The third Monday of every January has been declared “the most depressing day of the year.” Even though there’s little scientific evidence that depressed moods peak at this time, many people do start to feel blue this time of year for one reason or another. In many parts of the country, the weather is cold and dreary, the holidays are over and the credit card bills from said holidays need to be paid.
It’s important to note, that there’s a significant difference between feeling a little blue and suffering from clinical depression. If you’re not sure whether what you’re feeling is a temporary “funk” or something serious, please reach out to a healthcare professional.
But, for those suffering from clinical depression, January as a whole can be an extremely troubling period of time.
Family dysfunction or unresolved childhood trauma can play a big role in depression after the holidays. The holidays tend to be a time where we have an abundance of expectations and needs. Unfortunately for most of us, these expectations and needs do not get met in exactly the way we hoped or imagined. In a dysfunctional family, the results can be even worse with unmet needs leading to the feeling of “I don’t matter.”
“Since human nature is to resolve conflict and trauma, we often tend to replay our trauma with our family this time of year, looking for resolution. When we do not get the resolution we hoped for, we can end up feeling emotionally exhausted, distraught or sometimes completely numb, “ says Scott Davis, Clinical Director at The Meadows. “Depression becomes a way to cope with the anxiety and lack of fulfillment we feel throughout the holidays and immediately after.”
There’s also difference between a “winter funk” and the more severe condition, seasonal affective disorder, a form of clinical depression that takes place during the winter months. Most people do not get enough Vitamin D or Vitamin K during the winter, which can lead to a lack of energy and motivation, and eventually depression.
It’s important to recognize and treat depression because it limits people’s ability to live their lives to the fullest and function well on a daily basis.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an important and effective approach in treating depression at The Meadows Inpatient and Outpatient programs, where relief can be found through a change in negative thought patterns. Our clinicians and therapists specialize in treating the underlying causes of depression as well as the symptoms that have surfaced from the depression.
Depression is overwhelming, but there is hope. Even the most severe and complicated cases of depression are treatable, and here at The Meadows, we offer individualized treatment so each of our patients can enjoy a more fulfilling life.
To learn more about our innovative treatment programs for depression, contact us here or call us at 800-244-4949.
This article first appeared in the October 2014 edition of Together AZ; reprinted with permission.
By Joyce M. Willis, LPC
On August 12, 2014, the day after Robin Williams committed suicide, I was talking to my neighbor about this tragic death. My neighbor stated, “What a fool, he had everything and any resource money could afford.” My reply: “We never know what is going on in someone else’s life and it is not up to us to judge his last moments. He must have been feeling despair, loneliness and hopeless at the moment.”
My neighbor, knowing that I am a mental health therapist, politely conceded, knowing this was not a topic I would change my opinion on. The truth is that in that last moment before someone takes his own life, he is in the darkest moment of his life and thinks this is the answer. In this article, we will explore depression, addiction and how they tie together. Most importantly, we will explore hope and recovery.
The one glaring truth that comes to light after Robin Williams’ suicide is that depression, addiction and suicide do not discriminate. Depression and addiction are not diseases that are more likely to occur in the poor or the rich. The truth is that depression and addiction are human diseases; no matter whether you are rich, poor or middle class. Robin Williams’ death does bring up the connection between creativity and mental illness. A study completed earlier this year by the British Journal of Psychiatry found a connection between creativity, comedic ability (whether it be writing or performing) and depression. Often, comedy is a way to escape the pain and depression. Yet, we cannot escape; we need to work through to get to the other side. Robin Williams was not the only comedian or artistic, creative person to suffer from depression and substance abuse. He is one of many entertainers who took his life, either intentionally or incidentally. As Alice Walton points out in the Forbes.com website, Robin Williams spoke about this himself. Williams spoke about how it is important to be funny when you’re speaking about painful subjects. He spoke about how humor was a tool to obliterate the pain. In the history of entertainment, we have seen many co- medians and entertainers die from addiction via accidental overdose and from suicide often caused by both addictions and depression... Kurt Cobain, Ray Combs, Richard Jeni, Dana Plato, Freddie Prinze...the list goes on. Comedians often make us laugh, so we cannot see how much they hurt. Those of us who have suffered from depression or addictions often do the same. We put on masks of humor or smiling so others cannot see the pain beneath. It is when we are able and willing to open up and make connections that we can begin to enter a life of recovery and of hope.
As I stated, addiction and depression do not discriminate; these diseases enter many lives for many reasons. There is a close relationship between addiction and substance abuse.
Click here to read the full article.
The Meadows pride ourselves on providing quality, cutting-edge care from some of the nation's leading industry experts. Each Senior Fellow is involved in world-wide practice and research in their area of expertise - lecturing patients on clinical works, publishing works in numerous professional publications, and providing their teachings and expertise to the patients and therapeutic staff at The Meadows.
On September 1, 2014 in LH-11, Dr. Shelley Uram will be lecturing to patients on the subject of "Depression." Dr. Shelley Uram is a Harvard trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The length of this lecture will be approximately 45 minutes to an hour and is designed provide our patients with insightful information on this complex topic.
Dr. Shelley Uram will be following up this lecture at The Meadows, with a second talk to take place on September 22, 2014. Scheduled for 12:45pm in LH-11, Dr. Uram will discuss "Trauma" with patients of The Meadows.
By Heidi Kinsella, MA, LMHCA, NCC, ASAT
Family Counselor, Gentle Path at The Meadows
After news of the sudden death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, I was amazed by the impact this incident was having on people. I read post after post from my friends on Facebook about their sadness from the loss of such an incredible talent and the shock that his life came to a tragic end from suicide. The media has been full of reports about Mr. Williams’ battles with alcoholism and depression over the years. How could this happen? How do we make sense of this talented, funny man being so depressed that his only choice was to end his life? This unfortunate event moved me to reflect on my personal story in hope that it might resonate with at least one reader and encourage that individual to seek help.
According to Oltmanns and Emery (2007), alcoholism and depression are related phenomena and approximately 40 percent of people who suffer from alcoholism have experienced major depression at some point during their lives. The authors additionally state that anxiety and alcoholism are likewise associated and “people who have an anxiety disorder are about three times more likely to have an alcohol use disorder than are people without an anxiety disorder” (Oltmanns & Emery, 2007, p. 188).
I can see these statistics ringing true within my family dynamic. Depression and anxiety run alongside the alcoholism for my siblings and parents. For those family members who choose to drink alcohol, their depression and anxiety becomes glossed over and ignored because the fallout from their drinking overshadows other mental health issues. However, the presence of depression and anxiety became very known to me after I made the decision to quit drinking. Once I was no longer numbing the pain with alcohol, I was left to deal with the depression and anxiety.
During the past twenty-five years in sobriety, I have had times in my life when I have been functional, where depression and anxiety have not interfered with my being. However that hasn’t always been the case. I have struggled with either depression or anxiety during times of major life stressors. For example, when going through a divorce at the age of 23, I experienced severe depression to the point that I could not eat or sleep. I also experienced other somatic symptoms such as aches and pains in my body, headaches and eye aches. Concentrating was very difficult, which made it impossible for me work. At that point, it was necessary for me to take a couple of months off from my job to, as I put it, “clear my head.”
After the depression had subsided, my grandmother shared that during my depressed period it was difficult to have a conversation with me. She told me that if I was asked a question, either I wouldn’t answer it at all or I would answer something else. Obviously, my head was not clear!
I turned my attention inward, practicing a ruminative style of dealing with this life stressor (Oltmanns & Emery, 2007) by asking myself questions over and over, such as “Why did he leave?;” What did I do wrong?;” and “How could he have done this?” I had no job, no husband, and was humiliated by his affair. I felt hopeless—a classic symptom of depression.
I again found myself in a similar experience twelve years later with my second husband after learning about his sex addiction. I experienced many of the same somatic and psychological symptoms of depression; however, this time anxiety also created havoc in my life. I was unable to sleep, consumed with worry about every aspect of my life and contemplated over thoughts of him with other women. The more I tried to repress my thoughts, the worse they would become. It felt as if my mind was racing all of the time, and I couldn’t focus on what I needed to do. I knew these thoughts were not rational, and it made me feel stressed and crazy.
The situation once again affected my job performance. Somehow, this time I managed to go to work every day, but nearly lost my job when the irritability reached a high threshold and I exploded at my boss. Luckily for me, I had a long work relationship with her, and she knew “I wasn’t myself.” This was the wake-up call that got me into therapy.
When I started therapy, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I was started on an SSRI and received interpersonal therapy that focused on current relationships. I came to realize that since I had stopped drinking at the age of 23, I had been vulnerable to anxiety and depression every time a major life stressor occurred.
So, why did I have these vulnerabilities? Oltmanns and Emery (2007) refer to a twin study that has shown “environmental factors influence the expression of a genetically determined vulnerability to depression” (2007, p. 151). In my case, depression and anxiety, as well as alcoholism, are generational. It is very likely that I have a genetic vulnerability to these mood disorders. When life stressors occur, I experience depression and anxiety because of this genetic vulnerability. Without the life stressors, perhaps I wouldn’t have experienced the anxiety and depression.
Like many people in recovery, getting sober did not resolve my life’s difficulties. It stopped the drinking, but not the pain and suffering that depression and anxiety create. I believe that many people in AA who suffer from depression and anxiety continue to do so because it goes untreated. Unfortunately, there are many people in AA who believe it’s inappropriate to go to therapy or take medication. This idea is not supported in AA literature, but has taken hold in some parts of AA, which inhibits many people who need help with depression and anxiety from getting the help they need.
The answer to this question can be found in the AA pamphlet called, “Questions and Answers on Sponsorship.” This pamphlet can be found here.
Below is a quote taken from page 14 of this conference approved pamphlet:
“An A.A. sponsor does not offer professional services such as those provided by counselors, the legal, medical or social work communities, but may sometimes help the newcomer to access professional help if assistance outside the scope of A.A. is needed.”
AA addresses this issue in their pamphlet called, “"The A.A. Member: Medications and Other Drugs" which can be read online here.
This quote was taken from page 6 of this conference approved pamphlet:
“A.A. members and many of their physicians have described situations in which depressed patients have been told by A.A.s to throw away the pills, only to have depression return with all its difficulties, sometimes resulting in suicide. We have heard, too, from members with other conditions, including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, epilepsy and others requiring medication that well-meaning A.A. friends discourage them from taking any prescribed medication. Unfortunately, by following a layperson’s advice, the sufferers find that their conditions can return with all their previous intensity. On top of that, they feel guilty because they are convinced ‘A.A. is against pills.’ It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to enable or support any alcoholic to become re-addicted to any drug, it’s equally wrong to deprive any alcoholic of medication, which can alleviate or control other disabling physical and/or emotional problems.”
In 12-step meetings I do talk about my battles with depression and anxiety because I feel it’s important to let other alcoholics know that they too can receive help and live happier, more productive lives. Just because alcoholism, depression and anxiety are often co-morbid, does not mean that a person has to live a life of sobriety battling depression and anxiety. I know from firsthand experience that with the proper treatment, a productive, happy life is possible.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, there is help, regardless if you are already sober from addictions. Sometimes when people are sober from addictions, they think they “should” be able to handle life’s ups and downs. There is no shame in asking for help. For more information, please call 800-244-4949 or contact us here.
By Amy Levinson, MA, LASAC, CSAT Candidate
Evening/Weekend Therapist at Gentle Path at The Meadows
Suicide…the ultimate ‘unmanageability’ of untreated addiction and depression. All addictions reside in the same place in the brain—the limbic system—and all are related to dysfunction in the pleasure-reward pathway. This older part of our brain keeps us alive; it’s all about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The pleasure, reward process is what an addiction tries to do; however, it never works ultimately.
For individuals in the throes of untreated co-occurring addiction and mental illness, the survival instinct goes awry; seeking pleasure turns to doing whatever it takes to avoid pain—even if it means the unimaginable, the ending of one’s life. The result of all addictions is a severing of the neural networks to the frontal cortex; that which makes us human, where logic, reason, judgment, creativity and spirituality live. The place in our brain where we are open-minded and willing to utilize recovery tools, people, fellowships, relationships, community, and faith to avoid pain.
As a recovering sex addict, I used to call my unmanageability ‘the black hole of doom.’ It awaited me around every corner. I experienced this anxiety as a tight ball in the pit of my stomach that never left me. I would do anything to not ‘feel’ it and my ‘acting out’ served that very function…until it didn’t, and my life became completely unmanageable.
Dr. Patrick Carnes frames the unmanageability of addiction as “experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences.” In Dr. Carnes’ book, Don’t Call It Love, 1991, he states that 72% of sex addicts reported suicidal obsession and 17% attempted suicide.
The function of all addictions is to mood-alter away from this black hole. The end game of untreated addiction and depression is that dark place where no amount of mood-altering will fill that black hole. A fatal disease, addiction…if left untreated.
Here at Gentle Path at The Meadows, we call this black hole ‘trauma,’ or anything that was ‘less than nurturing’ that you experienced growing up. We treat the root cause, the symptoms, and the unmanageability at the same time. You are supported with acceptance, warmth and assistance in dealing with your core beliefs that spring out of this trauma. You are educated, challenged and given the opportunity, the tools and the ability to change your perspective, thinking and ultimately your actions. As a result, that black pit of doom is dispelled; it cannot stand up to the light of day. Recovery is a gift you give yourself…the gift of life over death.
Those suffering do not have to die and neither do you.