a specialist are what does help. Maybe you could help me find treatment instead, or just reassure me that I am safe.

Please don’t tell me that I am doing this to myself or that I “have to stop”.

You wouldn’t blame people with diabetes or cancer for causing it themselves. You wouldn’t expect them to magically cure themselves. If I knew how to stop the symptoms, I would.

Please don’t think that I’m just making this up, or faking it to get out of doing something or going someplace.

I don’t know why my symptoms come and go, or why I am able to do some things without panicking and not others. But experts will tell you that this is the nature of Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. Maybe this disorder does “get me out of” doing things but, I am paying a huge price for this. It’s like my life is being closed off to me. I’m unable to do the things I love to do as well as things I don’t like. I would never choose this as a way of slacking off. All I want is my life back.

Please don’t tell me, “oh just do it.”

You have to understand that sometimes the simplest task seems as impossible as jumping off the top of a mountain. If someone told you to jump off the top of a mountain, would you be able to “just do it?”

Please don’t let me suffer when help is available.

If we have been to the doctor and ruled out a medical cause, then please help me find a therapist who specializes in Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia treatment so I can finally be convinced that Panic Disorder is what I have. If the diagnosis of Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia is correct, I have an excellent chance of getting better.

Oh, and last but notlLeast…

Thank you for trying so hard so far, and for not giving up on me. Just like I can’t be expected to have some magical knowledge about how to handle my panic attacks, I know that you can’t be expected to have magical knowledge about how to handle a person with panic attacks. Let’s not let it come between us. Let’s keep talking.

40 Million U.S. Adult Anxiety Disorder Sufferers: Chronic Anxiety that Affects up to 20% of the U.S. Population

anxiety disorder

Millions of Americans suffer a chronic anxiety disorder of some type. Severe anxiety is the most common emotional disorder worldwide, with depression coming in at a close second-place. Anxiety and depression often co-exist, which can worsen the symptoms of each. The symptoms of anxiety can be terrifying and sometimes debilitating but there are effective treatments to help with coping and recovery.

Causes of Anxiety Conditions and Disorders

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders can be related to other mental/emotional disorders, including depression and traumatic or stressful events. They can also be related to physical illnesses that can act as triggers for the development of them or as a contributing factor for ongoing anxiety symptoms. These illnesses include endocrine disorders (hormone gland problems), such as thyroid disorders and problems with glucose regulation in the body, including diabetes and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar episodes). Chronic stress syndromes and illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and sleep disorders can also contribute to the symptoms of anxiety disorders, as can other pain-related illnesses such as chronic arthritis and neurological diseases. National Institute of Mental Health-Anxiety Disorders

Manifestations of Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural emotion but becomes a problem when it occurs too often or out-of-context, meaning it occurs at inappropriate times and is disproportionately elevated in response to insignificant triggers (phobias) or to things that should not trigger anxiety reactions. Standing in a check-out line at a store for example should not trigger a severe anxiety reaction but can be a very real problem to people with anxiety disorders. A perceived threat of any kind can cause some anxiety sufferers to experience panic reactions or chronic worry. They may also feel on-edge and experience apprehension about a number of things that people with normal anxiety levels give very little consideration to. Some anxiety disorders manifest with obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors and many anxiety sufferers exhibit the aspects or symptoms of more than one anxiety condition. If these type reactions occur for a six month period or longer, this would indicate a person is experiencing at least one anxiety disorder according to the NIMH.

Substance Abuse and Coping Behaviors

Anxiety study groups and medical sources, including the NIMH state that anxiety disorders are often related to substance abuse and negative behaviors. Alcohol and drug abuse is often resorted-to as a coping method for chronic anxiety or in some cases the substance abuse may be a cause of anxiety conditions. Other self-coping methods some anxiety sufferers may resort to are sexually deviant behaviors and other habits of escapism, such as gambling, pornography or self-injury.

Anxiety Treatments

When anxiety disorders are related to physical illnesses, treatment for the medical condition can relieve or in some cases completely resolve the anxiety symptoms. For some medical patients, the anxiety has become a learned-behavior and may still require mental health therapy or psycho therapeutic medications (anti-anxiety drugs and/or anti-depressants). Therapies that are used to help people with anxiety disorders are designed to help them cope with anxiety and to work better with the emotion for more positive responses to it. Some therapies include “exposure techniques” in which an anxiety sufferer is slowly exposed to the phobia(s) that are causing them problems in life, so that they become less fearful of them.

Biofeedback techniques may also be used, which helps anxiety sufferers to observe their bodily responses to anxiety and stress and to develop strategies for redirecting those responses and channeling them into positive, rather than negative reactions. One of the more successful therapies is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which incorporates aspects of these other therapies into techniques that also help anxiety sufferers to react differently to anxiety triggers and to learn not to fear anxiety symptoms but rather to recognize them as natural bodily responses.

Which Foods Help Improve Bipolar Disorder Symptoms?

food for bipolar

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is an increasingly common mental health condition, where sufferers experience periods of mania (feeling euphoric) and clinical depression.

While mainstream approaches to treating bipolar disorder include therapy and anti-psychotic medications such as olanzapine and mood stabilizers including lithium, improved nutrition may also have a role to play.

Foods to Help Bipolar Disorder Sufferers

In addition to mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and antidepressants, making simple changes to dietary intake will likely make a difference to those affected with bipolar disorder. Even making sure one has a balanced diet, high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals will improve mood and help stabilize blood sugar levels.

In Eat Yourself Happy, Isaac & Isaac, highlight key foods to help bipolar disorder sufferers, to include the following:

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) – rich in omega-3 help boost mood;
  • Nuts and seeds – peanuts, pumpkin seeds;
  • Wholegrain fibres – rich in magnesium (calming mineral); and
  • Brazil nuts – rich in selenium.

Nutrition for Bipolar Sufferers on Lithium

The reason why eating foods rich in selenium (such as Brazil nuts) may help those suffering from bipolar disorder, is due to the effects of lithium, which is a commonly used mood stabilizer. As identified by Isaac & Isaac, lithium can affect the way the thyroid gland functions, while selenium is believed to help improve thyroid function.

Drinking plenty of water, particularly in warmer weather, is also important for those taking lithium as it will help the individual to maintain a balance of lithium levels. Sufficient fluids are required to help the kidneys to get flush the lithium, which must be excreted in urine to avoid toxicity.

Improve Bipolar Mania Reduce Tyrosine Levels

Another important aspect of improving bipolar disorder symptoms through nutrition, relates to the amino acid tyrosine. In the mania episode of bipolar disorder, reducing tyrosine is recognised to be a helpful approach to improving symptoms.

As identified by Isaac & Isaac, tyrosine-rich foods to reduce or avoid during episodes of mania, include as follows:

  • Mature cheese;
  • Beans;
  • Cured meats;
  • Pickled vegetables;
  • Chocolate; and
  • Aubergines.

In addition to avoiding or limiting intake of foods rich in tyrosine, it is also important to try to reduce intake of caffeine and alcohol. Whilst taking antidepressants, anti-psychotics or mood stabilizers, drinking alcohol may have potentially serious effects.

As highlighted above, bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania and clinical depression, with lithium, olanzapine and therapy being common forms of treatment. Nutritional approaches to bipolar disorder, include cutting out tyrosine-rich foods and eating foods such as nuts and seeds, those rich in selenium, omega-3 and magnesium.

What is Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy? A New Behavioral Approach to Bipolar Disorder

IPSR

Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy, or IPSRT, is a treatment for bipolar disorder based on the theory that stabilizing circadian and social rhythms can reduce the frequency and severity of manic and depressive episodes.

IPSR therapists look at things like a patient’s sleep-wake cycle, daily routines, and social relationships to help identify how disruptions to these social and bodily “rhythms” can trigger bipolar episodes.

What Happens In A Typical IPSR Session?

In a typical first session with an IPSR therapist, the patient will discuss the times he wakes up and goes to sleep, what times he eats, what times he has his first and subsequent interactions with other people, and whether those interactions are happy, stressful, stimulating, boring, or sad.

The patient might be asked to keep a diary of his daily routines and moods, noting each activity and how stimulating it was. The purpose of this exercise is to identify which habits and patterns may be exacerbating the patient’s bipolar disorder.

For example, disruptions in sleep are a common trigger for manic episodes, and highly stimulating, stressful social interactions throughout the day can worsen both mania and depression. By keeping a mood/activity journal, the patient can discover which habits and situations have an impact — either positive or negative — on mental health.

Mood Journals Help Patients With Bipolar Disorder Discover Their Social and Biological Rhythms

Using the information from the patient’s mood/activity journal, the therapist will help the patient establish the best possible “rhythm” of daily life. A therapist will often recommend regular sleeping and waking times, regulating the number of high-stimulation activities and social situations the patient engages in, and scheduling for regular exercise and relaxation time. IPSR therapists can also help the patient learn to cope with difficult relationships and family situations.

Once the patient has established a steady rhythm of routines and social interactions, an IPSR therapist will help the patient develop strategies for dealing with situations that disrupt his rhythm, such as changes in work schedules and sickness in the family. IPSRT emphasizes stress-management and developing insight into how the patient’s own physical and mental habits and social relationships play into his bipolar disorder.

IPSRT – A Biopsychosocial Approach to Treating Bipolar Disorder

This form of therapy is particularly useful for people with bipolar disorder because steady routines and relationships, combined with an appropriate course of medication, have been found to slow the recurrence of manic and depressive episodes.

Ultimately, the purpose of IPSRT is to give the patient the skills and insight necessary to regulate his own daily life to maximum benefit — and minimum bipolar. By becoming aware of the relationship between his own physical, social, and psychological systems, the patient can have much greater control over the course of the illness. Awareness and having the courage to seek help can have positive results. Just like how others suffer and they seek help from mdma centers Miami.