Monday Medical: Finding the line between stress, clinical depression

Advertisement

Feeling a little more tense than usual? You are not alone.

Although the holidays should bring joy, they often add stress. Combine the holidays with current financial concerns, and it is easy to feel more tense than usual.

A recent article in The Denver Post states the demand for mental health care in Colorado is up, and the anecdotal evidence points to the economy as the trigger. The article also mentions that help is being requested by individuals who never have sought professional counseling.

Steamboat Springs psychotherapist Nancy Young said she has seen several new patients who cite feelings about the economy as reasons their visit.

Dan Foley, a certified financial planner licensee for Sleeping Giant Financial Services in Steamboat Springs, often describes himself as a financial "behaviorist." More than just managing investments, he sees his job as making sure his clients can sleep at night.

"The golden egg is not more important than the golden goose," Foley said, meaning he thinks maintaining one's health is more important than worrying about retirement finances.

Foley recognizes the behaviors of stress and depression in his clients: sleeping too much or too little, changes in diet, or anxiety, to name a few. He tells clients that if they notice changes in behavior, if they are feeling stressed or depressed, that it is important to do something positive.

"Surround yourself with people you enjoy," he said. "Stay positive - don't let the economy affect your health too much."

He also suggests cutting back on watching the news and avoiding negative talk.

"All of us live with stress - good and bad," Young said. "Stress can be a forerunner for clinical depression."

Young thinks the word depression is used too frequently. Clinical depression is a diagnosis made when a number of symptoms occur throughout a period of two weeks or more. There also is a difference between clinical depression and depressed mood.

Young said stress moves into worry when we are unable to let something go. Worry sometimes keeps people up at night and can ignite other unhealthy behavior.

Foley and Young agree that there are many positive ways to cope with stress. Talk to trusted friends and family about what is bothering you. Exercise, spend time outside, and eat healthful foods.

Young recommends not overeating sugar or overusing alcohol and drugs. Alcohol, after all, is a depressant.

Another way of coping with stress is to take advantage of Steamboat's amenities and to pamper yourself. While some may not be able to afford a massage, soaking in the hot springs remains affordable.

Young said laughing has been clinically proven to help. Finding ways to give back to the community also can be extremely beneficial, she said.

"Get your mind off yourself - help an elder, or walk a dog at the shelter," Young said. "Or, try something new."

Although these strategies may help some people cope with stress, individuals who lack the motivation to do these things could be depressed. Young said the feeling of being caught in a pattern of excessive worry, which is affecting one's ability to function in work or with friends, may signify depression. Also, those who are beginning to withdraw or feel diminished interest in activities they used to enjoy may be depressed.

Counseling can help those who have crossed the line from stress to depression. Getting help from a professional will help individuals find strategies to cope and to understand how their thinking and behavior patterns are affecting them.

Those who think seeking professional help is an expense they cannot afford right now should check with their employers to see if an employee assistance program is available. There also is other financial help out there for those who qualify. Steamboat Mental Health has a sliding fee schedule based on income.

Although Foley admits that it will be a while before the economy changes for the better, he thinks there is a bright side. Because everyone is going through this crisis, and people will spend less money, they will return to core values: family, friends and health.

"Spend less, play more," Foley said. "If there was ever a time to share time with others, it is now."

"Look at what we do have," he said. "We live in Steamboat."

Riley Polumbus is a communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at riley.polumbus@yvmc.org.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.