Q: How do you know when you need professional help? Is there a difference between sadness and depression?
Psychologist: Sadness and depression are very different. Sadness is an emotion and depression is a mood state. We can be sad, but not necessarily depressed. We can become depressed after an extended time of feeling sadness, also after an extended time of feeling scared, feeling distressed, feeling stressed, feeling unloved, feeling lonely, feeling overworked, feeling exhausted or feeling overwhelmed. When we are depressed we don’t necessarily feel sad – sometimes we can feel nothing at all, like a really intense empty or numb feeling.
If you notice feeling either sadness, anxiety, stress or depression, and it’s getting in the way of functioning effectively on a daily basis or even for a few days each week, it can be really helpful to seek out some sort of support or professional help. This could be in the form of a trusted adult, counsellor, parent, teacher, doctor or psychologist. It can also be helpful to ring a mental health helpline or advice-line in your state or country – there will be someone at the end of the phone that can talk things through with you and help you get a clearer picture of what may be going on for you (just google a number relative to where you are located.)
Q: Am I depressed if I only struggle with it occasionally?
Psychologist: If you feel like you are only struggling with feeling like this occasionally, it is likely not a deep depressive episode, but rather what psychologists may call a “labile mood” i.e your mood can go down without any apparent reason and then lift again just as suddenly. Women especially experience something like this “labile mood” at different times during their menstrual cycle. There may be other reasons for variation in mood such as this and should be explored by a health professional or doctor. What someone calls “only occasionally” may actually be often enough for it to be problematic or symptomatic of an underlying health or mental health issue. It’s best to seek support, especially if those around you are also noticing the changes in your mood or behaviour, even only occasionally.
Q: How old do you need to be to have a mental health disorder? How old do you need to be to get help?
Sjana: Mental health disorders do not discriminate. It doesn’t only affect people of certain ages, genders, races, religions, cultural backgrounds, skin colour or financial status. Mental health disorders can affect anyone, at any time, at any life stage.
It can be really helpful at any age to seek out some sort of support or professional help. This could be in the form of a parent or other trusted adult, counsellor, relative, teacher, doctor or psychologist. It can also be helpful to ring a mental health helpline or advice-line in your state or country – there will be someone at the end of the phone that can talk things through with you and help you get a clearer picture of what may be going on for you. Some states and countries have special “Kids Helplines” that provide support for children and young people (up to the age of 25 in Australia)
Webchat or get info in Australia - https://kidshelpline.com.au/
I’m not entirely sure of what the helplines for overseas areas are, but I’m sure a quick google search will help you find the answer!
Interesting Fact: Half of all mental illness has its onset by the age of 12. Furthermore, 1 in 7 Australian primary and 1 in 4 secondary students suffer from a mental illness every year.
Q: Why do I feel as if I have no emotions or feelings? It’s almost as if I’m empty inside.
Psychologist: This is quite a common experience/symptom of depression. If this is happening for you, please tell someone so that they can help you to get the support that you might need. Depression, even numbness, is a horrible experience, one that is so difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t felt that way themselves at some time. You wouldn’t wish “depression” on anyone. No one deserves to feel empty!
Sjana: I experienced many different “levels” as I called them in my depression. At first it was a dark, overwhelming sadness. It was heavy, it hurt and it was hard to do ANYTHING. Even brushing my teeth was a mission. Then as time went on, I found myself beginning not to feel anything at all. I just couldn’t bring myself to FEEL anything. And the realisation that I hadn’t felt anything in so long was the scariest. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt happiness, and then couldn’t remember the last time I had felt anything at all. Days go by, and time passes in waves of fleeting moments, and slow times that seem to last forever. These can both be aspects of depression. They’re just different ways our bodies are trying to say “hey, something isn’t right. Let’s fix it”.
Q: How do I know if I suffer from REAL anxiety? Like if I need medication?
Psychologist: Decisions about medication should always rest with a medical practitioner and should be prescribed specifically for an individual. There are so many variations and options for doctors to select from, they will ask you about your symptoms and they have the knowledge about you to make the best decision for your symptoms and your health.
Q: Do illicit drugs affect your mental health? Why?
Psychologist: Illicit drugs, alcohol and even heavily caffeinated drinks can affect some people’s mental health. These can all exacerbate depression or anxiety, and illicit drugs in particular have been known to trigger off psychotic episodes and schizophrenia in vulnerable people. Unfortunately, the medical world is not yet able to predict who might be vulnerable to the adverse effects of illicit drugs, so the best advice is to avoid illicit drugs altogether. The potency of drugs these days can be much higher than in your parents’ or grandparents’ day and there is also a greater possibility that a toxic or more potent filler has been cut into any illicit drugs these days, therefore increasing the risk substantially.
Sjana: Just don’t do drugs, period. Stay safe, and get your kicks a healthier, more natural way like hanging out with good people, going to an ecstatic dance party, doing yoga or dipping in the ocean!
Q: Can mental health be affected by hormonal contraceptives like the pill etc?
Psychologist: Yes, sometimes it can. Our own body hormones can impact on our mood, so it makes sense that extra hormones put into our body to disrupt our natural hormonal cycle could indeed impact in some way on mental health.
Sjana: I’ve had friends tell me about the way the pill was carelessly prescribed to them without being given any warning about the possible side effects it could have on their mood and emotions! Our functioning is directly correlated with our hormones, so it totally makes sense that adding artificial hormones to your body can put in a state of imbalance. If you do decide to take the pill, please be aware of this and keep assessing and double-checking in with yourself. Asking yourself how you feel, how you are emotionally, mentally and physically. And if you think the pill is having a change on your overall health, happiness or mood, then perhaps seek out other options for contraceptives and chat to your doctor if in doubt at all.
Q: When you find yourself in a good place, what steps can I take to ensure I stay there?
Sjana: Look after yourself, love yourself and treat yourself as nicely and with as much care and concern as you treat your loved ones. Get enough sleep, practice mindfulness or relaxation, spend time doing things you enjoy as well as the mundane tasks of life. i.e Have balance in your life. Learn ways to better manage stress – because there is a lot of stress in this modern world of ours. Eat well to keep your body healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, and enough sunshine. Build healthy friendships and relationships, give and receive hugs if you’re into hugs, smile a lot and laugh often.
Psychologist: What she said ^ . There are also some really great, but simple strategies and inspirations on Sjana’s website in the Journal: Body and Soul section as well.
Q: What do psychologists do to help you? What is their strategy?
Psychologist: Psychologists have lots of strategies and have trained in different styles of therapies suitable for different issues you might present with. Basically a psychologist should be helping you work on the issues you want to address, and the strategies and skills they help you develop should be useful in a lot of life’s situations. Psychologists also provide someone to talk to who is not in your daily life, they will not judge you, criticise you or “parent” you. They can be a great source of information and expertise to help you start exploring your own unique situation and empower you to cope better with the challenges life puts in your way. Psychologists use various techniques to help you safely examine your beliefs, values, thoughts, memories, experiences, behaviours, emotions and responses, and skills to challenge and change any of these that are unhelpful for you in living your best life.
Sjana: Personally, I’ve seen a fair few psychologists over my time! And if I’m completely honest, they had a huge impact even when I was trying to resist their help.
Almost all of my recovery was done only after I decided within myself that I was willing to change and was open to embracing and receiving support and help.
Previously, I hadn’t wanted help. And I found a dark sort of pleasure in the pain and being upset and depressed.
But even when I was rejecting their help (my mum was forcing me to go seek help), they each made subtle yet noticeable impressions. Sometimes in ways I can only recognise in retrospect.
Ultimately, a psychologist’s job is not to give you all the answers. It is to help you learn ways to be able to cope and heal yourself. This way you will have tools to cope again and again on your own in the future. They are very nurturing and do genuinely care. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in that career. It takes a very special person to be able to listen to others openly all day, and chose to give and give and give their energy away.
A psychologist, if you allow them, can be like the friend who listens. They can be like a big sister, or a big teddy bear! They are the emotional hug (validation) we sometimes NEED. And there is no shame in that!
Q: How do you know if a relationship is bad for your mental health? (toxic relationships)
Psychologist: Unfortunately this can be really difficult for an individual to see while they are in the relationship. It is so easy to think with our heart (our emotions) and ignore or avoid what our brain might be processing (the facts). Often we need to listen to those around us, that love and care for us, and take on board their opinion and feedback (even though we may not want to hear or believe what they have to say). If you are even a little bit concerned about whether your relationship is healthy or not, it can help to talk to someone objective like a counsellor or psychologist.
Sjana: People grow and change all the time. Sometimes we grow apart, and sometimes we grow together. Both of these are equally as acceptable. Being able to accept either reality is what takes true strength.
Every relationship is about the give/take ratio and communication.
How much do you give? And how much do you receive?
Is the give/take ratio balanced? Are you both giving and receiving equally?
Do you find yourself feeling full, and happy and joyful after seeing them? Or has being around them become daunting? Stressful? Do you feel bad about yourself when you’re around them? Or do they make you doubt or question yourself, your family, friends and loved ones?
If you need to question whether or not a relationship is toxic for you, that us probably your answer right there!
Hopefully these answers provided a little clarity for you on some of the queries around mental health disorders.
If you have any other questions, send them my way!
Love and light,