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Wednesday, 26 December 2018 14:13

Turning from SAD to GLAD This Winter Season

As the winter months are on us and daylight becomes shorter, many people can’t shake the feeling of sadness. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, affects more than 11 million Americans. Depression signs such as sluggishness, weight gain, food cravings and fatigue can occur when the lack of Vitamin D from sun exposure during the shorter daylight hours disrupts our sense of balance and our internal body clock.

The changing of the seasons doesn’t have to change our mood though. Try using the following tips to turn your winter season from SAD to GLAD.

G – Group Up

Get your group on! Gathering together with friends and family during the winter season can lift your spirits. Surrounding yourself with those you love and who love you can be a powerful antidepressant. Whether you join a group therapy session, host a get-together or just organize a group outing, there is power in numbers when combatting SAD. Let your people help you turn SAD to GLAD.

L - Laughter

We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.” In the case of SAD, it truly is! Laughing with friends releases endorphins, which relieves pain and makes your brain feel good. According to a study published in the journal proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (scientificamerican.com), researchers found that the long series of exhalations that accompany true laughter cause physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles and in turn, trigger endorphin release. This endorphin makes you feel happy. So, grab your friends and your favorite “Friends” episodes and laugh until your belly hurts during this winter season!

A – Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to improve mood and overall health. Just as you light a scented candle or smell the first morning brew of coffee, your senses are awakened and uplifted; aromatherapy essential oils can do this and more. Using the correct essential oils can help improve sleep, enhance mood and overall improve a person’s quality of life. During this winter season, use your sense of smell with therapeutic aromatherapy oils to give you the gift of GLAD. Speaking of gifts, if you know someone who is prone to SAD, aromatherapy is a great uplifting gift to give.

D – Dance

Sometimes it helps to just get up and dance. Science has proven exercise lifts moods. Aerobic exercise strengthens both the body and the mind; and when you add the benefit of uplifting music, the power to enhance happiness grows. Zumba broke into the exercise world in recent years combining the power of music and the power of dance for gym exercising. If you’ve ever seen a Zumba class, you are hard pressed to find a joyless face in there – the release of energy through dance is a perfect antidote for the hopelessness of SAD. So put on your favorite music, stand up and start grooving this winter season.

We are GLAD you took the time to read this. This winter season, use these tools to get your GLAD on or help someone else turn feelings of SAD to GLAD.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Wednesday, 12 December 2018 18:25

How to Recognize Depression in Your Spouse

Most people have heard of depression and have a basic understanding of what it is. Yet when it sneaks into a marriage, some spouses have a difficult time recognizing that their husband or wife is depressed. That's because depression doesn't always look the same. After all, people don't generally walk around saying "I feel sad and hopeless." Everyone is unique, which means your spouse may display the symptoms of this disorder in different ways.

Common Signs of Depression in Your Spouse

As the most common mental disorder in the United States, the stigma around depression has grown less in recent years. However, most people still feel the need to put on a brave face and hide what's going on inside. In a marriage, signs of depression may manifest as part of their relationship with you. To find out if your husband or wife is one of the almost seven percent of adults who have experienced a depressive episode at least once in their life, here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure: Unfortunately, this doesn't just mean a loss of interest in hobbies or activities. Your spouse could actually lose pleasure in their relationship with you. That doesn't mean she doesn't love you. Engaging with another person and meeting their needs requires effort and energy she may be unable to muster up. One of the early signs of depression you may notice is your spouse spending more time on their phone, surfing the web or watching TV, as these are activities that require minimal effort or interaction.
  • Change in sleep patterns: A more obvious sign that your spouse is depressed may be that their sleep patterns begin to change. They may have difficulty falling asleep or insomnia that keeps her up most of the night. You might notice them leaving the bedroom to watch TV or walk around the house. However, depression can also manifest in excessive sleeping as the disorder can cause fatigue and lack of energy.
  • Eating changes: Another place depression can reveal itself is at mealtime. Changes in eating can go either way, causing your spouse to gain or lose excessive amounts of weight. You may notice your spouse overeating, usually in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of depression. Yet the disorder can also lead him or her to lose interest in food or struggle with digestive issues that make eating difficult.
  • Negativity: This side effect of depression may be hurtful. You might be excited or optimistic about something only to be met with a "downer" response. When your husband or wife says these things, it may feel calculated and cruel. However, they're not trying to make life difficult. These utterances stem from their own depressive thoughts.
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts: One of the most serious effects of depression is that it can cause people to think about or attempt self-harm. If your husband or wife has mentioned that they think about dying or that he or she doesn't think it matters if they live or die, take these statements seriously. This is usually an indication that their depression requires immediate professional intervention.

How to Help When Your Spouse Has Depression

The above signs are just a few indications to look out for. Other signs could include irritability or drastic changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, excessive anxiety, a loss of self-confidence and feelings of guilt. If your husband or wife is showing signs of depression, you may be tempted to take responsibility for your loved one's recovery. This likely won't help them, and it could put a huge strain on yourself and your relationship.

Think of your job as more one of providing compassionate support, which includes:

  • Listening without judgment: While you are not directly responsible for your spouse's recovery, you can offer support and provide a listening ear. Even if you've never experienced the hardships they're living through, listen actively and empathetically as they explain their reality. This can help to reduce some of the feelings of isolation your spouse is likely experiencing, which can be helpful in lessening the overall effects of their depression.
  • Responding to emergency situations like suicide attempts: Sometimes, a bit of space can be needed for your spouse to work through their depression. However, if you witness any signs of self-harm or if your loved one makes comments about suicide, take those signals seriously. Get help quickly by contacting a suicide hotline, mental health professional or 911 if necessary.
  • Being sure to care for yourself: Addressing depression can be difficult for loved ones as well. Offer your support and assistance as much as possible, but remember to take care of yourself. Be sure you get enough sleep and take the time to do the things you enjoy. Stress and burnout can affect how much you're able to support your spouse. It can also be helpful to set healthy boundaries — offer comfort and reassurance for your spouse, but try not to take on your husband or wife's feelings as your own.
  • Encouraging your spouse to get the help they need: Depression can be extremely difficult to overcome without the help of a professional. Try doing a little bit of research to determine some available options, and discuss them with your spouse — but be careful to avoid pressuring them. If they are not ready to take part in therapy or in a specific program, ask if there is someone in their life that they would be comfortable talking to. Remind them that seeking outside help to get better is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Brookhaven Retreat Can Help Women With Depression

If you believe your wife has severe depression, then we can help. Brookhaven Retreat is a residential women-only mental health facility located in the beautiful Tennessee foothills. In this safe and comfortable environment, your spouse can get the help she needs to find positive ways to cope with her depression and find her way to longlasting recovery. We invite you to contact us to find out more about the compassionate services offered at Brookhaven Retreat.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Thursday, 13 September 2018 15:53

Depression and Relationships

In the United States, the leading cause of disability among individuals aged 15 to 44 is major depressive disorder or MDD. Though this disorder affects both genders, it is more prevalent in women than in men. Studies show that an estimated one in every 10 women experiences depression symptoms, with between one in nine and one in five women experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression. Because various types of depression can cause different symptoms, some women may not be aware that this disorder is impacting their lives.

1 in 10 women suffer from depression

Depression is more than simply being upset or feeling sad. Although negative events, like the loss of a loved one or a major life change, can cause an individual to experience significant feelings of sadness and even depressive episodes, depression causes severe symptoms that last for over two weeks which affects the way a person feels, thinks and acts.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Decreased energy
  • Loneliness and self-isolation

What many people may not realize is that depression not only impacts the individual suffering, it affects their relationships as well.

How Depression Can Affect Relationships

Like many other serious mental health issues, depression can have a long-reaching impact on every aspect of your life including the relationships you have with family members, friends and romantic partners. Depression can develop at any age and be attributed to genetics, other medical conditions, medications, major life changes or any combination of these factors. Because this disorder can occur and persist throughout life's many stages, the varied symptoms of depression have the potential to impact all types of relationships — even relationships that are inherently healthy, supportive and positive.

Social isolation

Living with depression is difficult for many individuals, regardless of their age, occupation or status in society. Although some of these individuals may be required to interact with others throughout their daily tasks, they can still feel alone even when they are surrounded by people. Social isolation occurs when an individual has a lack of meaningful social interactions with others. For instance, if you work in a service-oriented career where you engage with many customers, you can still experience social isolation if you lack quality and rewarding interaction, which can have negative effects on health.

There are many ways in which depression can affect relationships. The symptoms of depression, especially when combined with other co-occurring disorders like anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse disorders, can create real or perceived strains in all types of relationships. Those without depression are also at an increased risk of developing symptoms if they have poor quality relationships with family members, romantic partners or other social acquaintances. These symptoms could both further decrease the quality of those relationships and increase the severity of symptoms.

1. How Depression Impacts Family Relationships

It's important to remember that every case of depression is as unique as the person affected. The dynamics of each interpersonal relationship can be vastly different from one person to another and they can be altered by a number of factors including depression or other mental health issues. However, this does not mean depression will cause a relationship to become ruined, irreparable or forever damaged. Depression has the potential to put a strain on a relationship, but treatment and therapy can help to manage and reduce this impact.

Depression can strain relationships

A family history of depression and other mental health issues increases the likelihood that an individual will also develop similar conditions. It is often hard for family members - parents, siblings, children and other relatives - to understand what it's like to struggle with depression and they may be confused if this struggle is new.

Here are some ways that depression can impact family relationships, explained through brief scenarios:

  • If a parent reacts with irritability, frustration or anger, it could cause their child to develop increased feelings of worthlessness.
  • If an individual suddenly loses interest in an activity they do with their sibling, that brother or sister may feel abandoned, discarded or isolated.
  • If a child experiences sadness and observes their parent suffering from the same depressive symptoms, they may feel that attempting to overcome the disease is hopeless.
  • If one family member experiences increased anxiety and restlessness while the other feels tired and lacks energy, the ways in which they each try to cope with these symptoms may drive them further apart.

Without support from family members who understand, or at least seek to understand, the unique symptoms you're experiencing, it may be difficult for you to share your thoughts and feelings. If you don't believe they'll respect or accept the ways depression is affecting your mind and body, you may choose to distance yourself from them or begin to harbor negative feelings towards those who don't seem to be on your side.

Mothers and Depression: The Impact on Children

If you are a mother suffering from depression, it is natural to be concerned with how this will impact your child's development. Some studies have shown that there is an association between parents experiencing depression and the frequency of behavioral problems in their children, a lack of quality interpersonal functioning and lower results rating cognitive, intellectual and academic performance. Depression in parents also seems to have an association with increased rates of depression, cognitive vulnerabilities towards the disorder and increased rates of anxiety in their children.

However, this does not mean that a parent's depressed behavior alone will influence the likelihood of depression in their children. Other risk factors, or the absence of protective factors, can also influence child depression. These factors include comorbid psychiatric disorders, lifestyle hardships like poverty and exposure to violence and conflict. Additional influences that also play a role include genetic variability, severe and frequent exposure to stressful environments and prenatal exposure to anxiety. A parent's depression doesn't automatically translate to the development of a child's depression.

2. How Depression Impacts Romantic Relationships

A romantic relationship may bring enjoyment, contentment and even love into a person's life, however, these positive feelings won't necessarily reduce symptoms of depression. There is no "cure" for depression — negative thoughts or feelings can't simply be erased or replaced by positivity. This disease can impact romantic relationships just as significantly as other family relationships. The symptoms of depression may cause an individual to behave in ways that can interfere with a casual or serious romantic relationship and create emotional hardships.

Any sexual component in a relationship, including relationships in which sexual encounters exist without courtship, can be affected by depression. Decreased sex drive is one of the many symptoms of depression and can cause an individual to refrain from engaging in any sexual activities. Depression can decrease energy and make an individual feel negatively towards themselves and their partner which will greatly impact their desire to engage in sex.

Depression has an effect on all types of romantic relationships, especially if the opposite partner does not have depression or has suffered from it in the past. These individuals may withhold their support for their depressed partner or engage in intensive supportive actions, both of which can cause relationship strain. Conversely, it's been shown that many women will hide their depression from their spouse by engaging in self-silencing as an act of protection, thus not allowing the partner to have the opportunity to show support.

Depression can be a hurdle

Many Americans admit that depression is a significant hurdle in their relationships. Depression can also affect marriages and has the potential to increase marital dissatisfaction and rates of divorce. In fact, divorce rates can increase nine times higher than average when one spouse suffers from depression. Though it's expected that familial issues or financial strains may impact a relationship, depression can make any issues in a marriage much more complicated and damaging.

3. How Depression Can Affect Friendships

Not only is it common for those struggling with depression to isolate themselves from their family and loved ones, it's also common for them to completely withdraw from their other social relationships. Depression has the potential to affect all types of relationship no matter how close or casual you and another person are. Some symptoms of depression may cause you to inadvertently push others in your life away.

Anger and irritability as depression symptoms

Anger and irritability are two common signs of depression, but they could also be seen as personality flaws by others who do not understand depression's diverse symptoms. Aggressive behavior like becoming excessively mad, shouting or instigating conflict — and even passive-aggressive behaviors — can hurt the feelings of those you interact with. This could put a strain on your relationship and lead them to avoid interacting with you.

Warning Signs That Depression May Be Affecting Your Relationships

The symptoms of depression are diverse and vary in severity. You may be easily able to recognize these signs in a stranger and yet you could be completely unaware that this disease is causing a loved one to suffer. Similarly, you may also be portraying the signs and symptoms of depression without acknowledging or realizing the severity of its impact on your relationships. Depression can affect all of your relationships in vastly different ways. The following are warning signs that depression may be affecting your relationships.

1. You Feel Your Relationships Are Hopeless.

We allow those in our lives to occupy certain roles of varying degrees. These relationships — familial, intimate or platonic — create a support structure that can be a positive influence in our lives. Feeling that these relationships are meaningless or temporary is not healthy. Although family members pass, friends drift apart and relationships may dissolve, these are normal occurrences most individuals face in life. The potential for a relationship to come to an end is not a reason to abandon hope in all relationships.

2. Your Negative Emotions Influence Your Participation in Relationships.

Conflict is a natural part of our lives, however, avoiding this conflict is not always natural or healthy. Those who suffer from depression may have trouble dealing with intense, negative emotions — the same type of overwhelming emotions that are often present during a conflict. Reacting to these negative emotions in unhealthy ways does not allow you to process, rectify and overcome these feelings. If you completely withdraw from emotional conflict or react too strongly to it, it could damage your relationship.

Withdrawing from emotional conflict

3. You Use Destructive Behaviors to Cope With Depression Symptoms.

The onset of depression and the prevalence of this disease creates hardships throughout all aspects of your life. When some individuals suffering from depression feel that they cannot manage their symptoms, they may engage in negative behaviors in an ultimately failed attempt to relieve themselves of these issues.

Some self-destructive behaviors commonly cited are drug and alcohol abuse, both of which can negatively impact not only the depression symptoms but your overall quality of health as well. However, there are more ways in which a person could be engaging in damaging behavior without using these substances. Self-defeating thoughts and actions are also serious warning signs that have been found to be significant to suicidal thoughts in women. This sometimes subtle form of self-deprecation can be an eroding force that worsens depressive symptoms.

4. Your Sexual Activity Has Decreased Significantly or Is Non-Existent.

A decreased sexual drive is a symptom of depression and can occur at any time regardless of the relationship stage. The absence of sex, or more specifically the lack of physical contact and feelings of arousal, can cause partners to become physically and emotionally distant from one another. Although physiological conditions can cause a lowered sex drive, it is also a warning sign for depression and a potential way your relationship can become damaged.

5. You Experience Anxiety, Knowingly or Not.

Anxiety and depression are common co-occurring disorders — there's a high chance that those experiencing depression are also feeling symptoms of anxiety. One of the symptoms of anxiety is the urge to avoid situations that cause this panic. If you're actively avoiding interaction with your family, friends or partner for fear of having an anxiety attack, you may want to consider the possibility that you could be suffering from severe anxiety coupled with depression.

Anxiety and depression common co-occurring disorders

6. You Experience Changes in Your Sleep Patterns.

We seem only to get busier and busier as the weeks go by and it's not uncommon for individuals to feel tired or run down after juggling a full schedule. However, problems like insomnia and oversleeping can be indicative of depression. Regardless of how much sleep you get, if you feel consistently fatigued or find yourself unwilling to get out of bed to spend time with those you care about, you may be showing signs of depression.

Insomnia and oversleeping can be depression symptoms

7. You Engage in Self-Harm and Hide It From Others.

If you've attempted to harm yourself through any means, it may be hard to hide these injuries from others. Actively avoiding face-to-face interaction with those you care about because you're trying to conceal your injuries is a sign that you may be depressed.

8. You're Considering Suicide.

If you're considering suicide, or believe that to continue living is hopeless, get help immediately. You may be inclined to distance yourself from your support system, but this is the time you need these relationships most. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Knowing When to Seek Help for Depression

Although at times depression may make a person feel isolated from everyone around them, no one needs to face depression alone. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of depression, it's important to know when an individual should seek professional help. Depression is highly treatable. Many people who have suffered from depression have regained their lives using a variety of treatments including therapy and medication. You can recover from your symptoms and manage this disorder. Realizing it's time to seek assistance from a mental health specialist is the first step.

Time to seek help for depression

If you or someone you care about is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms consistently for more than two weeks, you may be struggling with depression:

  • Decreased energy or fatigue, especially that which prevents you from socializing with others
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in hobbies or activities performed alone or with friends and family
  • Trouble focusing on tasks, recalling details or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping, insomnia or oversleeping
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, or believing that you appear this way in the eyes of others
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic about relationships or your general outlook on life
  • Consistent feelings of heavy sadness, anxiety or emptiness
  • Thoughts of death
  • Thoughts or attempts at self-harm or suicide

Depression is a disorder that affects brain chemistry. Co-occurring disorders like anxiety or substance abuse may increase and further complicate symptoms of depression. Though you may believe that those in your life perceive your relationship in a negative light, it's likely depression causing you to feel this way and to see these relationships through a tinted lens. You may discover that seeking help for depression can improve the relationships you have with family members, friends and intimate partners.

Repairing Relationships Affected by Depression With Help From Brookhaven Retreat

Depression is a common disorder that many women struggle with. Unfortunately, this disease affects the way you think, feel and act, which often negatively impacts your relationships with family members, friends and romantic partners. This loneliness may sometimes lead to destructive coping mechanisms such as abusing drugs or alcohol, which also increases feelings of isolation. To prevent depression from affecting interpersonal relationships, many women seek compassionate support and professional treatment. By developing healthy coping mechanisms and treating mental health issues, you can successfully manage your depression.

Brookhaven Retreat is a safe and caring facility that welcomes women from all walks of life with understanding and support. Specializing in individualized treatment programs for mental health and substance abuse issues, we remove the stigma that prevents women from addressing these diseases and provide them with the resources needed to heal, grow and return to their lives as stronger and healthier women. We're dedicated to guiding these brave individuals through recovery by offering the encouragement, understanding and professional knowledge they need to achieve positive change in their lives.

If you believe that your relationships are being negatively affected by symptoms of depression, you should know these challenges that you are facing can be overcome. Our knowledgeable and compassionate staff is available to help you reshape your outlook on life, reduce the negative thoughts that cause emotional strife and rebuild the relationships that depression may have damaged. Contact Brookhaven Retreat today and let us help you regain control of your mental health and live a happier and healthier life.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for depression treatment

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Each year, millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues. Among the vast spectrum of challenging health conditions, depression and anxiety are two common struggles that impact the day-to-day quality of life for young adults. Anxiety affects over 40 million people over the age of 18. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for someone who has an anxiety disorder to also face depression and vice versa. These commonly co-occurring disorders often influence one another and create more hurdles for those afflicted to overcome.

One quarter of teens show symptoms of depression

Adolescents are especially at risk for developing these disorders. Nearly one-quarter of teens will show symptoms of depression by the age of 18. This depression during teenage years can carry on to college years if not addressed.

Depressed college students are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers. The fact is that many universities and collegiate facilities are recognizing that the effects of depression and anxiety have a negative impact on academic performance.

Can Depression and Anxiety Affect Academic Performance?

Depression and anxiety can impact any aspect of a person's life including their academic performance. The number of college students seeking help for their mental health afflictions hitting record highs. Students seeking out counselling centers have dramatically increased over the last decade and is exponentially higher than the rate of increases in enrollment. Students surveyed said that their depressive symptoms made it hard to function and reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. Many of these students are also more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

Mental health disorders aren't simply changes in emotional states. The varying, ongoing symptoms of each unique disorder directly affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Factors like inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth and brain chemistry can contribute to these illnesses. Additional risk factors could increase the likelihood that these conditions may develop. These include having a family history of mental health issues, undergoing a stressful or traumatic experience, substance abuse, lacking social bonds or other chronic medical conditions, and can cause significant complications throughout all aspects of your life.

Transition from highschool

Although these conditions can appear at any age throughout a person's life, the fact is that young adults are vulnerable to developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The transition from high school to college forces many students to face challenges, pressures and conflicts that they may have never been confronted with at home. These new social, academic and financial struggles can trigger or reveal depression and anxiety in some young adults. Some can overcome these symptoms on their own. Others require professional intervention.

The symptoms of mental health disorders do more than merely distract a student from focusing on their studies. Psychological disorders can disrupt cognitive functioning and reduce intellectual performance. Cognitive dysfunction is believed to have a strong correlation with mental health diagnoses like depression and anxiety. These conditions can significantly alter cognitive functioning, particularly memory retention and the absorption of knowledge. With such a profound influence, it's no surprise that these disorders negatively impact the academic performance of college students. Depression and anxiety directly impact the ability to learn.

How Depression and Anxiety Affect Your Ability to Learn

Studies have shown that there is a link between depression, anxiety and lower academic performance. Mental health conditions can affect college students at any level. In assessing groups of students in varying years, first-year students reported increased instances of self-harm and suicide consideration while upperclassmen reported more significant impacts on their academic performance due to their mental health afflictions. Students, educators and mental health professionals agree that there is a concerning prevalence of mental health issues that impact the lives and academic performance of college-aged individuals.

Mental health issues impact learning

Though some may be quick to categorize depression and anxiety as emotional afflictions, it should not be ignored that these two conditions have a profound impact on cognitive functioning. Research shows that emotion and motivation create two psychological processes that have dramatic influence over cognition and behavior. More specifically, when emotion and cognition interact negatively, this can increase the likelihood of the manifestation of anxiety and depression-related symptoms. These conditions are also associated with deficits in executive function like memory retention, focus and adjusting behavior based on environment.

How Anxiety Impacts Academic Performance

Stress is a common feeling many people experience when faced with a range of situations. This biological response can be positive or negative and typically is experienced for a short period. In an academic context, the stress experienced when studying for a test may help an individual enhance their focus and achieve a higher test score. In contrast, negative stress can cause an individual to have an upset stomach before an exam because they are worried about their performance.

Anxiety may have similar symptoms, however, these symptoms are often enhanced and continue for long periods of time. While stress can motivate a person to overcome a challenge, anxiety is an intense and sometimes irrational feeling of worry that can become debilitating. Anxiety can cause an individual to become physically sick or severely distraught at the thought of taking a test, giving a presentation or other academic activities. Instead of triggering a biological response that can enhance academic performance, anxiety causes physical and mental symptoms that can dramatically inhibit cognitive functioning.

Anxiety's impact on learning activities

Physiological symptoms among students experiencing anxiety include:

  • Feeling cold or chills
  • Increased nervousness or panicking
  • Sweaty palms
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Significantly increased heart rate
  • Quickened breathing

Psychological symptoms among students experiencing anxiety include:

  • An absence of interest in an area of academia which they perceive as difficult
  • Increased nervousness before engaging in formal academic classes
  • Experiencing significant panic
  • Going "blank" while taking examinations
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless when completing assignments

How Depression Impacts School Performance

There are many periods in life during which a person will feel sadness. For college-aged adolescents, sadness may be triggered by homesickness, academic failures, the death of a loved one or the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Those who experience sadness are typically able to still function normally in their daily lives. This sadness usually lasts for a short period and is accepted, reconciled and moved on from. 

Like anxiety, depression is a common mental health disorder that takes on many forms with varying severities. Unlike sadness, depression significantly alters parts of the brain. Though sadness can be felt during depression, some may not feel it at all. Instead, they may experience other symptoms that interfere with their daily lives on a long-term basis. This illness can present a range of physical and mental symptoms and is a prevalent condition among college-aged students.

Physiological symptoms among college students experiencing depression may include:

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Drastic changes in appetite or weight
  • Physical pain like muscular discomfort or headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia or oversleeping

Psychological symptoms among college students experiencing depression may include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, activities or social engagements
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Engaging in self-harm or attempting suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating on homework assignments or in class
  • Difficulty retaining information read in textbooks or learned in class
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism about academic future
  • Feelings of isolation or helplessness

The Impact of Depression and Anxiety Disorders on Cognition

Depression and anxiety alone or as co-occurring disorders can dramatically affect an individual's academic performance. These diseases can hinder the brain's ability to think, understand, learn and remember information. Studies show that stress, depression and anxiety experienced by college students of varying years have had a negative impact on their academic success.

Negative impact on college performance

Areas in which these mental health conditions can negatively affect cognition include:

  • Memory retention
  • Memory retrieval
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Ability to learn

Impaired Memory Retention and Retrieval From Depression and Anxiety

Both anxiety and depression can lead to problems with memory. Research suggests that while those with depression might be able to retain memories, they may find it difficult to discern specific identifiable details. For instance, though they may be able to determine whether or not they had seen a set of objects before, they may be unable to distinguish one set of objects from another set that possesses similar identifying features. This may be because those with depression have a smaller hippocampus, the memory processor of the brain.

Though it is suggested that anxiety in certain contexts can help an individual remember a situation with greater detail, too much anxiety can have the opposite effect. High anxiety can cause an individual to lose focus on their surroundings and shut out all external observations. It can also influence the perception and memory of events in a negative way. For example, because an individual is in a negative state of mind they may internalize neutral stimuli with a negative bias.

Chronic stress and anxiety may also cause brain inflammation that results in short-term memory loss. In a study, mice exposed to long-term stress had inflamed hippocampus regions that created memory loss. These stresses parallel the traumatic anxieties that some individuals feel. If a college student is constantly in a state of high anxiety or panic, it may cause them to compromise their short-term memory even after brain inflammation has subsided. This could cause weeks' worth of behavior and memory problems for those facing pressures of collegiate academia.

Short-term memory loss

Anxiety and Depression's Influence on Problem-Solving and Learning Abilities

Both problem-solving skills and the general absorption of knowledge are affected by anxiety through the ineffectiveness of working memory. The working memory is the brain's short-term memory system that enables an individual to retain information while actively solving a problem. When debilitating amounts of anxiety force this system to operate inefficiently, working memory capacity suffers. Without a reliable working memory, an individual will find it difficult to successfully accomplish a task. This anxiety could cause an individual to be unable to use complex problem-solving skills in school and life.

Though many people have learning disabilities, there are a substantial number of people who have legitimate mathematic anxieties. By actively avoiding the emotional strife that occurs when trying to accomplish mathematical tasks, an individual can overload and disrupt their working memory. Mathematics anxiety is considered separate from test or generalized anxiety, though it may have some correlation. This anxiety interferes with the ability to solve mathematical problems in academia and real-life applications.

Depression can cause individuals to experience increased risks of academic underachievement. Studies have shown that depression in adolescents can lead to cognitive impairment and social dysfunction which directly impacts academic performance. Symptoms like fatigue, hopelessness, stress and physical pains can make it difficult for an individual to function in an academic environment, decreasing their ability to successfully learn. Depression and anxiety have caused many college students to drop out, withdraw or shift to a part-time schedule which negatively extends their academic careers.

Signs That Depression and Anxiety May Be Impacting Your School Performance

Those faced with depression and anxiety in their late adolescence may not realize that their symptoms are having a negative impact on their academic performance. During times of difficulty throughout our lives, we may feel overwhelmed with stress or burdened with sadness. The transition from early adolescence to adulthood is a significant milestone that can affect mental health, especially for those adjusting to life in college. Some individuals may not realize that negative changes in their mental health during this transition are actually symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Life changes can affect mental health

Many mental health disorders do not necessarily display overt physical signs or symptoms of affliction. Depression and anxiety, separately or together, may cause you to feel a variety of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. You may experience negative feelings or behave in new ways. Your symptoms of one mental health issue could actually be related to another and one individual may display symptoms that are different than another's.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are unsure if depression and anxiety are impacting your academic performance:

  • • Are your grades dropping significantly because you are unable to focus on your schoolwork?
  • Are you feeling sad, empty or hopeless regularly?
  • Do you get very angry, frustrated or irritated for any reason, even small instances that shouldn't normally cause this turmoil?
  • Have you lost interest or enjoyment in the hobbies or activities that used to make you happy?
  • Are you sleeping too much, unable to fall asleep or experiencing nightmares or discomfort that constantly wakes you up?
  • Do you often feel exhausted or have a constant lack of energy that makes it difficult to complete even small daily tasks?
  • Has your appetite changed so drastically that you are either not hungry and losing weight or constantly hungry and gaining weight?
  • Do you feel overstressed, restless or agitated on a regular basis?
  • Do you find yourself acting, speaking or thinking slower than normal?
  • Are you experiencing headaches, backaches or other physical pain that you can't explain?
  • Do you sometimes feel that you're worthless, do you fixate on past failures or feel guilty about events that aren't your fault?
  • Do you have thoughts of death and suicide or have you considered or attempted suicide?

If you answered yes to all, some or even one of these questions, you may be unknowingly suffering from depression and anxiety. Even if you don't believe that your studies are the root of your issues, any mental affliction could cause you to underperform at school. Remember, depression and anxiety impact cognitive functioning which can create difficulty in all aspects of your life including memory retention, memory retrieval, problem-solving abilities and the ability to absorb information and learn.

Seeking Treatment for Depression and Anxiety Can Improve Performance

Depression and anxiety are serious mental health issues that present individuals with a number of physical, emotional and cognitive challenges which are often difficult to overcome. Thankfully, there are many forms of treatment available that cater to the many variations of depression and anxiety, both separately and together. Many of these psychotherapies involve talk-based therapy sessions in which an individual and their counselor discuss the struggles, feelings and thoughts that manifest during episodes of depression and panic. Therapy options for college students with depression and anxiety can range from one-on-one sessions to group therapy sessions.

Getting help for anxiety and depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as one of the most effective treatment option for those suffering from generalized anxiety disorders. CBT seeks to help individuals become their own therapists by developing coping skills and learning to change their negative patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. Instead of focusing on past events, CBT addresses the current issues an individual is facing and focuses on helping them move forward via healthy coping strategies. The individual will ideally help themselves through their anxiety by applying these learned behaviors during stressful situations.

Medications may also be used in conjunction with therapies depending on the treatment plan outlined for each particular individual. A mental health professional can help to determine the best course of treatment based on the individual's needs.

These treatments may help them manage stress and cope with depression in healthy ways, regain their focus, compartmentalize their problems, increase their self-confidence when faced with adversity and improve their academic performance.

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression at Brookhaven Retreat for Women

Depression and anxiety are powerful mental afflictions that can negatively impact, disrupt and damage many facets of your life. Though stress and sadness are natural parts of life, anxiety and depression are medical illnesses that can severely harm your physical, mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, choosing to cope with these problems by self-medicating with alcohol, substance abuse, co-dependent relationships, isolation, anger or binge-eating is not an effective solution, but one that many college students turn to. To emotionally heal and move forward successfully, many people require compassionate support and professional treatment.

Brookhaven Retreat is a safe and caring facility where women can find serenity and support. As one of the most innovative mental health retreats for women in the country, we offer 90-day treatment programs that address issues with mental health, substance abuse and emotional strife. We provide comprehensive recovery for those who need assistance regaining control of their lives and rediscovering who they truly are.

If you're experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety as you continue your transition into college, know that you're not alone. The experts at Brookhaven Retreat are here to help you progress from adolescence to adulthood in healthy, positive ways that do not impede your academic performance. Call us today and let us help you resolve these issues so that you can progress forward into a life of happiness and success.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for Help

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Thursday, 12 July 2018 18:50

How Does Depression Affect the Brain

Many people associate depression with feelings of sadness, tiredness and lack of motivation or energy. What many don't understand is that depression isn't just a feeling. It's a psychological condition that affects the way you think, feel and even behave.

Although it's categorized as a mood disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD) could be rooted in chemical changes occurring in the brain.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a condition that causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Although some people have mild cases that occur only occasionally throughout their life, others struggle with bouts of depression their entire life. This intense, long-lasting form is called major depressive disorder (MDD). Symptoms of depression can impact every aspect of a person's life, from their performance at work or school to physical functions like eating or sleeping.

Those diagnosed with MDD typically exhibit five of the more common symptoms every day for at least two weeks. These common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or sadness
  • Lack of interest in activities and things they once enjoyed
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Lack of sleep or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Although the cause of depression is not known precisely, researchers believe that it may be a combination of factors including genetics and stress plus hormonal imbalances and biochemical reactions in the brain.

How Depression Affects the Brain

Three parts of the brain show distinct characteristics in those with depression which may play a role in the development of MDD:

1. Hippocampus

The hippocampus found near the center of the brain, stores memories and is responsible for the production of a hormone called cortisol. When the body experiences physical or mental stress, cortisol is released. Times of extreme stress or even a chemical imbalance can cause the release of excessive amounts of cortisol. This shrinks neurons in the hippocampus and slows the production of new ones, which could be the reason why many people with depression struggle with memory and concentration.

2. Prefrontal Cortex

Located in the very front of the brain, the prefrontal cortex regulates emotions and is also responsible for decision making and memory formation. The excessive amounts of cortisol produced by the hippocampus can also cause this part of the brain to shrink.

3. Amygdala

When you experience emotions such as pleasure or fear, these responses are facilitated by the amygdala. Due to the constant exposure to high levels of cortisol, those with MDD have an enlarged and hyperactive amygdala. Not only does this disturb sleep and activity patterns, but it can also cause the body to release irregular amounts of other hormones and chemicals leading to further issues.

Seeking Help for Depression

If you're struggling with depression, don't feel like you have to do it alone. There is help available from those who understand how depression affects you. Brookhaven Retreat is a facility just for women that serves those struggling with depression and other mental health disorders. To learn more, contact our caring and compassionate team today.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, but one of its most common catalysts is stress. In recent years, the number of people experiencing anxiety or depression has increased. It’s easy to understand why when we consider the 24-hour news cycle reporting trauma and tragedies taking place around the world. Our electronic age also places higher demands on people to accomplish more in shorter periods of time.

Depression Statistics

The number of people suffering from depression worldwide is increasing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 350 million people globally suffer from depression. That represents 5% of the total population of the world, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), as of 2012, almost 16 million of those people are in the United States — 6.9% of the country’s population.

According to the data from a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it is evident that depression is a major concern among young adults as well. A survey conducted between 2008 to 2010 showed that more than 8% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 suffer from anxiety, isolation and depression. And when it comes to gender, the research indicated that women are more prone to be diagnosed with these issues.

The rising rates of depression have been worsening among younger adults in recent years. The rate of extreme depression among the younger generation was 5.9% in 2012, and it increased to 8.2% in 2015. Nearly 63% of youth also suffer from a lack of treatment.

Complications Due to Depression

When depression goes untreated, there can be serious consequences. Chronic depression leads to physical problems and other mental disorders. Here are a few problems that can be caused by chronic depression:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Trouble in the workplace
  • Headaches and other chronic aches and pains
  • Social isolation
  • Anxiety attacks, panic disorders and phobias
  • Relationship problems
  • Obesity or excessive weight because of eating disorders, increasing the risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiac issues
  • Suicide attempts
  • Self-mutilation

Clinical depression is more than just a chronic bad mood, but if you or someone you love seems to be in a bad mood all the time, it is a good idea to get a professional diagnosis. Depression is a mental health condition that requires treatment.

Treatment for Depression

Most mental health issues can be treated or managed using common modalities. Depression is often treated through one or more of these methods:

To learn more about treatment for depression, contact Brookhaven Retreat, a women-only mental health treatment facility in Tennessee.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Cell phones are an integral part of daily life for most people. Almost all Americans — 95 percent — own a cell phone, and 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Mobile phones have become almost a necessity because how much easier they make our lives. We can stay in touch with our friends and family anytime. We can check our work email on the go. We can find the answer to nearly any question with just a quick Google search.

95% of Americans own a cell phone

All these things are positive, but they also tie most of us to our phones. This reliance can turn into an addiction, and mobile phone addiction may cause psychological problems. What are the psychological effects of cell phone addiction? Can using a cell phone too often affect your physical and mental health? What are some of the symptoms of cell phone addiction?


Jump to a section:


Cell Phone Addiction Symptoms

Nearly everyone uses a cell phone every day. This frequency can make it hard to pinpoint the difference between "normal" usage and addiction. Here are a few signs to check for if you are concerned about addiction and the psychological effects of cell phones.

  • Inability to cut back on cell phone usage: Addiction as one of the consequences of cell phones isn't exactly a secret. Many people know they are too attached to their phones and try to do something about it. However, you might find you have difficulty limiting the time you spend on your phone. Trying to stop a behavior multiple times and failing is a red flag when it comes to addiction.
  • Spending an increasing amount of time on your phone: When you got your first smartphone, even its most basic functions were probably exciting. As you grew accustomed to using the device, you probably downloaded more apps and eventually upgraded to a newer, better model. When struggling with addiction, people often increase the behavior to maintain the same feeling they had when they first started using.
  • Using your cell phone as a solution to boredom: It can be hard to remember a time before smartphones, but we did not always have a handheld gadget to keep us occupied. If you find yourself filling all your spare time on your phone to stave off boredom or keep your mind occupied, this could be a sign of cell phone addiction.
  • Feeling anxious or upset when you don't have access to your phone: Anxiety plays a role in cell phone addiction. If you find yourself feeling anxious or out of sorts when you can't access your phone, this could be another sign of addiction.
  • Noticing how cell phone usage is affecting your relationships: Cell phones are nearly ubiquitous, but that doesn't mean using them anywhere, anytime is socially acceptable. Scrolling through your phone during an important work meeting or while a loved one is trying to have a conversation with you can negatively affect your relationships. If you find people in your life have mentioned or complained about your phone usage, but you cannot modify your behavior, you could be struggling with addiction.

People check their phones 110 times per day

What Causes Mobile Phone Addiction?

The typical person will pick up and check his or her cell phone 110 times a day. Three-fourths of people will check their smartphone as soon as they wake up, and 61 percent of people sleep with their phones turned on, and by or on their bed while they sleep. These statistics point to a pretty common reliance on and even addiction to our smartphones.

What are the causes of mobile phone addiction?

1. Smartphones Can Affect Our Brain Chemistry

Just looking at your smartphone can make you feel good. You can see a picture of your family and friends. You can watch a video of kittens playing. You can scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feeds. You can check some work off of your to-do list. You can stay updated on the latest news. Doing those things can cause our brains to release two feel-good hormones: dopamine and oxytocin.

Dopamine helps form habits

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our bodies' "reward system." Our brains release the neurotransmitter when they perceive we have done something pleasurable or something that deserves a reward. In the case of cell phone addiction, just the act of looking at your device can be enough to release dopamine. That does not mean dopamine itself is addictive. Quite the opposite. Dopamine is a necessary component of brain chemistry that helps us learn and regulate our behavior. Dopamine can help us form good habits, like exercising, but it can help us form bad habits, like looking at our phones too much.

Oxytocin's role in behavior forming

Oxytocin is also called the "love hormone." Our brain releases this neurotransmitter when we hug someone we care about, during sex and when mothers and infants bond. This hormone plays a prominent role in social bonds, and it feels good. Today, we do a lot of our socializing through our cell phones. We text, Skype and talk with the people we care about most by using our phones. So, it is no surprise our brains release a hit of oxytocin when we look at our phones. Like dopamine, oxytocin itself is an essential human hormone, but it can fuel bad habits and addictive behavior.

2. Mobile Phones Become a Part of Our Identities

Cell phones are in many ways a digitized version of ourselves. They contain our closest contacts, our conversations, our banking information, our photo albums and so many other components that come together to form our lives. That can sound overdramatic, but objects we hold dear are an important part of who we are. It is obvious most people view their cell phones as highly valuable. Most people, 84 percent, can't go even one day without their phones. It is hard to put down something that means so much to you, whether or not you want to admit it.

84% of people can't go one day without their phones

3. Anxiety Often Plays a Big Role

Fifty percent of people report that they feel uneasy if they leave their cell phones at home. If you do not have access to your phone, do you feel nervous? What if you miss an important work email, or a piece of breaking news? What if you fail to see a phone call or text from a friend or relative? All those "what ifs" can make you feel very anxious. Just thinking "what if" can lead you to pick up your phone to make sure you didn't miss anything.

Many of us also use our cell phones as a way to alleviate any anxiety that stems from other places in our lives. If we feel stressed or bored, we address those feelings by picking up the phone and creating a distraction. Even when we do have our cell phones on hand, using them doesn't always feel good. The release of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, can be one of the effects of cell phones.

Cell phones can affect cortisol levels

Can Cell Phones Cause Depression?

The average user spends 1.8 hours online on his or her smartphone, and 89 percent of that time using mobile apps. People might be responding to email, playing games, posting to social media, texting or talking on the phone. No matter what the activity is, spending a lot of time on your phone every day can affect your mental health. Is heavy cell phone use linked to depression?

Several different factors can cause or contribute to depression, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Traumatic events
  • Mood regulation imbalances

A recent study found excessive cell phone use may not be the cause of depression or anxiety, but it may be a symptom. People who overuse their cell phones may be exhibiting escapist behavior. Distracting yourself with the limitless information you can access via your phone can be a way to avoid addressing real-life problems, such as anxiety and depression.

The same study also questions whether excessive cell phone usage and depression are part of a cycle. Perhaps people who already struggle with anxiety and depression are more likely to overuse their phones, or maybe overuse of cell phones can make people more prone to anxiety and depression.

"It may be that individuals with higher anxiety/depression use [phone] devices more intensively or that using devices more intensively can eventually lead to the development of anxiety/depression. Or it can mean that there is a cyclical relationship," said study co-author Tanya Panova.

Why does cell phone use affect our mental health this way when it seems so useful and harmless? Research suggests when cell phone use becomes an addiction, the behavior becomes stressful. People addicted to using their cell phones probably feel compelled to check it and become stressed when this isn't possible, which feeds into mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

So many of us might feel compelled to check our phones so many times in a short span of time because of the feeling called "FOMO," or the fear of missing out. What if we miss an update or phone call from a friend? What if we overlook the latest news and seem uninformed?

Social media can play a role in depression

Our cell phones also give us 24/7 access to social media, which can also play a role in depression. We find ourselves comparing our lives to what others post online, which is, of course, rarely the whole truth. This kind of comparison and envy does not have a positive effect on mental health. Researchers analyzed 11 studies that examined the connection between online social networking and depression. They found 45 percent of those studies linked the two.

Other Ways Cell Phones Can Affect Our Mental Health

Cell phones and psychological problems do not have to go hand in hand, but how you use these devices will determine the effect of your cell phone on your health. While depression can be one of the psychological effects of smartphone addiction, there are other ways our phones can impact our mental health.

Anxiety Disorders

A growing body of research suggests the more we look at our phones, the more likely we are to develop anxiety that centers on the phone use. Psychologists call this effect a positive feedback loop. Constantly using your cell phone makes you anxious, yet the only way to alleviate some of that anxiety is to continue looking at your phone.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety are two common types of anxiety. An inability to control worry characterizes GAD. Someone with GAD may worry excessively about issues in their life, such as work, family and money. This level of stress can lead to physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. Social anxiety relates to worry about how others will perceive us. Someone with social anxiety fears negative judgment from other people so much that they struggle to function in social situations.

GAD or social anxiety may not be direct cell phone addiction symptoms, but the excessive cell phone usage could be a coping mechanism for people with these disorders. You turn to your phone to distract yourself from worry, whether general or social. However, the positive feedback loop is going to come into play. Constantly using your phone, something you hoped would distract you, is likely contributing to your anxiety symptoms. It seems there is always bad news every time you pick up your phone. Plus, social media is, in some ways, the ultimate tool for passing judgment on people, which is not going to have a positive effect on someone already struggling with social anxiety disorder.

1 in 3 wake up and check their phones

Trouble Sleeping

Smartphone addiction can be a major sleep disruptor. A study found that one in three smartphone users will wake up in the middle of the night and check their phones. That number is even higher for people ages 18 to 24. Fifty percent of people in this age group woke up and checked their phones in the middle of the night. Many people also check their phones right before bed and first thing in the morning, which means phones are a big part of many people's sleep routines. Research has found the bright light of a phone's screen makes it difficult to sleep. Another study found smartphone use right before bed results in a longer period before actually falling asleep and poorer quality of sleep. Ideally, cell phone users would stop using their devices completely at least an hour before bedtime to allow their bodies and minds time to prepare for a good night's rest.

Cell phone addiction can make creating a healthy sleep routine challenging to accomplish. You have to consciously decide to put the phone away while you are still awake.

Social Problems and Relationship Issues

Smartphones are rewriting the way we interact socially with one another. We can call, text or video chat with anyone anywhere in the world, a capability people did not have even just a few years ago. While it is a wonderful way to keep in touch with people, cell phone use should not be a replacement for social interaction. Addiction might mean you find yourself checking your phone incessantly, even when you are spending time with someone else. This kind of cell phone use can harm personal relationships, create communication barriers and even lead to social isolation.

No one likes feeling ignored, but that is exactly what people feel when you spend more time paying attention to your phone than them. It might seem easier, even more important, to express yourself via text message or on social media, but this mindset will inevitably lead to social issues with the people in your life. Close relationships need careful attention to form, and you must nurture and maintain them. Losing interest in in-person communication can erode those relationships you already have and prevent you from forming new ones.

Losing interest in in-person communication effects relationships

The Solution to Cell Phone Addiction

If a person close to you or anybody in your family is getting addicted to their mobile phone, it is important to curb their phone usage and protect their mental health. You might try:

  • Spending more time together: Sometimes loneliness can be one of the causes of cell phone addiction. If you notice someone you care about is spending too much time on their phone, make an effort to engage them in other activities. Instead of talking on the phone, see if you can find time to go out for a quick cup of coffee or a meal instead. When you are together, do not be afraid to ask them to put down the phone. It has become more and more socially acceptable to keep our eyes on our phone, even if we are engaging in a face-to-face conversation with someone else. Try to change this. Ask the person for their undivided attention. It does not have to be a rude request. The more someone gets used to leaving the phone out of their in-person interaction, the easier it can become to break the larger addiction cycle.
  • Shifting the focus to in-person interaction: It is unlikely you can singlehandedly break someone else's cell phone addiction. Any kind of addiction requires the person involved to make changes themselves. In addition to spending time together, suggest he or she make an effort to integrate more in-person interaction into their lives. Suggest group hobbies they might enjoy. Getting them to participate in different kinds of social activities can help them see what they are missing when they spend too much time on their smartphone.
  • Suggesting other ways to alleviate boredom: Someone addicted to a cell phone might not be lonely at all. He or she might just be bored. Smartphones offer a quick, easy way to fill any spare time we have, but using them to alleviate boredom will not have a positive impact on mental health. Sit down with the person you care about and talk about different ways to spend that downtime. Pick up a hobby that keeps your hands busy. Start a new book. Pick up a different kind of exercise. Next time you feel the itch to pick up the phone for no other reason than boredom, resist the urge. Instead, try a craft, read the book your favorite movie is based on or go for a run. There are plenty of ways to fill the time other than by looking at your phone, but you need the discipline to form a new habit.
  • Talking about the negative effects of cell phone addiction: Although smartphone addiction is becoming a major issue, especially considering how many people have them and how often they use them, it can still be an easy problem to dismiss as a symptom of modern life. If someone you care about shrugs off your offers of help, bring up your concerns. Talk about the negative effects of cell phone addiction and the changes you have noticed in that person. Do they complain about being tired? Do they seem anxious or depressed? Is their cell phone use affecting their professional and personal relationships? Nearly everyone uses a cell phone, so it can be hard to see just how much it affects our mental health. Hearing a loved one tell us just how much smartphone addiction has changed us can be an eye-opening experience.

If you are experiencing anxiety and depression as a result of excessive cell phone usage, you may need help to resolve this issue. There may also be underlying mental health issues that need to be resolved. Get the help you or your loved one needs by contacting Brookhaven Retreat. Our women-only mental health treatment facility provides a variety of services to improve your mental health and put you on a path to a happier, healthier life.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat Today

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Natural disasters affect millions of people every year. Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes and tsunamis are catastrophic events that destroy homes and lives. While we can prepare for natural disasters and predict them to some extent, nothing can completely stop them from happening.

Statistics tend to count up the lives lost and economic devastation of these events, but it is less easy to quantify the psychological impact of a disaster. The people left in the wake of these events have lost homes, loved ones and sometimes an entire way of life. People are resilient — they begin to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild, but that doesn’t mean the effects of a natural disaster don’t linger.

Hard to quantify effect of natural disasters

The Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters on Mental Health

Trauma can profoundly change a person. Living through the destruction of your home and maybe even the loss of people you love will often have an impact on your mental health. Here are three of the most common psychological effects of disasters on human life:

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening or terrifying event can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A natural disaster certainly qualifies as a traumatic, life-threatening experience. PTSD can manifest immediately after such an event or develop much later. It can resolve within a few months or last for years — every person is different. Symptoms of PTSD are categorized into different groups:

  • Arousal: Continually struggling to control your startle reflexes is an example of an arousal symptom. A lingering tension that you cannot seem to shake can be another type of this symptom.
  • Avoidance: Avoidance symptoms are just how they sound. If you avoid thinking about the experience you had or even physically avoid things that will remind you of the event, you could be suffering from PTSD.
  • Mood: Mood symptoms include struggling with feelings of guilt and struggling to maintain the same level of interest and enjoyment in your life.
  • Re-Experience: Re-experiencing symptoms, such as reliving the experience through your thoughts or dreams, are potentially the most recognizable symptoms of PTSD. This is also often referred to as having flashbacks of the event.

2. Depression

Depression is a common mental health issue that can arise following a traumatic event, although depression does not have to be related to trauma. Additional factors like genetics and other health issues can be contributing factors.

Depression can be accompanied by a wide variety of different symptoms. You might experience lingering sadness, restlessness, issues concentrating, problems sleeping or an overall feeling of hopelessness. Depression can even cause physical symptoms like changes in weight or pain.

Symptoms and their severity will be different for every person. Depression is typically diagnosed when symptoms last for more than a few weeks.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural feeling that everyone experiences at various points in their lives. As a mental health issue, anxiety is a persistent issue with a variety of symptoms. Anxiety comes in many different forms such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Anxiety can develop anytime, but it’s one of the most common mental health issues to arise after experiencing the trauma of a natural disaster.

Generalized anxiety disorder has symptoms such as constantly feeling on edge or afraid, difficulty sleeping, muscle pain, fatigue and lack of ability to concentrate. Panic disorder may have some of these symptoms, but this mental health issue is characterized by panic attacks. During a panic attack, you might feel your heart race, experience shaking hands or have difficulty breathing.

Signs of PTSD Caused By a Disaster

Anyone who experiences a natural disaster is going to react differently. Feelings of helplessness, anger and sorrow will be common, if not universal. But how do you know if you’ve developed PTSD after a natural disaster?

Flashbacks are one of the strongest indicators of PTSD after natural disasters. Do you find your thoughts constantly being drawn back to what you witnessed during the event? Flashbacks are more than mere memories — they’re intense, vivid thoughts that you cannot control. They’re often accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating and shaking.

Following a natural disaster and all the devastation it brings in its wake, you might find yourself constantly afraid it will happen again. If these feelings are intense and persistent, this might be another sign of PTSD.

The signs of PTSD can be more subtle. You might have trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating. You might find you’re withdrawing from the people you care about, or that you’re being unaccountably irritable or aggressive. These symptoms are commonly associated with anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD.

Mental health issues are rarely cut and dry. The symptoms might be subtle, or they might be very apparent. You could be suffering from more than one problem. Having PTSD doesn’t mean you can’t be grappling with anxiety and depression, as well.

PTSD along with depression & anxiety

Psychological Effects of an Earthquake

Earthquakes are one of the most common natural disasters. Earthquakes can happen anywhere, but are much more likely to occur along fault lines. For example, the majority of earthquakes happen within the area nicknamed the "Ring of Fire," which encompasses the west coast of the United States, South America, Central America, the southwestern Pacific and more.

Earthquakes can cause an incredible amount of damage, particularly in densely populated areas. The movement of the earth can cause the collapse and complete destruction of buildings. Fires and floods can occur as damns, pipelines and power lines are damaged during the natural disaster. Landslides and tsunamis can follow in the wake of an earthquake. If an earthquake is strong enough, damage to property is just one outcome. People can lose their lives, too. Survivors can be left homeless and grieving for lost loved ones. The trauma this causes is significant.

When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, the earthquake left more than 8,000 people dead. A total of 8 million people were affected by the aftermath of the natural disaster. Just this year, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico, inflicting serious damage on Mexico City and causing the deaths of 119 people.

8 million people affected

Suffering from PTSD after an earthquake would hardly be unusual considering what the people who experience them go through during and after such an event.

Psychological Effects of Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Flooding

Earthquakes are just one type of natural disaster. Others, like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding, can cause just as much devastation. Hurricanes come with gale force winds and extremely powerful waves that can sweep everything a person holds dear away in minutes. Similarly, tornadoes and floods can tear through homes and leave an unrecognizable landscape behind.

Each of these natural disasters can take lives. The people who do survive are left to rebuild, sometimes from the ground up. Hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding can devastate infrastructure. Two months later, Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover weeks after Hurricane Maria hit. The people on the island don’t have power, and most don’t have access to running water. Food and supplies are scarce.

Just weeks before Maria hit, Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean and the southwestern coast of the United States. The storm affected 70,000 square miles and necessitated the evacuation of millions of people. People are still trying to rebuild their lives following Irma and the preceding Hurricane Harvey. Nearly a decade later, New Orleans is still working on fully rebuilding following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

70,000 sq miles affected

Hurricanes and other natural disasters of this magnitude cause billions of dollars in damage and years of recovery. The people who live through that trauma must come to terms with what they lost, whether it’s the home they’ve spent years creating, loved ones or both.

Communities still struggle years after such an event, and that struggle extends all the way down to the individual level. The slow pace of recovery can cast a long shadow on anyone’s mental health. Anxiety, depression or PTSD could develop as people try to put their lives back together following the ruin caused by a hurricane, flood or tornado.

Psychological Effects of Wildfires

Hurricanes and earthquakes tend to take center stage when people discuss natural disasters, but there other natural disasters, like fire, that can be just as traumatic. Wildfires are a natural part of a forest's life cycle, but if that fire rages out of control, it can spread to where people live. Fires can destroy businesses, homes and lives in rapid succession.

Losing so much so quickly can trigger strong emotions. People often experience grief, anger and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Some people survive the fire, but with severe injuries caused by burns. This can cause even more emotional stress to bear. Living with severe burns entails a grueling physical and psychological recovery process. Patients may fall prey to anxiety and depression. PTSD related to the event is also not unusual.

Wildfires have been raging in California resulting in emergency evacuations and the destruction of dozens of homes. Wildfires have also been racing through Montana, burning more than 1 million acres of land. Many people who live in those areas have been forced to abandon their property to save their lives. Homes and businesses can always be rebuilt, but that doesn’t mean the cost — both financial and psychological — isn’t extremely high.

High cost of financial disasters

Tips for Recovering from Trauma After a Natural Disaster

Anytime people experience a traumatic event, they need time to process what happened, grieve and recover. Natural disasters are no exception. Here are six tips for coping with natural disasters and their psychological impact:

1. Give Yourself Time to Mourn

Natural disasters can leave a gaping hole in people's lives. Where there was once a home, a business, a spouse, a friend, a coworker — now there is nothing. Suffering such a blow is never easy. You may feel numb or completely overwhelmed. You might suffer from survivor's guilt. You might wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover fully and rebuild your life. These feelings are common reactions to major trauma, and knowing you’re not alone doesn’t always make the experience easier.

Remember to allow yourself the space and time to mourn. It doesn’t matter whether someone has lost more than you. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish for grieving what has been taken from your life.

Take time and space to mourn

Grieving is a different process for everyone. The way you grieve may be different from someone else, but it’s important to make communication a part of your process. Write down how you feel. Talk to the people who you care about.

Don’t berate yourself for needing time to feel the loss of a loved one or your home. Instead, offer yourself patience and understanding. Processing and experiencing grief is about taking small steps. Don’t expect to wake up one day free of grief — take each day as it comes. As clichéd as it may sound, grief takes time. Give yourself that time without judgment.

2. Work With the Community to Rebuild

Helplessness is one of the strongest feelings you might have following a natural disaster. There is nothing you could’ve done to stop nature from taking its course. Instead of allowing that feeling of helplessness to take over, do something to counteract it.

Communities need to rebuild following a natural disaster, and you can be a part of that. Even if you don’t have the financial resources to give, you can donate your time and your skills. Volunteer to help the injured. Help clear debris. If you see a safety issue, report it. Reach out to local authorities and ask if there is anything you can do.

Little by little, communities can and do recover from natural disasters. The more people pitch and work together, the quicker a community can bounce back. You can be a part of that. That sense of accomplishment can be a big help in your own personal recovery.

Sense of accomplishment is good

3. Try to Create a Routine for Yourself

Building a routine for yourself can go a long way toward finding your way back to normalcy. You can try to return to the routine you had before the natural disaster struck. Focus on going to bed and getting up at the same time. Eat meals at the time. Go to work, if you can. Spend time with the people you care about. A routine can help you cope with the fallout of a natural disaster.

It can also be helpful to integrate new things into your routine. A natural disaster is a transformative experience. Your life might not go back to exactly how it used to be, but that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Discover a new hobby and set aside time dedicated to it every day. Push yourself to try a new type of exercise.

It may be hard to stick to a routine at first. So much in your life has changed, but dedicating yourself to a daily regimen can keep you focused on what you consider most important in your life. Whatever routine works for you, remember to include positive activities that will help you move forward.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Strategies for how to deal with natural disasters will vary from person to person, but one thing everyone should remember to do: take care of yourself. Between helping other people and participating in rebuilding efforts, you can get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t forget to feed yourself. Avoid skipping a full night’s rest. Commit to eating healthy meals and a regular sleep schedule. Work regular exercise into your life. A healthy diet, sleep schedule and exercise routine will benefit both your physical and mental health. Ignoring your health won’t help you or your community to rebuild any faster. If anything, it will slow you down.

Take stock of your mental health. It can be hard to recognize when you’re struggling with PTSD, anxiety or depression. You might dismiss your feelings as a typical reaction or try to ignore them entirely. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Mental health is important

It can be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Taking refuge in substances that can help you forget your feelings for even a little while has a lot of appeal, but using alcohol or drugs as a crutch is not an effective coping mechanism. Rather than chasing numbness, address your feelings head on. This may be more painful in the short-term, but it’s healthier for you and for the people you care about in the long run.

5. Identify Your Support Resources

Natural disasters affect millions of people, but recovering from this type of event can be an incredibly isolating experience. Instead of thinking of yourself as alone, look for support options. Talk to your friends and family. They might be feeling exactly the way you are. If they didn’t experience the natural disaster, they’ll still want to help you in any way they can — even if that means just lending a shoulder to lean on and a willing ear.

You can also look for local support groups. Groups, often led by professionals, bring together people who have lived through the same disaster that you have. You can share your feelings and struggles in a safe environment with people who can relate. Having people listen and share their own stories can be a very powerful tool to use during your recovery. If you’re too nervous to talk at first, just listening can be incredibly helpful.

Whatever type of support you prefer — the people you care about in your life or a community group — do not dismiss the offer for help. You can offer your own help in return. There is strength to be found in one another.

6. Get Help From a Professional

Natural disasters and mental health have a clear connection. Living through the destruction of your home, the loss of a business, injury and/or the death of a loved one is undeniably traumatic. If you find yourself struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone amongst natural disaster survivors.

It might be difficult to admit you need help, but be kind to yourself. Reach out and find the help you need. A trained mental health professional can help you process that trauma and suggest ways to move forward. A professional may try several different approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or somatic experiencing.

Reach out for help

Trauma affects everyone differently. You might benefit from group therapy or one-on-one sessions. If you’re suffering from severe mental health issues following a natural disaster, you might benefit from an inpatient program. This type of intensive, personalized treatment can help people make strides in the recovery process. Your mental health is a vital part of your overall health. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach for it

Brookhaven Retreat offers a variety of comprehensive treatment options. Our holistic approach addresses a wide variety of issues including trauma, depression and anxiety. If you’ve lived through a natural disaster, we’re ready to help you process that experience and work with you to find a way to move forward.

Contact Brookhaven for Help

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Monday, 23 October 2017 06:00

Tips for Coping With Holiday Depression

The holiday season is a happy time for many people, but for some, it can bring negative emotions and stress. Depression during the holidays can spoil your festivities as well as harm your health.

If the holiday season brings depression and stress, using a few practical tips can get you through it and help you enjoy the season.

What Is Holiday Depression?

Holiday depression is symptoms of depression that occur during the holiday season due to seasonal reminders of past stress-points, such as issues with family, or the demands of seasonal commitments, like parties, baking, cleaning, shopping and entertaining.

When the stress hits the highest point, it becomes tough to stop and recover because the demands of this short season can be overwhelming.

Tips for Coping with Holiday Depression

Here are some ways to avoid the escalating depression that might mark your holidays:

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

If you have recently experienced the death of somebody close to you or you just can't always be with your loved ones, understand that it's quite normal to experience sadness and pain. It's completely fine to take some time and cry or convey your feelings. You can't push yourself to be happy simply because it is the holiday season. Suppressing your emotions will only make them worse.

If you are feeling lonely and have depression during the holidays, seek out social interaction or other holiday events. They can provide companionship and support. You might also consider volunteering since helping others is a good way of lifting your spirits.

2. Surround Yourself with People Who Make You Happy

Surrounding yourself with family, friends or community members can also make you happy if you are suffering from depression during the holidays. However, if your family does not make you feel comfortable and secure, be sure to schedule time with people who do.

There are no rules about holidays. Get together with the people you enjoy and develop your own holiday rituals. Share happy holiday traditions from your childhood with the people in your life who are your adult family, whether they are related to you or not.

3. Stick to a Budget

Stick to your budget when holiday shopping for gifts, decorations, grocery shopping and more. Before you start shopping for gifts and food, make a decision about how much money you will spend. Then, firmly stick to your budget. If you’re unsure of what to buy for people, you can try out alternatives like donating to a charity in somebody's name, giving homemade gifts or starting a family gift exchange. Rushing around to buy a bunch of stuff that exceeds your budget will only result in more stress. Debt is not a happy condition.

Always reserve particular days for baking, shopping, visiting friends as well as other activities to cope with depression during the holidays. Plan menus and make shopping lists in advance to prevent last-minute scrambling. To reduce party planning stress, arrange help for preparations as well as cleanup.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Always take care of yourself. Allow yourself sufficient time to relax, sleep, eat well and exercise. Overindulgence in unhealthy habits will only add to guilt and stress.

Eat a healthy snack before attending a holiday party, and that way, you’ll be less likely to consume excess sweets, or other unhealthy food. Take a casual walk at night, listen to some soothing music, get a massage or read a book. Spend some time for yourself. This can help keep you feel mentally balanced and better able to deal with any stress the holiday season may bring.

5. Seek Professional Help If Necessary

Despite your greatest efforts, you might still find yourself feeling sad or worried, plagued by physical pain, unable to sleep, short-tempered, desperate and not able to handle day to day interactions and commitments. If these feelings continue for some time, talk with your doctor or seek professional counseling.

Enjoy Your Holidays

Don't let the holidays become something you fear. Take some steps to cope with depression and minimize the stress that can develop during the season. Identify your holiday trigger points, like personal demands or financial pressures, so find alternative ways to deal with them. With positive thinking and systematic planning, you can get peace and conquer depression during the holidays.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Tuesday, 05 September 2017 06:00

Depression and Chronic Pain

People who suffer from certain chronic conditions or injuries can tell you that chronic pain is no joke. There are some conditions that cause severe pain every day, and almost every minute. When the root cause of the pain cannot be resolved, many look to pain management for relief.

Chronic pain can have more than just physical effects, it can also affect your mental wellness and your overall quality of life.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is long lasting, constant pain. Some medical professionals define chronic pain as pain that lasts 3 months or more after onset. Other professionals set this time frame at 6 months or more. Chronic back pain is fairly common, but people experience chronic pain in other parts of their bodies as well.

Most chronic pain is caused by nerve damage from an injury or a disease state eroding the nerve health. Nerves grow and can repair themselves, but this happens very slowly. If the cause of the injury cannot be resolved, like in the case of a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis or a broken vertebra from an accident, the pain may continue indefinitely.

Chronic Pain and Depression

There can be a strong relationship between chronic pain and depression. When you are constantly in pain and there seems to be no way of resolving it, you might lose hope for a comfortable future.

Chronic pain is not always the cause of this relationship, though. Depression can cause chronic pain in otherwise physically healthy individuals. Some people who suffer from depression develop unexplained physical symptoms like back aches or headaches. It is difficult to resolve pain when its origin is unknown.

The chronic pain caused by depression can create a downward spiral that promotes the development of depression or worsens already present symptoms.

Chronic pain that originates from physical causes also can promote the development or worsening of depression. Chronic pain and depression often exist in a cycle that can be hard to break and becomes very destructive. Often, to resolve both the depression and the related chronic pain, these problems must be treated concurrently

Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain

Understanding the relationship between chronic pain and depression will help you limit both issues before the cycle of pain gets out of control:

  • Identify triggers - Chronic pain and depression are both exacerbated by stress. Figure out what type of stress triggers your symptoms and work toward eliminating those. There are a number of stress reduction techniques that you can try to help reduce stress in your life.
  • Pay attention to how it affects your mental state - If you are suffering from chronic pain, you may be more vulnerable to developing symptoms of depression. Recognize these symptoms of depression: constant bad mood, sleep pattern changes, lack of motivation or appetite, feelings of hopelessness, weight increase. Do not ignore these signs that you could be developing depression.
  • Treat pain and depression together – Consider both chronic pain and depression as threats to your physical and mental health. Since they often occur together, a simultaneous treatment plan is best. Pain can feed into depression and vice versa, so work toward managing symptoms of both at the same time.
  • Talk about your depression - Whether you think it is a problem or not, be sure to mention your mental health to your pain doctor. You should not assume depression will go away when the pain is under control. By that time, the depression could be serious enough to require a more focused treatment plan.

Chronic pain and depression are both conditions that are easier to treat from the beginning. When ignored or not properly addressed, pain and depression can intensify on their own.

Depression and chronic pain can be debilitating, but remember there is always another avenue to explore when it comes to pain management and treatment for depression. Talk to your doctor about treating both your chronic pain and your depression concurrently.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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