Pessimism or a Persistent Depression?
How to start battling a low-level persistent mood.
By David A. Morris, LCSW and Fran Kush, Ph.D.
(go directly to Depressive Voice section)
Charlie is a 66-year-old man who just assumed he was a chronic pessimist. “I’m a realist”, he would promote. He battled through a steady, persistent bad mood. It would sap some of his energy but not enough to seriously bother him. It wasn’t until he had a significant life stressor that led to a more concerning depressive episode. In the past, he navigated the hazy fog of his low mood with his resilience. Now, he lost his bearings and was starting to feel hopeless, lonely and maybe for the first time; afraid.
Six Approaches to Managing Persistent Depression
- Reduce or Eliminate Refined Sugars – researchers in Cambridge England published a comprehensive study indicating sugars and carbohydrates are linked to depression especially in middle age people (read study abstract)
- Movement – try consistent movement for 30 minutes 4x per week. The benefits range from positive release of endorphins, mindfulness moments, increases in metabolism, and bone density. How can you go wrong?
- Sleep, Sleep, Sleep – build a healthy, age-appropriate sleep hygiene routine. It is shown to decrease episodes of depression.
- Meditation, Prayer, Mindfulness – setting aside time for slowing down, connecting with your higher power, and absorbing the moment allows for additional clarity.
- Patience – our own psychologist, Dr. Fran Kush notes there is no “cure” but effective cognitive treatments to help. Don’t let your frustration get the best of your thoughts.
- It’s Not You – it’s genetics. Don’t confuse your pre-disposed genetics with a personality flaw. In fact, most often the illness masks your awesome, authentic self.
Already connecting with this information? Contact us today for an appointment to make the changes you want! Click Here.
What is Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)?
Persistent depressive disorder, known as dysthymia or low-grade depression, is less severe than major depression but more chronic. It occurs twice as often in women as in men. It can be serious and disabling. It is characterized by experiencing a depressed or irritable mood most of time over the course of at least two years. Also, most people experience at least several of the following:
- insomnia or excessive sleep
- low energy or fatigue
- low self-esteem
- poor appetite or overeating
- poor concentration or indecisiveness
- feelings of hopelessness.
The more typical, yet severe symptoms of lethargy, an inability to feel pleasure, and thoughts of death and/or suicide are often absent from those with PDD.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? Would you like help in battling through PDD? Call today to schedule an appointment 724.934.3905
Depressed in Pittsburgh?
The city of Pittsburgh is an amazing place to live, except for one small, yet powerful detail; weather. Pittsburgh receives some of the fewest sunny days in the country. This seasonal deprecation of rays creates an increase in seasonal affective episodes. Be patient and allow this season to pass.
Back to Charlie . . .
Charlie was almost relieved he felt so bad. At least he could now put his finger on it. “Depression”, he told himself. He had felt irritated, agitated for over two years but didn’t view it as depression. He attributed it to life and himself just not being good enough. Looking back, he realized moments of confusion or even boredom would result in negative self-talk and blame. Now it was time to seek help. Fortunately, his therapist shared several proven methods to work on his thoughts, feelings and actions.
Cognitive restructuring to improve your negative self-talk can be very effective. A slow, steady persistent depression is often coupled with thoughts that tap into negative intermediate and core beliefs. Adjusting your perception and thoughts are within your grasp through cognitive therapy. Our therapists, including Dr. Fran Kush, are experts in teaching you these thought skills.
The Depression Voice
What our inner voice tells us about ourselves.
By David A. Morris, LCSW
Sylvia Plath, famous writer, once described her depression as, “I could not sleep, although tired. And lay feeling my nerves shaved to pain and the groaning inner voice: oh, you can’t teach, can’t do anything. Can’t write, can’t think…”
Depression has a message for you. It wants to deliver a set of distorted ideas so it can maintain its power over you. The “groaning inner voice” Ms. Plath refers to appears inaccurate and harsh to outsiders. But someone struggling with depression may start to respond to the unhelpful, inaccurate, and negative messages. “Stay home.” “Protect yourself.” “You can’t do it right”. “Go back to sleep.”
To combat your depression, means to start to separate yourself from the depressive voice. Its goal is to take you down, criticize you for being down, and then hold you there for as long as possible. But, this isn’t you and this isn’t your message. The voice is a collection of the messages told to you growing up and negative self-talk our brain is designed to filter out but isn’t.
Of course, life events produce emotions such as sadness, anxiety and grief. We have these emotions as a way to express ourselves. Death, job loss, relationship tension, illness, injury, etc. all cause distress and activate our emotions. But it is the way we think of ourselves and others and the way we make sense of these negative events that determines the ongoing effect on us.
Here are some important steps to take to slowly silence the depressive inner voice:
- Identify the voice. Notice its tone. Observe its message
- Nickname the voice and write down the messages in 2nd person. E.g. “You can’t handle the situation!”
- Develop your message in response. Use a tone that represents who you are without the pressure of the depressive voice. E.g. “I can try and handle it the best I can.”
- Share with a family member or close friend your depressive voice experience and response. Be open and receive an outside perspective.
There are times when the inner voice’s negative messages are difficult to handle on your own. If you need someone to partner with you in this journey, contact New Directions Counseling Services. Call us at 724.934.3905