Depression changes brain chemistry

Leading a fulfilling life means taking care of your physical and emotional health.  When one is struggling with Depression it very difficult to find fulfillment in anything, anyone, and life in general.  This is a major symptom of depression, no longer experiencing pleasure in things that were once enjoyable. Everything requires a great deal of effort. Some days it is difficult get out of bed and other days it feels like an insurmountable task to leave the house and face the day.  Depression is not laziness, it is not a character flaw, it is not something that happens to those that a weak willed, or those that do not have enough faith in God.  Depression is a medical diagnosis with very real symptoms. Below is an image of a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan that depicts a brain without depression, and one that is depressed. 

A PET scan measures important functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are working.  What this scan highlights is that a depressed brain has significant less activity than a non-depressed brain. This means that many areas of a depressed brain are not functioning at an optimal level, hence symptoms such as brain fog, memory difficulties, attention problems, in addition to lack of pleasure, trouble sleeping, very low motivation, and tearfulness and sadness.

Understanding and accepting that Depression is a serious medical diagnosis is the first step towards seeking effective medical intervention.

Understanding and accepting that Depression is a serious medical diagnosis is the first step towards seeking effective medical intervention. Effective treatment for depression is psychotherapy with a licensed therapist and/or medication. Depression can have dire consequences when left untreated, such as family strain, relationship difficulty, social isolation, employment issues, even suicide. Do not suffer in silence.  Getting the appropriate interventions will help you lead a more fulfilling life. 

Symptoms of Depression

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”

Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

Appetite and/or weight changes

Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

Restlessness, irritability

Persistent physical symptoms

 

If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide. Call 911, Go to the emergency room, call the suicide lifeline (24/7, English/Spanish) at

1 (800) 273-8255. 

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Downtwon Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

 

 

Let go and breath

In the journey of having a fulfilling life the practice of acceptance is paramount.  I have been reading the Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts at the recommendation of a good friend. In it he says “by holding his breath, he looses. By letting it go he finds it”. Watts goes on to describe a seemingly contradictory concept and the process of acceptance.

In a parallel process I struggled through this post. I struggled with this post because it reflects an important aspect of how I understand the human experience and the process through which I help individuals through their experience, but I was fearful I could not adequately discuss this weighty concept in a blog post that would do it justice. So I sat in a place of anxious inaction in which I thought about the post, thought about the concept, spoke about the concept with others, but did not write about it! 

Watts suggests, by way of eastern philosophy, that anxiety is a natural part of the human experience. We are often drowning in the illusion that the future is predictable and fully under our control.  We begin to get anxious around things we fear will or will not happen.  We begin to even get anxious about this anxiety and make attempts to distance ourself from the feeling or “hold our breath”.  

...this illusion that our future is fully predictable and under our control, it makes things worse.

The paradoxical consequence is that when we attempt to avoid the anxiety that arises by this illusion that our future is fully predictable and under our control, it makes things worse. Now, one is feeling anxious, attempting to avoid/deny this feeling of anxiety, but it lingers in the back of one’s throat causing all sorts of distractions and discomfort- we “loose our breath”.

Instead, we should make attempts to move closer to accepting that anxiety is a natural part of our human condition. We cannot know fully what will happen, how that person will feel when you tell them that thing, if you’ll get that job, or how well you will express pivotal concepts that are the cornerstone of your conceptualization of the human experience on a blog post! - so of course you will feel anxiety, but this feeling should be one that is expected. Our anxiety is what reminds us that a fully predictable future that is completely under your control is an illusion. We can do our best to prepare, but variables will come to pass that we will not control, we may not know these variables until they come to pass, and that is ok. You acknowledge this, experience the anxiety that comes with it, and you proceed- “by letting go you find your breath”. 

 

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How do I take stock of my past year?

With the new year, I am hoping your resolve to work on having a fulfilling life has only been strengthened.  If not, you are not alone. Sometimes the new year can be challenging. When one is struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression viewing the coming year can be overwhelming. You may struggle to take appropriate stock of what you have accomplished in the past year, and it may be difficult to motivate yourself to make changes so that you are living the life you want. However, avoidance makes it worse! Avoidance can take many shapes. It can be conscious awareness that you don’t want to do it, or it can be more unconscious processes like forgetting. 

Avoidance is often done because you do not want to feel anticipated  uncomfortable feelings.

Avoidance is often done because you do not want to feel the feelings you anticipate will be uncomfortable. You do not want to examine your finances because you fear you have not given it the necessary attention and don’t want to face your decisions. You do not want to assess relationships because you fear uncomfortable discussions if you decide to assert yourself and/or invest less energy into those relationships that don’t contribute to a more positive or relaxed mood.  You may not take stock of your past year accomplishments because you were stagnant. You may not want to self-evaluate because you have such a difficult time giving yourself praise for anything.

These things are difficult to face. However, is the complacency of your sadness and worry more comfortable than the potential of having a life in which you are your most genuine self? If you choose to takes steps toward taking stock of your year and you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling with avoidance, keep in mind the following:

  • Feelings are temporary  

  • Emotions can be overwhelming for a few moments but they pass

  • Feelings move like a waves- slowly increasing, until they peak, and then they begin to dissipate. When you are at the peak of discomfort, remind yourself it will soon feel better. 

  • When you are doing something that is emotionally challenging validate yourself! “This is hard” “I am proud of myself for doing something difficult”

  • Treat yourself to something nice afterward- a movie, a small treat, a self hug

  • Practice and Repeat- it becomes less anxiety provoking the more you do it

  • You feel more accomplished the more you tackle these things- so anticipate this feeling of relief

When attempting to take stock of your year. I suggest journaling. Make a list of the major categories of your life that are important and assess their state.  This can include categories such as: health (physical and emotional), friendships, intimate relationships, family, children, work, finances. Think about each category and jot down a few things you have accomplished in the past year and things you would like to work on for the year to come. This is the work of accountability that gets you closer to a life that is fulfilling. 

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How do the holidays impact my mood?

On the path towards a life that is fulfilling and optimizes emotional health, it is important that one is aware of mood patterns. The holiday months are often a time when increases in sadness and worry are apparent.  The holiday months can be difficult for many people for many reasons.  Often the holiday months are difficult due to the combination of shorter daylight hours, the emphasis on social and familial relationships, and fiscal pressures associated with gifting. 

The holiday months can be difficult for many people for many reasons. 

It is important to notice if this time of year is one that is impacting your mood. Attend to your mood, behavior, and thought patterns for clues that the holiday time or winter months may be contributing to distress. Typical symptoms include difficulty sleeping (more or less sleep than usual), irritability, tearfulness, isolating, ruminative thinking and/or negative thoughts, suicidal thoughts, the replaying of disturbing memories, or expressed concern from family/friends.  

These symptoms should not be ignored. Instead, reach out to a trusted friend, make yourself go to a holiday get together, make plans with other people who struggle with the holidays, schedule activities to occupy your time, practice self care, or consider speaking to a license therapist if you are not already connected. It is important to remember that you are not alone, amidst the cheer and celebrating, the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people and often many do not disclose this.  

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How does my career impact my mood?

The work of leading a more fulfilling life requires one to examine the major components of one’s life. Where do you invest most of your time? For many, work takes up a significant portion of one’s life.  How you feel at work and about work can be an important aspect of how you feel for a large portion of your life. If you notice you are struggling with worry, discomfort, sadness, and/or anxiety at work this can permeate other aspects of one’s world, such as relationships and leisure activities.  Understanding your relationship to “who you are” and “what you do” is important. 

How you feel at work and about work can be an important aspect of how you feel for a large portion of your life.

Explore the driving forces behind your career identity by asking yourself a few questions. What do you do and why?  What contributed to your career choice? What motivates you to continue? Does your career highlight aspects of how you view yourself in the world? Is it in line with your personality strengths and weaknesses? Careers that force you to only express a small portion of who you are or call for personality aspects that may not be strengths, may leave one feeling worried or unfilled at work.  

The reality is most people do not have the luxury of easily changing careers and it is not very easy to obtain a passion career; however, the oneness is still on you to examine how these variables are contributing to your global emotional health. If you respond to these questions and notice that you are very disconnected from your career and often feel powerless, overworked, underpaid, misunderstood, stunted, then ask yourself: What will I do about it?

The response may not always be to find another position, although it very well may be. It may also mean learning to strengthen those character/personality elements the job requires, making the sacrifice to get more training so you can increase financial compensation or position yourself for leadership roles, deciding to engage in outside activities that are fulfilling, use skills to manage anxiety at work, taking regular vacations, asserting yourself, or even talking to HR about illegal business practices. If these or any options seem out of reach, consider engagement with a psychologist to explore and uncover deeper issues that may be preventing you from moving in a new direction and closer to a more fulfilling life. 

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How do I assert myself?

The ability to assert one’s self is an essential element of living a life that is fulfilling.   This involves clarity on one’s emotional experience, accurately interpreting how another’s actions have contributed to the evolved emotion, and clear communication with the other about consequences.  The process of self assertion validates one’s own perspective and let’s the other know your perspective is important.

The Process of self assertion validates one's perspective and let's the other know your perspective is important.

This can be a scary process for someone who often minimizes their feelings and thoughts, has a pattern of putting others needs before their own, or often anxiously doubts their perspective.  Alternatively, this can also be a dubious process for those who are often aggressive, bullish, and apathetic when getting their needs met. 

While asserting one’s self does not always lead to changing another’s behavior, it does accomplish the more salient goal of developing the ability to express your needs in a way another person can hear. The DEESC script is a Cognitive Behavioral Method that provides clear steps on how to assert yourself.

Describe the situation using only the facts of what occurred and not your interpretations of the other’s intent. When you talk over me when we're speaking.

Express how you feel when the situation occurred. It makes me feel like what I'm saying is less important than what you're saying.

Empathize with the other person and what their perspective may be. This is a critical and often forgotten component. I know sometimes you're excited about what you want to say and may not even notice.

Specify what you would like the other person to do, to change, to stop doing. However, I would like you to not talk over me when I'm speaking.

Consequences of what can happen if the other continues their behavior or makes the requested changes. It will make our great conversations so much more comfortable for me, if we listen to each other.  If you continue to speak over me when we're talking, I don't think I can continue to hang out with you as often. 

Asserting yourself can be a challenging process and requires patience, practice, and motivation.  The rewards are an increased comfort with validating your emotional experience, appropriately addressing others that may not recognize your boundaries, and asking for your needs to be met in a way another person can hear.

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

Is Anger a bad thing?

Anger can be a controversial and misunderstood emotion and can impact one’s life fulfillment.  Some individuals struggle significantly to identify and express anger often indiscriminately redirecting angry feelings caused by others onto themselves (i.e. this person spoke to me this way because I’m a worthless person). While others have significant difficultycontrolling their own behavior when the emotion of anger is triggered, resulting in actions that can significantly impact their lives and relationships (bullying, threatening, violence). 

Anger itself is an important emotion

Anger itself is an imporatant emotion that feeds us information about something happening in the environment that is threatening or makes up unhappy in some way.  When feelings of anger arise, one should reflect on the situation, note the elements of the situation that are causing unhappiness or feelings of threat, then determine how best to express this emotion and resolve the potential conflict given the circumstance.

Feel —> think —> Act  

Resolving complex issues with anger can be very difficult to do effectively on one’s own; the assistance of a licensed therapist can be invaluable.

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How do I take control of my thoughts?

On the quest for a more fulfilling life, one has to actively engage in methods to address the emotional imbalance caused by symptoms of depression and anxiety. Meditation is an effective method of reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It forces one to begin to take control of their racing thoughts and ground their experience in the present. Anxiety and depression is characterized by racing thoughts, often about the future or the past, these thoughts contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. Learning to take control of these anxious and depressive thoughts do not happen overnight and requires practice- that is the practice of meditation.

Learning to take control of anxious and depressive thoughts require practice- that is the practice of meditation.

In meditation the goal is to focus on a singular thought, image, sound, or breath. This is difficult to do because thoughts will naturally come and go, allow this to happen and gently redirect attention back to that singular thought, image, sound, or breath. It is critical that when one is developing the practice of meditation, one does not disrupt the process with negative judgements or self talk; instead, take notice of the passing thoughts and return to the singular thought, image, sound, or breath.

The practice of meditation can begin with 2 minute increments that are gradually increased over time. You can begin when you wake, while a passenger in a car/subway/Uber, before a gym workout, at one’s desk, during a lull in a meeting. The most difficult thing is making a decision not to avoid the thoughts and to commit to facing them head on with the goal of gaining more control.  This will result in the reduction of symptoms of depression and anxiety.  If one continues to struggle with symptoms of depression and anxiety, seek the help of a licensed therapist. 

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

 

 

How does Mood impact Spending?

Depression and anxiety have secondary consequences,beyond mood, that may impede living a more fulfilling life. Financial spending patterns may be symptomatic of underlying emotional issues like anxiety (compulsive over or under spending), depression (underspending as a result of not attending to responsibilities or self-care), or the mania phase of bipolar disorder (significant impulsive overspending that causes long term consequences). 

Financial spending patterns may be symptomatic of underlying emotional issues.

Sometimes noticing our own patterns are difficult and others may have a clearer perspective.  Depending on the source of the critique and how often it occurs, one may benefit from taking time to examine these financial spending patterns so spending can evolve in a manner that contributes to more global life fulfillment. 

Making the decision to change your spending patterns is difficult but may require your attention if there are drastic changes in spending, there are significant consequences on broader areas of one’s life caused by the pattern of spending, the patterns of spending are contributing to relationship problems, or you are having emotional responses after the spending (i.e. guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, depression). Taking control of an issues like problematic spending can significantly contribute to moving closer to the life you want to live.

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice

How do I cope with Miscarriages

On the path to living a more fullfilling life, once must grapple with unexpected tragedies. This post explores the complicated process of coping with miscarriages. When individuals or couples experience a miscarriage they often undervalue the weight of loss and do not expect to undergo the process of grief. All too often there is a sense of shame or even guilt that surrounds miscarriages that prevents couples from reaching out and getting the support of loved ones that traditionally comes with loss. This cause many couples to face the grieving process in isolation, often struggling to support each other through the grief.

When tackling the issue of miscarriages it is important that the individual or couple obtain the support of loved ones.  If one is finding it difficult to reach out, this may contribute to experiencing unchalleged distortions around unrealistic responsibility, blame, and/or the use of this event to define respective gender roles  ( as a woman I have failed, as a man I am unable to care for my wife and protect my child, how can we be a family without a child). Unfortunately these false distortions are common and often lead to feelings of shame and guilt that may further contribute to isolation and/or not reaching out to your partner in a couple. 
 

When couples are not prepared for the experience of grief the feelings are even more overwhelming and attempts can be made to suppress the necessary grieving process.


When individuals or couples are not prepared for the experience of grief, the feelings are even more overwhelming, and attempts can be made to suppress the necessary grieving process. It is natural and vital for each individual in the couple to allow themselves to go through the stages of grief. Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed a grief model that had held the test of time. After a miscarriage expect to experience Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This model is not linear and one may jump back and forth among the stages before they are resolved. If symptoms of grief persist for more than three months, if you find the process of grief too overwhelming, or if the couple is having difficulty supporting each other through this, psychotherapy with a licensed clinician should be considered to help the individual and/or the couple work through this experience.

 

Adaobi Anyeji, Phd

Clinical Psychologist

The Blue Clinic

Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety

Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice