It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Has Depression Lost Its Meaning? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Special Report, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Dr. Waldman addresses a significant issue regarding how the word “depression” is often used; his insights and explanations here are absolutely on-target. It is important to note that children generally manifest depression differently than adults. (As one of my college professors once lectured, “Depressed adults VEGETATE; depressed children AGITATE.”) A depressed child is often seen as a behavior problem. Too often, while the behavior is being addressed, intervention for depression is either delayed or not addressed at all. So, whether we’re considering depression as it affects youngsters or adults, it’s a topic needing a LOT more understanding. With our thanks to Dr. Waldman, we present, “Has ‘Depression’ Lost Its Meaning?” –JDS

………………………………

Dr. Larry F. Waldman, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Recently, I overheard an adolescent tell her friend, “I was so depressed yesterday but I’m fine today.” Her friend replied, “Yeah, I understand; I get depressed sometimes, too.”

This conversation reflects the very common misuse of the term “depression.” Most individuals mistakenly refer to depression when, in fact, they are simply sad or unhappy. We all occasionally “get down,” get “bummed out,” or have “the blues,” but these feelings usually last a few hours or a day or two, and the individual can manage their life—eat, sleep, work, socialize, etc.

True Depression is Serious

True depression, sometimes called clinical depression, is far more severe than a few hours or day or so “down in the dumps.” An average episode of clinical depression lasts approximately six to nine months; in some cases it can last a year or more. It is a deep, prevailing sense of sadness and darkness, often accompanied with the thought that, “I will never feel better.”

Truly depressed persons cannot carry on with their lives because they are unable to focus or concentrate, have no energy, cannot sleep or sleep excessively, cannot eat or overeat, and strictly avoid socialization. Depressed persons typically develop low self-esteem and anxiety. It is also common that physical symptoms accompany depression, like head- and/or backaches or GI distress. The term depression has clearly lost its meaning.

Depression at times is brought on by some negative environmental event but just as frequently depression begins with no apparent cause. Individuals with family members whom have struggled with depression, and thus may be genetically predisposed, are more susceptible to this kind of depression with no obvious precipitant. (Psychiatrists refer to this as “endogenous” depression.)

Depression is Dangerous

Depression is dangerous: People with clinical depression lose their ambition, confidence, and their jobs–even their careers. They have great difficulty fulfilling their role as parent and/or spouse and thus those relationships become tenuous. Depressed people may abuse drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to ameliorate their symptoms. Finally, the prospect of suicide becomes more likely as the depressed patient becomes convinced they are defective and “will never feel normal again.”

Dr. Larry Waldman, Who's Raising Whom?To suggest that one can be depressed yesterday but be fine today, like the two teens referenced above, is ludicrous. This failure to appreciate the true gravity of the word depression is significant, also. Persons with clinical depression don’t get the family or social support they deserve because others think we all “get down” now and then.

Employers will be most considerate if an employee breaks their ankle but will provide relatively little understanding to the employee who requests time off for depression. Until recently, insurance companies covered physical problems much better than mental ones.

Finally, the depressed person may not fully understand their condition, feeling shame and refusing help.

Treatment of Depression

Treatment of depression requires a multi-faceted approach: consider medication; receive psychotherapy; eat right; sleep right; exercise; and socialize. Lying in bed in a dark room, waiting to feel better, will only prolong the depressive episode.

It is important that we cease misusing the word depression and recognize the serious medical/psychological condition it is. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberLarry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

Advertisements

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma Brain (Shenandoah Chefalo)

I make no bones about it: As a foster child, I don’t think I was an easy person to get along with. I certainly wasn’t trying to make bonds or connections with those around me. Of course, I knew nothing at the time about trauma brain.

Shenandoah Chefalo, Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma BrainI went into foster care at the age of 13. My life prior to entering the system was one of immense dysfunction; I had practically raised myself. My mom was rarely around, and, when she was, it was usually to tell me that we were moving. We moved over 50 times and I went to more than 35 schools in my life before the age of 13.

Chaos had become my normal.

In learning to “cover” for my mom’s actions, and watching my mom talk her way out of almost any situation, I learned a valuable skill early on: lying. It was a skill that saved me numerous times from severe punishments.

Foster Care and Beyond

I thought foster care would be a positive solution to the life I was living. What I found was more of the same as loneliness, isolation and depression followed me into care. I had become disconnected from my feelings and simply accepted that I was unable to love … and was unlovable. I continued behaviors from the past and found no solace in the families that took me in.

I ultimately aged out of the system at 18 and was turned loose onto the world with no real connections to other people. When I hit the college campus, a feat I wouldn’t learn was remarkable until later, I made a pact with myself to never talk about my past with anyone. I was a good liar, and, because of that skill, I kept that promise to myself for more than 20 years.

Trauma Brain

I spent those years, hiding the past, keeping myself at arms length from any real relationships, and doing the one thing I was knew I was good at: lying. I didn’t know it at the time, but I found myself in what I now refer to as “trauma brain.” I would go to that comfortable place in my mind, a place of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Appease.

For me, there was comfort in chaos. When things in my life were going well, I looked for and caused chaos for myself so I could feel “comfortable.” Of course I didn’t realize, at least not consciously, that I was doing it until I started to become increasingly unsettled with the life I was living. I had a good job, managed to get married and had a child, but I was only comfortable in the unknown.

I wanted to change.

For most of my life, I chalked up my behavior to the idea that I was just “crazy,” a concept I was comfortable with. I figured it was only a matter of time until I turned into my “crazy” mother. I was working in a law office at this time, and I would watch clients with similar tendencies. I had wondered about their past and when I started to ask, I was surprised by how many of them had been former foster kids, also. I had always assumed there had been very few kids like me. The numbers appearing in my office were off-putting, to say the least.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloSelf-help Search

Flash forward. In an effort to find peace in my life, I initially turned to self-help books. I found a little relief, but often found myself going back to old habits. I started to realize that hiding my demons was only making me more depressed and more disconnected.

I tried everything: more books, journaling, yoga, meditation. and hiking. Physical exertion was having an impact, but it only lasted a few hours, then I was back in my mind, returning to old habits.

I finally realized that I had to tell my story. I wrote Garbage Bag Suitcase and began diving into an understanding of trauma and its effects on the brain.

The research began turning me onto new books. Suddenly I understood my “trauma brain” in a whole new way. I wasn’t “crazy;” my brain was just programed to constantly be in Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease mode, and this knowledge changed everything for me.

Like a Sledding Hill

I recently heard Dr. Cathy Fialon explain trauma brain as a sledding hill. When you go sledding the path becomes worn, so you gain greater speed. The well-worn path is easy and comfortable. However, if you take your sled over a few feet to a part of the hill that hasn’t been used, it becomes more difficult to slide down; you can’t gain momentum and you often start and stop a lot. It takes time, she explained, to break in this new path and make it again enjoyable for sledding.

I understood exactly what she meant. My learned reactions as a child had become the well-worn sledding hill. It was easy for me to go down that road, regardless of the effects. But when I started working on myself (i.e. taking my sled to a new hill) it was difficult. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m still working on breaking in my new path, every once in awhile I like to take a spin on the old one.

That is “trauma brain” retraining ourselves, and oftentimes those we care about, how to break in a new way of thinking. I am thrilled to say I have a new career that allows me to help others recognize their trauma brain and the trauma brain of those around them, and to help themselves and others heal in a brand new way.

After all, we all deserve to try out a new place to sled. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberShenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth and an advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

October 9, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment