Health Watch/Baraga County Memorial Hospital/Caitlin Bowers, Social Services Technician

Depression and anxiety effect people from all walks of life, every day. For some, it may be a daily battle, for others it may be occasional, triggered by certain situations or even seasonal patterns. If you, personally, have not experienced either, there is a good chance that you know someone who has.

Depression is a very common disorder that can be debilitating to all aspects of a person’s life occupationally, socially, mentally and even physically. It is characterized by low moods, loss of interest in even pleasurable activities, low self-esteem, changes in sleep patterns, fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms. Some people may suffer from depression due to chemical imbalances in the brain, while others may experience depression due to situational circumstances such as a significant loss, the development of a medical condition, or substance use. There are also some individuals who experience the “winter blues,” a form of depression that arises during the winter months of the year.

Anxiety is another common disorder that can co-occur with depression or occur on its own. Everyone experiences anxiety in some form as a reaction to stress; however, it can become excessive, negatively impacting a person’s daily life causing a variety of problems. Symptoms of anxiety can be emotional, physical or behavioral causing intense feelings of fear, panic and worry. These feelings, if uncontrollable and excessive, can result in fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, irritability, sweating, hot flashes and even chest pains. Just like depression, there are different types of anxiety. Some may experience generalized anxiety, while others may experience anxiety related to phobias, post-traumatic stress disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders or even as a result of depression.

It is important to know that neither depression nor anxiety is experienced in the same manner by everyone. One person may “look depressed” acting differently than normal or showing symptoms that can be noticed by a friend or family member. However, another person may hide the symptoms from others, seeming completely normal but on the inside struggling to put one foot in front of the other. There are also some that may hide their depression or anxiety by self-medicating with substances like drugs or alcohol.

Just as the symptoms of depression and anxiety are experienced individually, treatment is also an individualized process, and it may not be an easy one. Depression and anxiety are not like a paper cut that just use a Band-Aid and a couple days of healing. There are issues that need to be faced and worked through, sometimes requiring the help of a professional.

One of the easiest ways to deal with depression or anxiety is to get out and exercise! Go for a walk, go to the gym, try out those snowshoes in the garage, or shovel your driveway. Get those endorphins going while improving your overall physical health. Utilize support systems a friend, a colleague, or a counselor. Sometimes, unloading all the negative feelings and emotions and having someone to help you work through those issues plaguing you is just what you need to get on the right path. Pick up a new hobby to get a little “me time” that you can use as an outlet for those negative thoughts and stressful emotions. You can even use it as an opportunity to make an appointment with a chiropractor or a massage therapist. Also, watch what you eat, avoid alcohol consumption, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If those things don’t work, make an appointment with a professional who can help get you on the right track towards the happier and healthier life you deserve.

Editor’s note:?Caitlin Bowers, MSW, is the Social Services Technician at Baraga County Memorial Hospital. She is a L’Anse High School graduate, received her Bachelors of Science at Michigan State University in Psychology, and received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Southern California.