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August 21, 2007 > Don't Let Anxiety or Depression Rule Your Life

Don't Let Anxiety or Depression Rule Your Life

Free Health & Wellness Class Sheds Light on Symptoms, Treatment

Diagnosing a depression or anxiety related disorder might not be as simple as diagnosing a case of the flu, says Washington Township Medical Group family medicine practitioner, Dr. Lester Love.
To help members of the community better understand the causes, signs, symptoms and potential treatment options for these types of disorders, Dr. Love will be presenting a free Health & Wellness seminar on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Washington Hospital.
Dr. Love will address numerous topics, including how depression fits within the larger category of mood disorders, how identifying other disorders that may mimic depression can help avoid misdiagnosis of depression, as well as the important differences between bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic depression, and unipolar depression, also known as major depression or clinical depression.
"Depression is not the same thing as sadness or just being down, and I'm going to talk about how to distinguish between them," Dr. Love explains. "We really are talking about a genuine verifiable brain disorder not just a response to situational stimuli. There's certainly a difference between normal grief stemming, for instance, from the death of someone close, versus actual depression that requires medication."
To effectively address both depression and anxiety disorders, Dr. Love says he likes to look at them within the context of the bio-psycho-social model, which takes into account a range of factors that can play a role in both types of disorders. He notes that unless a practitioner looks at biological, social and psychological factors, it's difficult to attain full remission for a person suffering from a depressive or anxiety disorder.
When it comes to anxiety disorders - whose diagnoses range widely, including social phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and even postpartum blues - Dr. Love says he will focus on the broader subject matter rather than trying to discuss each disorder singularly.
"I tend to be a big picture person and try to fit these disorders within normal healthy human psychology and coping skills," he says. "The best remedy is sometimes not just going to the doctor. Sometimes the best remedy is to talk to a friend, counselor or pastor, for instance. I think that's the nice thing about the bio-psycho-social model. It takes biology into account, but also much more than that."
Depression and anxiety can have a negative impact on family relationships, especially if the disorders are ignored, Dr. Love notes. Additionally, untreated psychological disorders like depression have been linked to increased risk for various health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, as well as a decreased length of time a person survives after suffering a heart attack.
"Both illnesses have a huge impact on family and friends who don't know what to do and might be bearing the brunt of frustration, anger and helplessness," he says of the social implications. "Academic performance, home life and the mother-child bonding experience are certainly affected by depression."
Mothers suffering from post-partum depression are sometimes unable to bond properly with their babies, and a higher percentage of those suffering from depression often end up separating or divorcing, Dr. Love says.
From a societal standpoint, depression and anxiety can also have an enormous impact on the workplace. "There is a huge financial cost to the employer in terms of increased absences, lower performance and quantity of work done," according to Dr. Love.
Unfortunately, many people tend to blame themselves when they suffer from anxiety or depression, and are therefore reluctant to reach out for help because they feel the disorder is a character flaw rather than a treatable disease, according to Dr. Love.
Signs and symptoms of depression may include:
* Persistent sadness every day over the course of two weeks
* Insomnia
* Loss of energy
* Inability to concentrate
* Loss of appetite
* Psychomotor retardation (e.g. reading the same page in a book several times without comprehension)
* Feelings of guilt or self-blame
Dr. Love says identifying depression in the elderly population may be more difficult. One indication of depression in the elderly that often goes ignored is a loss of interest or pleasure in normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, and social or sexual interaction, which is called anhedonia.
"With the elderly, it's easy to assume that they will slow down or be less active, but they should maintain their normal interests, and happy, healthy relationships should continue," he states. "Family members should not assume a loss of interest just occurs with aging."
Living with or interacting with a person suffering from depression or anxiety can be frustrating or taxing for family members and friends; as a result many suffering from these disorders find themselves socially isolated, Dr. Love says.
His advice to family members that suspect a loved one is suffering from depression or anxiety is to try to take the person's feelings seriously.
"Try to view it as a real illness in the same way that diabetes or heart disease is an illness," he says. "It doesn't help to tell the person to just get over it."
A hallmark of both diseases is distorted self-perception, similar to the tendency toward denial associated with addiction. As depression and anxiety are characterized by distorted self-image, sufferers often feel very abnormal and isolated. As a result, it's important for people to seek an outside perspective from someone that can offer an objective picture and possibly normalize a skewed self-perception.
To learn more about disorders relating to depression and anxiety, join Dr. Love for his Health & Wellness seminar, "Are You Suffering from Anxiety or Depression?" taking place Tuesday, Aug. 28, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
For more information or to register for the seminar, call Washington Hospital's Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070.
To see a list of upcoming Health & Wellness seminars at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com, click on "For Our Community" and select "Health Classes & Support Groups."

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