Just A Bad Mood Or Are You Coming Unglued?


“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” ~Albert Camus

About ten years ago, I stopped sleeping. It started on a vacation. The first night in this lovely beach rental, I couldn't fall asleep and stayed wide awake all night. Of course I was a mess the next day, and the following night I was panicky that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep again.

This was the start of a spiral of insomnia, that led to anxiety about not sleeping, that led to total exhaustion, that led to strange physical symptoms, that caused more anxiety and worry. I had no idea what was wrong. I thought it might be hormones. I thought I was dying. I feared I might never feel normal again. I went to my internist, my gynecologist, and a sleep specialist.

Finally, someone said to me, “I think you might be depressed. You better do something before you come completely unglued.” Completely unglued?! Depressed? I didn't feel depressed. I felt exhausted, achy, frightened and anxious. But I didn't feel sad. In fact, I wanted to feel better, to be happy and energetic. I was wired and tired, like I had an intravenous feeding tube serving me high test espressos 24-7. But depressed? No way.

The idea that depression would manifest as a constant feeling of fight or flight never occurred to me. I thought depression meant that you were sad, hopeless, lethargic, slept too much.  But I subsequently learned that depression and anxiety are fraternal twins, and they can waltz into your life wearing a myriad of costumes. If you don't know how to recognize the symptoms, you might come unglued before you know what's happening.

So how do you know if it's just temporary mood changes or a bad mood that will pass?

How do you know if you are possibly sinking into something that is really debilitating?

In the same way you learned the symptoms of a heart attack or cancer, you need to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. Left untreated, these two maladies can be as dangerous as a heart attack. It's also important to know if you might be at risk for depression.

Fortunately, there are preventative actions you can take to reduce the possibility of depression and anxiety sneaking up on you. The first action is arming yourself with knowledge.

Although they have different symptoms,  depression and anxiety are linked. In fact, in one study, 85% of those with a major depression also experienced generalized anxiety disorder. They are both believed to be caused in part by a malfunction of brain chemistry. Here are some of the symptoms to watch out for.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

General anxiety disorder affects the way a person thinks, but the anxiety can lead to physical symptoms, as well. Symptoms can include:

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Trembling
  • Being easily startled

Anxiety can also manifest as a panic disorder leading to panic attacks, which often last about 10 minutes. The symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pounding heart or chest pain
  • Intense feeling of terror
  • Sensation of choking or smothering
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or stomachache
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • A fear that you are losing control or are about to die
  • Persistent fear of future panic attacks.
  • Avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred.

Depression and anxiety can be caused by genetics, abuse or trauma, major life changes, serious illness, personal problems, and even some medications. It's good to know if you are at risk, but it's even better to change your life today in ways that can help protect you from experiencing an episode of depression or anxiety.

Here are some strategies to provide a booster shot of protection to keep you mentally and emotionally healthy:

Have A Support Network

Whether it's a network of trustworthy friends, a counselor or your mom, have people in your life with whom you can share your joys and sorrows. People who care for you unconditionally. It's good to have wise mentors who are older, as well as peers with whom you can discuss problems or just share a laugh. Strong personal connections boost your mood and self-esteem.

Treat and Heal Trauma

If you've had or are experiencing trauma or serious emotional pain, find a professional counselor to work with on these issues. If you are holding a secret or emotional burden, a mental health professional has heard it all and is trained to help you process your emotions and heal them — before they emerge as a full-blown depression or anxiety disorder.

Be Productive and Engaged In Life

Step away from the television. Drop the remote. Walk away from the internet. If you work, great — work with enthusiasm. If not, volunteer somewhere. Go out with friends. Develop a hobby. Stay busy and engaged with something you find fun and interesting. Whatever you do, don't sit around and dwell on negative thoughts. Worry and over-thinking just produces more of the same.

Recognize Stress and Kick It In The Butt

If you are working too much, in a bad relationship, overwhelmed by a problem, feeling out-of-control, acknowledge that you are stressed and do something about it. Persistent stress is a forerunner to anxiety and/or depression. Take the time to develop strategies to release the pressure valve.

Move Your Body

Regular and vigorous exercise boosts your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain. Those endorphins make you feel so good — like you've taken a happy pill. But you haven't, and you get the added benefit of losing weight and getting fit.

Try the Anti-Depression Diet

There are certain foods that can support your body and mind in preventing depression and anxiety. Check out this article on a diet that can help reduce your risk.

Raise Your Serotonin Levels Naturally

Serotonin is a hormone that is found naturally in the human brain. It greatly influences an overall sense of well-being. It also helps to regulate moods, tempers anxiety, and relieves depression. It is credited with being a natural sleep aid. Here are some great ways to boost your own serotonin without drugs.

If you recognize yourself in any of the symptoms above, please don't dismiss them or think you should be able to handle them on your own.  If the symptoms last longer than a week or so, go to your doctor and discuss what's going on with you. As scary or embarrassing as it might feel, taking this action to get diagnosed and treated is a bold and fearless thing to do. Do it before you come completely unglued.

Similar Posts:

Comments

  1. Hi Barrie,

    I think it’s always good to pick up the clues for a possible depression early. We like to think we don’t get depressed, but nobody is invulnerable. This is where introspection and realism have a lot to say.
    .-= Eduard – People Skills Decoded´s last blog ..The Worst Job in the World and the Way Out =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Eduard,
      Yes it is good to look for clues, even if you aren’t in a risk category for it. Many, many people go through an episode of depression or anxiety who don’t have the risk factors. Keeping our lives in balance and addressing problems head-0n is the best way to keep yourself mentally healthy.

  2. Hi there again Barrie,
    I have just explored your blog today and this latest post of yours is so timely. Financial issues have been destroying my mood today and it’s hard to sometimes get back on your productivity mode. What I do is to leave sometimes my long-term goals to give time to my current goals. I learned that we must also take care of our liquidity (longevity) and not only our solvency (current issues).
    .-= Vic´s last blog ..101 Self Improvement Tips to Optimize Your Life =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Very well said Vic! I guess you need to solve your solvency today and stop thinking about finances! Go for a walk instead. 🙂

      • That’s right, thanks Barrie. I mean liquidity (current obligations) and solvency (long-term obligations). I just want to correct my previous comment. I think I have interchange the two terms. 🙂

  3. Linda Gabriel says:

    Great info Barrie. So many will find help here. Rare to see the smptoms of anxiey and depression described so clearly. Have you read the book The Depression Cure? Lots of good info about the important role of sleep, omega-3, exercise, sunlight, and strong social networks. Alas strong, non-toxic social connections are sometimes in short supply and take time to grow, but well worth the investment.
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..Where Does Your Past Exist =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you for your kind comments. I haven’t read that book, but maybe I should put a link to it at the end of the post. I’m sure it would be helpful to many.

  4. Hi Barrie,

    This is a very useful post indeed!

    Depression and anxiety are so common in our day and age. But so many of us remain unaware of it which could lead to great danger in our lives. I love how you compiled a list of points to help us raise awareness of these issues.

    I also found your points on staying healthy mentally and emotionally to be very insightful.

    Having a strong network of people whom you can rely on is very important. They are a vital source of strength and comfort which helps you to meet most of the challenges in life.

    Finding a solution to relieve the pressure you face is also a helpful strategy. It channels your energy in a productive manner and more importantly brings you a step closer to resolving the problem once and for all. Once the problem is gone, you will not feel the anxiety or depression anymore.

    I love exercise. A great workout always helps me to clear my head and feel better.

    Of course seeking professional help when you realize you cannot cope is always a prudent strategy.

    Thank you for sharing!
    .-= The Vizier´s last blog ..Focus on the Solution not the Problem =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I’m so glad you found it useful Vizier. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments!

  5. im actually having some of the symptoms . i could hardly sleep . mostly around dawn . i thought also that it’s just so hormonal especially that i’m on my late teenage years . there was also this one incident when i felt like dying when i was i riding a vehicle . its kinda weird. and last night i was having panicky attack that someone has been using my name after i saw someone posing in a particular website where i usually go using the same name as mine .

    btw, is paranoia part of it? i just came out with a conclusion before reading your blog that i’m suffering such terrible paranoid state.

    wow . thank you for being helpful . now i shouldn’t just be neglecting these symptoms . timely . thank you again .

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jaye,
      I am so sorry you are having these symptoms. They must feel scary. I think you will feel better if you do talk with someone about this. Don’t try to figure it out by yourself. You might start with your parents, especially if you are under 18. You can also talk to a school counselor or your regular doctor who can help you find a counselor if necessary. Thank you for sharing your experiences and reaching out.

  6. As someone who has suffered from suicidal depression and been on medication for it (many, many years ago), I can attest to the power of your list of helpers! Two of my favorites for shifting mood are getting outside and appreciation. Exercise is important, but I’ve found that the best exercise is a walk outside. If you can include a dog on that walk, you have super, duper healing power. 🙂

    Appreciation is a big mood shifter because it removes your focus on whatever is triggering the depression (even if it’s chemical). Our thought focus has SO Much power. I make myself get relentless about looking for what’s right and what I love.
    .-= Ande´s last blog ..How To Find Value In Everything =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Ande,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You do have to be relentless. It takes a whole lot of self-discipline to force your thoughts on to something positive when you are feeling so bad. But you are right, by doing so, you can change the chemistry of your brain and make yourself feel better. And I agree, a walk with a dog is great medicine. Even having a pet in general have wonderful healing powers. I really appreciate your comments.

  7. Leah McClellan says:

    Hey Barrie,

    Good post! I’ve never been depressed in the usual way we think of it–all blah and whatever–I tend to go the way you described with the insomnia and anxiety and so on. I’ve had some rough spots in my life that got me pretty down, naturally enough, so I know what that feels like. My body also gets really tight and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 15 years ago but I learned it was my body telling me something was very, very wrong in my life and I had to make some changes, which I did, and that included getting the stress and problems out of my life, as well as making sure I get very good sleep (which meant better “sleep hygiene” with regular hours etc). Fortunately for me, with exercise always being a biggy for me, it kind of saved the day. Dr. said he didn’t know how I was still walking with my muscles in the knots they were! Pretty much gone or under control now, unless I have a lot of days in a row of stress or lack of sleep for some reason.

    Good points about recognizing signs and doing something about it! My doctors wanted me to take antidepressants, but I knew I was reacting to problems I had to face and fix rather than medicate (though that can be good for dome people, of course).
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Feel The Fear–and Do It Anyway =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Leah,
      Thank you so much for sharing this. I think our bodies are amazing reflectors of our mental or emotional states. When your body is tied up in knots as yours was, it makes sense that you had some knots in your life. I am glad you found a way to treat yourself through exercise and other natural means. Though I do agree that medication can be life-saving for many people. Finding a good doctor to help you navigate through it is really important.

  8. Barrie, really interesting post. I would have never connected anxiety and sleeplessness with depression. I know that the inability to make decisions can be a sign of depression, but this post opens up loads of further insight into behaviour I’ve seen in some friends who suffered from depression in the past. Thanks so much for always being a gentle, informative voice in the blogosphere.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..The 7-Week Life Cleanse- A Simple Guide to Infusing Your Life with Momentum =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Katie,
      I sure you are right about indecision. When you are so physically and emotionally out of whack, it is hard to see anything clearly. That is an interesting symptom to watch for. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Thanks, Barrie. This is a very insightful and helpful post with some clear ways to take action. I unfortunately learned about a lot of this myself the hard way.

    I think one of the biggest problems is that the words depression and anxiety are associated with weakness and vulnerability, which keeps people from admitting there could be a problem–especially men.

    Again, thanks for a very well-communicated post. I will pass this along 🙂
    .-= Paul Strobl´s last blog ..Lovely Surprises =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Paul,
      I think you are absolutely right. Admitting “weakness” is difficult for anyone — especially men. There is a stigma associated with these diseases which prevents many people from seeking help. I think putting it out in the open as a disease that has many treatment options hopefully will encourage people who are suffering to do something about it.

  10. Barrie, I know this subject all too well. I was deeply depressed just before the end of the last decade which led to a slump that kept on slumping. I nearly ended it all but I’m glad to say I didn’t. I applaud you for taking on, admitting to, and helping out, on a subject many steer away from as they only focus on the positive or goody-goody. Great honest, human story, high grade information on symptoms and sensible tips to life the mood. I know this will make a difference. A lot!
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..The World Of The Future – A Surprise Coming =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you John. I hope it makes a difference. You have been so courageous and generous about sharing your story. You are remarkable and a real inspiration!

  11. Hi there, reading this and pretty much all other posts has encouraged me to seek help for my depression. Tomorrow I am going to talk to a counsellor and finally address my feelings. Thank you for putting all of this wonderful information and ideas on here for all to see.