6 tips for dating with depression

Dating is complicated enough without adding depression into the mix. Here are some tips for keeping your mental health in check while in the dating world.

1. Put yourself first

While meeting new people and dating can seem like an exciting way to take your mind off your problems, it’s important to make sure you are ready to take that step. Never forget to take care of yourself first before getting involved in a relationship.

2. Be sure you’re dating for the right reasons

Relationships can give us a lot of positive feelings of being loved, desired and successful. But it’s important to not enter into a relationship solely to acquire that reassurance.

3. Create a support system

Dating is difficult. Try to find friends who are also in the dating scene so you can share stories and offer support to each other.

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4. Don’t force it

There are some weeks where your depression will be worse than other weeks. It’s important to not push yourself during these bad times. Acknowledge that you might need to take a break for yourself, but don’t view that as a setback or a failure. Everyone needs time to themselves to recharge and recuperate.

5. Find the right time to tell your partner

Depression and other mental health issues are very personal subjects. While they do play a big part in a person’s life, it’s important not to feel pressured to reveal your struggles too early. While it’s important to be honest with your partner, it’s also important for your mental health that you feel safe. So be sure you get to a stage where you trust them to react in a way that is positive and supportive. But don’t keep it a secret if things are getting serious because your partner does deserve to know.

6. Understand the effect your depression might have on your relationship and sex life

intimacy 1.jpgBeing depressed effects people differently. It’s important to discuss with your partner how it effects you so they can understand what role it may play in your relationship and what they can do to support you.

Being depressed may lower your libido and decrease the pleasure you feel from sex. Be sure to talk to your partner about this so they are aware of the issue and so it doesn’t cause a rift in your relationship.

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Mental illness and driving: what’s the connection?

Does driving impact mental health?

Yes, it seems likely that there is a connection.

A 2016 study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined how not having the ability to drive affected U.S. adults aged 55 and older.

The study found that losing the ability to drive “nearly doubled the risk of depressive symptoms.”

“For many older adults, driving is more than a privilege; it is instrumental to their daily living and is a strong indicator of self-control, personal freedom, and independence,” Dr. Guohua Li, Mailman School professor of Epidemiology and senior author said in a statement on the university’s website.

This study presents a connection between what the loss of driving and what it represents (independence and personal freedom) to experiencing depression.

Should mental health be considered when handing out licenses?

I stumbled across an article from the Houston Chronicle published in 2014 about mental health questions being on driver’s license tests. And this brought up an interesting subject: should restrictions be placed on people who have certain mental illnesses when it comes to driving?

It’s a pretty common sense idea that you shouldn’t drive if you’re in an emotionally vulnerable state. In fact, my driver license manual states:

“You cannot drive well if you are angry, excited, worried or depressed.”

Allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement can lead to making mistakes while driving.

But does having a mental illness present enough of a danger to deny someone their license?

In 2015, that same Texas law initially denied a teen her license after she disclosed that she had been diagnosed with depression and was taking medication.

Questions about mental health are on the application for licenses in several states and have been for years. But many view them as antiquated and ineffective, as well as adding to the stigma associated with mental illness.

According to the Arizona Center for Disability Law (the state that I’m from), even a person with a serious mental illness has a right to have a driver’s license (unless you are under guardianship).

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to recognize when they are not in the best mental state and are not safe to drive.

RELATED: How not knowing how to drive makes me depressed

Are creative people more likely to be depressed?

Or are depressed people more creative?

That seems to be the question – a cause vs. effect, correlation vs. causation, which came first the chicken or the egg type conundrum.

A 2014 CNN article by William Lee Adams begins by citing examples of famous artists and their struggle to balance their genius with madness – Edvard Munch and his fear of life, Vincent van Gogh and his ear self mutilation and Paul Gauguin’s suicide.

And it’s not just painters. Numerous classic authors are mentioned who suffer from mood disorders.

In fact, the article cites a Swedish study which found that people with creative professions “were 8 percent more likely to live with bipolar disorder.”

Writers were 121 percent more likely to have it.

And being a writer, it doesn’t look like I’ve got good odds.

But while that study may present a link between creativity and depression, and there sure seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such a theory, it doesn’t offer any sort of causal explanation for why.

The link between creativity and mental illness has been explored and pondered for more than a hundred years.

In Nancy C. Andreasen’s article in The Atlantic, she mentions early examinations of the link between genius and insanity dating back to the 1800s. She goes on to trace the progress of the scientific studies on the subject up to her own work currently.

Andreasen doesn’t present a definite answer to by creative people experience mental illness at a higher rate. But she does suggest that perhaps those early studies which hypothesized a hereditary link may be correct. Perhaps their personality styles are a contributing factor or the environment in which they were raised.

But perhaps for those creative types suffering with depression, the important issue isn’t “is there a connection” or “which causes which.” Perhaps the focus should be instead on how to use creativity not as a cause or a symptom of depression, but as a path towards recovery.

Derek Haines wrote about depression and creativity on Medium and this quote stuck out to me:

“If you have severe depression, you have to get pretty damn creative to survive it.”

And at least in my own experience with depression, he’s 100 percent right. He sums up the idea perfectly:

“It was not the choice of creative pursuit that was important. It was the fact that creativity helped fill the void of not being productive while being unable to function or work normally.”

So while the link between creativity and depression still fascinate me and while I will keep an eye out for further research on the matter, I think I’ll be trying to focus on viewing creativity as a part of recovery.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

(*Apologies for the delay in posting, I can blame a lotta things but it was mainly the dreary weather that made me curl up and binge The Crown these last two days.*)

3 ways to support a loved one suffering with depression

Depression doesn’t effect just the person experiencing it; it also impacts those closest to them.

Friends and family members can be a person’s greatest aid in their battle with depression or they can be another obstacle on the road to recovery.

Being informed, proactive and understanding is important to ensuring that you have a positive impact on a person who is struggling with depression.

All mental illnesses (whether it’s depression or anxiety or something else entirely) are serious conditions and should not simply be dismissed.

1. Watch for the symptoms.

Someone with depression will not always be upfront about their struggles. The first step in helping someone is identifying that they’re struggling. The Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms that a person with depression can exhibit. They include:

  • Feeling sad, empty or hopeless
  • Lack of energy
  • Irregular sleep – whether it be insomnia or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite – whether it be reduced appetite or increased appetite
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in fun activities
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feeling worthless or guilty

Many people with depression will exhibit symptoms in a way that is noticeable. However, everyone experiences and expresses depression differently so this list doesn’t capture all the ways depression can manifest.

2. Help seek out treatment.

Not realizing you’re depressed, being ashamed of being depressed or not knowing how to get help while you’re depressed are just a few reasons why someone may not immediately seek out treatment.

Family members and friends can take some steps to help encourage their loved ones to see professional medical help.

  • Talk openly. Discuss your concerns while expressing your love and support. It’s important the person does not feel attacked or judged for what they’re feeling. It’s important to emphasize that they are dealing with a real problem, not something that should simply be swept aside or ignored.
  • Suggest professional help. While talking to a friend or family member is a good first step, a trained professional is the best option. Encourage them to see a mental health professional.
  • Help find treatment. For someone with depression, seeking out help may be overwhelming and frightening. One way to help is to look up medical professionals, help set up appointments, help prepare questions to ask during the appointment and offer to accompany them.

3. Be patient. Be understanding. Be supportive.

Few things can be more damaging to a person with depression than unsupportive surroundings. Be willing to listen, be encouraging and offer to help in any way you can.

Everyone experiences mental illness differently and the best way to see how you can help is to ask directly.

Remember that their depression isn’t your fault, but it’s also not their fault. Their journey to recover will have it’s ups and downs and you have to be prepared for those too and not get discouraged on the bad days.

Dealing with mental illness can be a scary and lonely ordeal. Simply being an attentive and good friend can go a long way in helping someone get better.

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How to stay accountable for your new years resolutions

I honestly can’t tell you of a single year where I upheld any new years resolution for more than a week.

And I’m not alone. According to Statistic Brain, only 45 percent of Americans usually make resolutions and only 8 percent of them are successful in achieving their goals.

But the Statistic Brain Research Institute also claims that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals.

I’ve made the commitment to make this year different. I’ve decided to take a more active role in reaching for happiness and my resolutions for a healthier, more productive and more money conscious lifestyle are small steps towards that.

Here are a few things that I’ll be doing to try and make my endeavor into new years resolutions a successful one.

1. Get organized.

When I was in college I got pretty obsessive with how I used my planner to keep myself organized and on track with school work.

I’ve recently picked up bullet journaling, a beautiful though slightly intimidating way to keep track of real life adult tasks. There are tons of bullet journaling guides such as this one from Buzzfeed which focuses specifically on mental health.

Using these journals help me stay focused and organized. They’re also a great way for you to see your progress overtime.

If it’s overwhelming for you, start small and simple without all the frills and decorations to see if it’s something that helps your productivity.

And if handwritten journals aren’t your thing, give a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet a try. That’s where I’m compiling my budget tracker for easy calculations and so far I love it.

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2. Tell a friend.

For me, it’s way easier to accomplish things if I have someone else besides myself to answer to.

One of my best friends has some similar resolutions on her list and together I hope we can keep each other on track and motivated.

Resolutions are difficult to maintain and having someone go through that struggle alongside you can be the best kind of motivation on the days where you don’t feel like you can do it.

3. Find a community.

And what’s what step better than just telling one friend? Finding a community to draw support from.

I used to get annoyed by people who constantly post about their workouts or diets on social media, but I can see how those public posts are good ways for them to find support from others.

4. Cut yourself some slack.

It’s going to be difficult to accomplish your goals and there will be days you slip up. No one is perfect. But don’t let one mess up or two completely derail you from your main goal.

It’s okay to fall down as long as you get back up.

I’ve always had this “all or nothing” mentality where even if I slipped up once, I felt that it wasn’t worth continuing until the next week or the next month or the next clean slate. I had this pressure to be perfect and that was such a flawed expectation that kept me from making any progress at all.

So what exactly is high-functioning depression?

There are tons of stereotypes and misconceptions about people who struggle with mental illness that attempt to paint them into an easily categorized, but ultimately narrow box.

But the truth is not everyone fits into our preconceived notions of mental illness.

So who do we miss, in our narrow definition of what a mentally ill person looks like?

Amanda Leventhal puts it perfectly in her piece for The Mighty:

“We don’t see the student with the 4.0 GPA. We don’t see the student who’s active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society. We don’t see the student who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group. No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.”

Leventhal is describing what many on the internet are calling high-functioning depression. They are the overachievers, workaholics and perfectionists who are too hard on themselves and often don’t let their struggles with mental illness show in the typical, easy to spot ways.

Often times we think of depression as something that completely puts your life on hold. You withdraw, you act out, you lose grip, you outwardly struggle. These are all symptoms of the disease that can be spotted.

But in so many cases, those symptoms don’t manifest.

Tom Wootton is the founder of Bipolar Advantage, an organization that focuses on helping people gain better functionality with their mental illness.

In an article he wrote for Psychology Today, Wootton talks about the deceptiveness of being productive while depressed.

“After giving a keynote speech about functioning during depression, I was told that I was not depressed by Aaron Beck, the person behind the Beck Depression Inventory. When I shared with him my list of “symptoms’ he agreed that I was depressed after all.”

For Wootton, the key to identifying high functioning depression is to realize the difference between the feelings associated with depression and the response to depression.

Some people respond in the stereotypical ways. Others respond in unexpected ways. Either way, it’s depression.

Related: Why We Need To Talk About High-Functioning Depression by Emily Laurence for Well+Good via The Huffington Post

5 Statistics To Change Your Views On Mental Health

People have a lot of assumptions about mental illness. There’s a stigma attached to being mentally ill, a shame that comes along with it and renders it a difficult subject to talk about.

The best way to begin combatting stereotypes about mental illness is to get educated.

Here are five fast stats about mental illness and it’s prevalence in the U.S.

1. Just over 18 percent of adults in the U.S. have reported that they suffer from a mental illness.

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 43.6 million adults suffered from a mental illness. Of that 43.6 million, 9.8 million people suffered from a serious form of mental illness.

The SAMHSA defines mental illness as “having a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, other than a developmental or substance use order.”

This includes three levels of mental illness severity: mild mental illness, moderate mental illness and serious mental illness.

2. Only 44 percent of U.S. adults receive treatment for their mental health condition.

According to MentalHealth.gov, less than half of adults with “diagnosable mental health problems” seek out treatment. The number is even less for children or adolescents, with only 20 percent getting help.

3. Anxiety disorders and major depression are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the U.S.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 18.1 percent of adults (42 million) have anxiety disorders while 6.9 percent have major depression (16 million).

These two disorders often go hand in hand, with nearly half of those with depression also suffering from an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

4. 45 percent of people who suffer from a mental illness meet the criteria for two or more disorders.

According to The Kim Foundation, many people have to deal with multiple mental illnesses at a time. The presence of two diseases or conditions at the same time is called comorbidity and can often increase the severity of each disease.

5. 90 percent of people who commit suicide had one or more mental disorders.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. This makes it even more dangerous than homicide. It’s particularly deadly for people ages 15 to 24, being the 3rd leading cause of death for that age group.