Dysthymia: Persistent Depressive Disorder

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 57– 5/13/15

I had no idea what to write about today ~ for some reason, I couldn’t sleep last night.  As I tossed and turned, I tried to come up with ideas for today’s post ~ my thoughts meandered around the labyrinth of my brain and kept coming to dead ends.  After getting home from work today at 5:15 p.m., I realized that the Healthy Aging course I registed for at Ed2go starts today, which means that I have no time to come up with a last minute idea! 

So instead, I’m re-posting an article I wrote for the Ezine Articles website about Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder). My co-worker, Fred (name changed to protect the innocent) would accuse me of “phoning it in” tonight; but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. . . . 

Dysthymia Symptoms

Jenny, a 35 year old wife and mother, has little energy to play with her two young children.  She sleeps restlessly at night, and often feels the need to take a nap during the day.  She has difficulty in making even the most minor decisions, and finds it hard to concentrate.  Jenny often feels her family would be better off without her.  For short periods of time, she’s able to pull herself out of her mood, and she’ll feel like her “old self” again.  But these periods don’t last. 

This wife and mom is suffering from the common symptoms of dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder.  Other symptoms include feelings of sadness almost every day, poor appetite or overeating, low self-esteem, and loss of enjoyment in formerly fun activities.  While the symptoms aren’t as severe as those of major depression, they last longer.  Dysthymia symptoms last at least two years. 

Causes of Dysthymia

The causes behind any form of depression can be complex.  People suffering from dysthymia usually have a family background of depression. Brain chemical imbalances can be another cause. Sometimes childhood trauma that causes chronic stress can lead to dysthymia in a teenager or young adult.  Additionally, some medical conditions can be linked to dysthymia.  These include neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.* For elderly people, dysthymia may arise due to the challenging life changes they face as they age.  This may include chronic illnesses or physical disability, brain function decline, or the loss of a spouse.  

Diagnosis and Treatment

People who have dysthymia often don’t obtain treatment – the symptoms often develop slowly and then become integrated into a person’s life, causing them to believe it’s just a part of who they are. This is especially true for those people who develop this disorder early in their lives.  However, it’s important that persistent depression is treated. People who have dysthymia are at a higher risk of developing major depression. Experts have termed this condition “double depression.”*

If a person has been suffering from a depressed mood over the period of two years and has some of the other symptoms described above, a visit to their family doctor will help.  The person will need to provide their doctor with both the physical and mental ailments that have been plaguing them. If the doctor suspects persistent depressive disorder, he or she may start with a physical examination.  This is done because dysthymia may be caused by an underlying medical condition.  Laboratory and blood tests may also be given to provide further insight.  Finally, the doctor may conduct a psychological examination.

Treatment for dysthymia involves anti-depressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.  There are a few types of anti-depressants that are prescribed for this type of depression; however, the most common type used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Experts point out that SSRIs tend to work well for most people and have more bearable side effects than other types of anti-depressants. These drugs don’t work overnight; it may take several weeks for them to make a difference in the affected person’s life.

Psychotherapy involves talking to a mental health professional.  This can give the person some insight about the condition, as well as their own emotions, thoughts and behaviour.  A good mental health professional can help teach the person how to deal with stress, negative thought patterns, and self-defeating behaviors. Psychotherapy can provide a person with the everyday skills they need to battle their persistent depression.  They can also suggest support groups, if needed. 

Jenny doesn’t have to live the rest of her life suffering with the “grays” of dysthymia that greatly limit her happiness and well-being.  If she takes that first step by visiting her doctor and describing her symptoms, there are treatments available to help her fight back against persistent depressive disorder and take back her life. 

Sources Cited List

*Swartz, Karen, MD. The Johns Hopkins White Papers. Depression and Anxiety. 2014. Remedy Health Media: New York, NY.  Print. 

 

 

3 Top Websites for Mental Health

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 55 – 5/8/15 

Young Woman in Despair sitting against wall in monochrome

Mental Health America

America’s largest and oldest community-based network for mental health.

Founded in 1909, Mental Health America’s goal is to promote mental health by means of prevention, early identification/intervention, and care/treatment of mental health conditions

Within the site’s Living Well link, you’ll find resources for: 

  • Living your life well: top 10 tools, stress screener, fast facts about stress and more.
  • Living your life well on campus: special resources for college students.
  • Living your life well at work: work/life balance, signs of a healthy workplace, and more.
  • Complementary medicine:  alternative medicine options for mental health conditions.

Within the Finding Help link, you’ll find:

  • Screening tools for common mental health conditions
  • Available treatment options
  • MHA affiliates in your community/area
  • Tools and other resources to help with recovery from a mental health condition

The Mental Health Information link provides discussions about mental health conditions from A – Z.  If you want to make a difference, you can join MHA’s advocacy network.

Psych Central 

This website has been around since 1995, and defines itself as “today’s modern voice for mental health information, emotional support and advocacy.”  Psych Central offers over 200 online support groups.

Psych Central’s blog offers a wide variety of articles covering many topics.  Current posts included:  The Worry List, More Creative Ways to Manage Sadness and Anxiety, and Raising Boys to Become Confident Men, just to name a few.

This site also offers screening tools for a variety of mental health disorders and symptoms, an Ask the Therapist feature, daily news and research updates; and of course, where to find help when you need it.

MentalHealth.gov

The content at this site comes from several governmental sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FindYouthInfo.gov, Medline Plus and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

MentalHealth.gov links include: The Basics (What is Mental Health, Myths & Facts, Recovery is Possible) – What to Look For (focuses on the different types of mental health disorders along with information about suicide) – Talk about Mental Health (how to start the conversation about mental health disorders and get needed support) – How to Get Help – (resources for getting immediate help, help for veterans and their families, etc.)

This site also provides the Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255 and the Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). 

 

 

Is Depression in Old Age Normal?

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 54 – 5/6/15
I originally wrote this post back in 2011, but wanted to re-post it for Mental Health Month, and to honor my mom, who would have been 100 in March of this year. 
Mom Young
Way back in the early eighties, my mom moved from the house she had lived in for 30+ years to move into a senior citizen apartment complex that had recently been built in her neighborhood.  At the time, I remember her being sad about leaving her home, yet excited at the prospect of starting a “new life” in her apartment.
Mom had fun there: Meeting new friends, having family parties in the community room, dressing up in costumes for the annual Halloween parties, and babysitting her younger grandkids in her compact apartment with its Oriental decor (who knows, maybe in a previous life, she was Asian. In her current life, though, she was a little Polish-American lady who could play the harmonica and fried up a heluva potato pancake).
 
She’d travel to Arizona, alone on a plane, to visit my sister and brother-in-law. On the plane, she’d always meet a new friend.  I was always amazed at how easily she made friends. She’d go on bus trips with her friends or close relatives. She enjoyed her life. 

Fast forward several years.  As old age caught up with her, mom had to move from her apartment to an assisted living facility.  She not only had to give up many of her treasured possessions (there isn’t too much you can fit into a room shared with two other ladies) she also lost her sense of independence.  She grew more dependent on her children and was in and out of the hospital for various complications from heart disease and diabetes.  I can imagine that she felt hopeless and at a loss at how to regain her sense of self.

I remember her saying things like “I don’t belong here; these people are OLD, and they’re all senile! (Mind you, she was around 80 when she moved into the facility.)  I’m pretty certain that every one of them wasn’t senile, but that’s how she saw it.
It took her a long time to adjust. In fact, I’m not sure she ever did. In the back of her mind, she clung to the thought of going back to her old life. I believe she became depressed.  She never really bounced back and became her “old self” again. She suffered even further when her only son, Joe, died at the age of 50, a week after she moved into a nursing facility in Northern Michigan.
 
Of course, I’m no mental health expert, just a daughter who realized that the mom she knew, who used to sing and hum around the house, no reason needed, wasn’t singing anymore. Is it just a “given” that older people become depressed?The Help Guide points out that while depression is not a normal part of aging, it often occurs when older people face major losses or painful changes in their life, such as my mom did.
Older people often become more isolated; health problems may become more prevalent; they may fear death, or may have lost their spouse or other loved ones.  While some people may be more resilient in facing these kinds of problems, others aren’t so lucky. As WebMD points out in its article, Depression in the Elderly, other risk factors include: living alone, being a woman, certain medications for health conditions, living with chronic pain, a family history of depression, and more.
WebMD also indicates that often, the elderly don’t get treatment for their depression. One of the reasons for this is that their symptoms differ from those of younger people who are depressed, so the depression may not be recognized as such. 
I realize now that my siblings and I should have paid more attention to her emotional suffering. We figured, well, she’s being taken care of, she’s safe in this assisted living facility – she just needs to “adjust.”  If we had taken the time to read up on the symptoms of elderly depression, we may have realized she needed more than just time to adjust. We could have gotten her the help she needed. 
My mom’sgolden yearswere diminished by her emotional suffering.  But I think she knew, despite her sadness, that she was loved by her family and friends – particularly her older grandkids, who remembered a grandma that understood them better than their own parents did, and loved them unconditionally.

For Further Reading:

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May: Mental Health Month

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 53 – 5/4/15

May is Mental Health month, sponsored by the Mental Health America website. This is a subject that is dear to my heart – not only did my father struggled with an undiagnosed mental illness throughout his life (along with the additional burden of alcoholism); but I’ve suffered from dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) in the past. 

The theme for this year’s observance is B4Stage4, focusing on early intervention for mental health problems.  

This month, I plan on devoting several posts to mental health topics.  Please help me, along with Mental Health America, spread the word about taking care of our mental health, and helping loved ones when they need it.   

Check out this YouTube video to find out more about MHA’s B4Stage4 campaign. 

Do you tweet?  Please spread the word at Twitter:  

  • May is Mental Health Month #mhmonth2015 Let’s raise awareness! #B4Stage4
  • Don’t be afraid to ask 4 help, get #screened & start the conversation early: mhascreening.org  #B4Stage4 #MHMonth2015

Are you on Facebook? You can create awareness by posting:

(1) Learn the early warning signs.  When you or someone close to you starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing what these changes are will help to catch them early. Often times, parents, teachers and mentors are the first person to step in to support a person through these early changes. Learn the warning signs #B4Stage4 http://bit.ly/1Agy9v3

(2) Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. Support @mentalhealthamerica and the #B4Stage4 campaign Get #screened, www. mhascreening.org

Visit the Mental Health America website for more FB and Twitter options. 

 

5 Reasons to Try Meditation for Vital Aging

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 20 – 2/18/15

 Asian woman meditating.

(1) Meditation may help us sleep better. At least 40% of Americans don’t get enough of the quality sleep they need to function well (Aschwanden).  Many of these insomnia sufferers are women.  Our insomnia is caused by hormonal changes we face in our lives, such as pregnancy and perimenopause.  Bea is one of those women, and she’s ready to try meditation to get her zzzzzz’s back! 

(2) Meditation relieves stress, and can help those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression. 

(3) Meditation provides other mental health benefits:  an increase in happiness, self-acceptance and awareness, concentration, focus and more – as found in this article from The Art of Living

(4) Meditation can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and even increase energy levels, just to name a few physical health benefits.  

(5) Meditation may help strengthen our aging brain by slowing down the loss of gray matter, as described in this article from the UCLA newsroom.

Source:

Aschwanden, Christie. (Nov 2014). Counting Sleep. Prevention Magazine.

For Further Reading: 

Want to try Guided Meditation?  Bea downloaded a guided meditation album onto her Ipod, but there are free options online as well:  

 UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center 

If you search YouTube, “guided meditations,” you’ll also find some good options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.medicaldaily.com/mental-health-benefits-meditation-itll-alter-your-brains-grey-matter-and-improve-319298

Short Term Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 13 – 2/2/15

Short term benefits of aerobic exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise boosts our aging metabolism. Once we hit our thirties, ladies, our metabolism starts to slow down by 2 to 5 percent each decade.* This sucks, right?  It’s bad enough that a man’s metabolism is faster than ours, because they have more muscle than we do.  How to fight back?  Do aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every stinking day.  Your metabolism will be pleased.
  • Aerobic exercise helps energize us.  Feeling sleepy after lunch?  Dozing at your desk?  Take a brisk walk for 15 minutes (outside, if possible) and you’ll perk up.  In Bea’s opinion, it’s better than a 5-hour energy drink.

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  • Aerobic exercise helps boost our mood.  Bea knows this for a fact – she’s a S.A.D. sufferer, and aerobics in front of her television truly helps her break down the blues.  Those “feel good” endorphins start their happy dance when she exercises.
  • Aerobic exercise helps us sleep better.  Those of us over the big 4-0 know that insomnia tends to creep up on us as we start going through perimenopause. Arrrghhh, those changing hormones!  Aerobic exercise is great for insomnia, as long as it’s not done too close to bedtime (our body temperature needs to cool down to a certain point to fall asleep easily)*
  • Aerobic exercise helps us fight off the flu and colds by boosting our immune system. 
  • Aerobic exercise helps ease menstrual cramps.
  • Aerobic exercise boosts our libido and sexual performance. Is your significant other tired of hearing you have a headache?  Exercise together out of bed and you may just be happier in bed.  You can read more about this lovely benefit in the article, The Top 3 Ways Exercise Boosts your Sex Drive.

 

Source:

* VanTine, Julia, & Doherty, Bridget. Growing Younger – Breakthrough Age-Defying Secrets. Rodale Press.

How to Fight Back against S.A.D.

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 2 – 1/7/15

 

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Bea gets S.A.D. every year. It usually starts early in November, when the days dim their lights sooner, and nights seem endless.  The summer sun becomes a distant memory.  S.A.D., of course, is Seasonal Affective Disorder, and many of us are affected by it during these dreary winter months.

This year, however, instead of wallowing in her misery, Bea has made a serious effort to combat this winter depression. This effort lifted her spirits and made a big difference in her outlook.

Do you battle S.A.D. during the winter months? Here’s how Bea fights back:

  • Walking outside whenever possible to breathe in the fresh air. Even just 10 minutes can be invigorating.
  •  When it’s just too cold out there, she does aerobic exercise or strength training with fitness DVDs in her living room.
  • Drinking water regularly to fight off lethargy and avoiding sugary foods and simple carbs.
  • Being productive really helps her feel better – cleaning the house can be satisfying. De-cluttering her home office space is another activity that, believe it or not, enhances her serenity.
  • Starting a long-overdue project for those dark winter nights.
  • Making an effort to be social: calling a friend on the phone, planning a night out with the “girls.” This year, she joined an online book club; then went to the movies with some of her new reading buddies.
  • Bea needs a good night’s sleep to stave off depression, and this has become more difficult as she’s aged. To help enhance her sleep quality, she gets off the computer at least an hour before bedtime. She’ll get comfy on an easy chair, put on her earphones and listen to meditation music while reading a good book. This helps her unwind from her day.

If these ideas don’t work for you, check out some additional tips from health experts:

How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder – Definition

6 Depression Traps to Avoid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health America – Dedicated to Mental Wellness

I grew up with a parent who suffered from depression and other mental health issues. He drank to ease his pain.  I became a person who often questioned her own mental wellness. In my darkest moments, I thought of myself as “just like him” ~ without the alcoholism.

My deepest wish throughout my life has been to achieve peace of mind. Today, for the most part, I feel thankful for my life, happy, and more serene than I ever thought I could be.

It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be like my dad. I could simply choose another path. Instead of concentrating on negative mind clutter, I chose to focus on the good.

A simple choice, but not always an easy one, since it meant changing a lifelong habit.

The Mental Health America (MHA) website can help me stay on this path to mental wellness and peace of mind.
This non-profit organization has been around since 1909, and its goal is to help all of us to become “mentally healthy.” It dedicates itself to this goal by:

  • Providing information: Factsheets about mental health/mental illness topics such as anxiety disorders (this includes a section for military troops and their families), children’s mental health topics, depression, eating disorders, and more.
  • Providing help: Factsheets about treatment options, including the national suicide prevention lifeline,  local support groups, inpatient treatment, insurance questions, and more.
  • Taking action: Mental Health America has an “Advocacy Network” that works toward changing the laws to protect America’s mental health.

Mental Health America also works toward raising public awareness of mental health issues, as described here

Live Your Life Well is a special wellness program sponsored by Mental Health America, which provides us with the 10 tools we need to live our life well in this stress-filled, fast-paced world of ours.  Some of these may sound simple, but they are based on scientific research.  They’ve been proven to make a difference in our mental health.

Do you know a military family?  MHA provides resources to help them cope with war-related mental health issues.

So if you simply want to learn about mental health issues, find help/treatment for yourself or a loved one, or take action to advocate for our national mental health, take a look at MHA and it vision.

One nice feature about the MHA website: you can increase the font size of the webpage content.  Very cool if your eyes are aging!

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Aging Positively: Take Charge of your Health and Well-Being

I’m a big believer that we should take charge of our own health, especially as we age. I don’t know about you, but I want my golden years to truly be golden, not rusty.

I watched my mom suffer with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and all the crap that comes along with those conditions. Her golden years involved many visits to many doctors, a lot of prescription medications, and trips to the hospital due to strokes and bypass surgeries.

My dad was plagued with mental health issues such as depression and during his lifetime, chose alcohol as his medication. His golden years were lived mainly in self-imposed isolation.

Neither of those aging scenarios appeal to me.

At 53, I’m choosing a different path. (Really, it’s a choice I made at a much younger age).  My objective is to keep exercising my brain and my body. I work at taking responsibility for my emotional health. Yes, there are things that may happen to me that I cannot control. But for the things that I can control, well, I’m giving it my all.

It’s not always easy to remain on the path of health and wellness; to stay motivated and informed, I read blogs like:

I also read on-line magazines like:

Further reading:

What do you do to age positively?

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6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

Greetings from icy, blustery Michigan. Yep, I live in one of those states where winter begins in November and drags its butt out until April. Four seasons? What a joke. Michigan’s seasons have shrunk to two. (Or maybe 2 1/2: we do get a rainy season we laughingly call spring)

Do ya ever wonder why we stay in Michigan? To prove we’re tough? Maybe so. Only weaklings move to sunny, balmy states, right?? (Or maybe they’re smarter than we are; who knows?)

Now I know that some of you just looovvvve winter. But there are those of us who get the winter blahs and wonder where the sun went (Actually, I know where the sun went: Arizona! He sent me a postcard: “The weather’s great, wish you were here.” Smart ass!) Winter haters need to have some remedies for the blahs, and Bea Boomer is happy to oblige.

Bea Boomer’s favorite ways to get out of that winter slump:

  • Add a shot of Baileys™ to your coffee. Top with whipped cream. Yum.
  • Watch a funny movie (humor is good for the soul). Bea’s faves: The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Jerk.
  • Eat some comfort food and don’t worry about gaining a few pounds (I think it keeps you warmer)
  • Sit in a comfy chair in front of your fireplace and read a good book.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not, watch the news programs. Avoid them like the plague. Why? Simply this: there’s just too much bad news. Why fill your mind with negative karma?
  • Listen and sing along to your favorite music while you surf the Internet, “tweet,” or visit your friends on Facebook™.  There’s nothing better than singing along with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” while working on blog posts. (Some music never gets old; it just ages like fine wine).

Alicia Sparks, writer for Psych Central,  provided six more great ideas to help get rid of the winter “blues.”
And check out these “depression busters:”  If you’re more than just a little “blue,” check out WebMD’s site to find out more about depression; its symptoms, treatments, and so on.

Bea Boomer recommends:

  1. http://blog.healthyeats.com/ – A blog led by a team of diet and nutrition experts. Has a wide variety of healthy recipe categories, a weekly newsletter, and more. Look for some comfort foods!
  2. http://psychcentral.com/ – Mental health network that’s been around for over 14 years.

Quote of the day:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)