If you knew the difficulty or problem you were facing was common, would you be more likely to talk about it?
When we find out someone is going through something similar to us, it validates our own experience. We discover we aren’t the only one dealing with something, and feel less alone.
In reality, we’re all more similar to each other than we think. When we’re struggling, we feel, think, and behave in similar ways.
We all have daily things we have to do that are stressors in our lives: school, homework, navigating social situations, and managing relationships at home, school and/or work. Some stress can be good, a force to get things done and help push us to achieve. But there is a point when stress can tip over into a toxic place, and we feel like everything is piling on us. We can feel overwhelmed, trapped, and not sure how to cope.
But, we can learn how to cope. And the biggest part of that learning is truly understanding the common patterns of what might be happening to us.
About anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues, and most of us will experience one or both of them at some point in our lives. Depression and anxiety show up in our lives for different reasons and from various sources. It can be from stressful or adverse situations we are experiencing or have experienced in the past, a family history, or simply genetics. (Or any combination of these.)
Anxiety and depression share a lot of the same symptoms, and often coexist. Both can affect your eating, sleeping, mental clarity, mood, and cause fear, worry, irritability, restlessness, negative thoughts, and uncomfortable sensations in your body, particularly your stomach and chest areas.
Both anxiety and depression can feel exhausting. There can be feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts that things won’t change for the better, or that you and your struggles are a burden to others.
Anxiety can feel like your body is ramped up and never able to rest. With anxiety our thoughts can run fast or feel disjointed so our speech can be rapid, shaky, and even cause us to mumble or stutter.
Depression can feel like you are walking through mud. We can even sense speech differences when we are depressed, like flat, softer, or paused speech.
Feelings of anxiety and depression can creep in slowly. When either or both continue for long periods of time, it can cause feelings of unmanageable emotional pain. And when we experience something like this for the first time, we may not know what to do and can’t imagine that things can get better. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide can be common. They can be fleeting thoughts of suicide, or sometimes they can feel like they are running at us.
We tend to judge ourselves for struggling, and believe others will judge us too. And when we feel others may look down on us, we can feel shame. This is where our difficult feelings become even more intense because shame becomes the overriding emotion that causes us to hide, and we can feel trapped.
We have all felt shame at some point in our lives, and it’s one of the most painful emotions we can experience. Humans need to feel connected to others so they feel a sense of belonging and safety. Shame takes us away from what we need most: connection.
How Can I Help Myself to Recognize Signs of Anxiety and Depression
Now that you have read the previous articles, and have some ideas of common body sensations, thoughts, and feelings, let’s try another exercise.
Exercise: Jot down your patterns
Write down your own common patterns of when you are struggling.
- What body sensations do you feel?
- What thoughts do you commonly have?
- What feelings come up most often for you?
Resource: Read about Self-Compassion
How Can Others Support Me to Recognize Signs of Anxiety and Depression
Ask your parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents if mental health issues run in the family. Ask if they have ever experienced depression, anxiety, or substance abuse issues. Starting with family genetics might be an easy way to begin the conversation about what is going on for you.
Commonality is what brings people together in recovery groups. The focus is largely about giving a voice to the thoughts and feelings that have been internalized, buried, and never shared with anyone before. What if we didn’t have to wait till recovery to share what is going on for us? If you haven’t picked a mental health ally, please do! Start the conversation. Maybe there are some thoughts and feelings you’ve been holding in that have been causing you emotional discomfort.
And if you don’t have someone in your life right now that can be that person for you, there is someone at the crisis text line (Text “LIV” to 741-741) or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 right now ready to be there for you.
Caring about YOU and your mental health,
Read the next blog in the series: Identify: Understanding Common Feelings Associated With Social Media (Compare/Despair)
– Written by Susan Caso, MA/LPC and Mental Health Director for the LIV Project