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Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: A Force of Nature, A Fact of Life

Every human being on the planet experiences some level of depression, anxiety, and stress.  Like I said, it's a force of nature and a fact of life.  As a mental health therapist I treat people every day with one or all of these diagnoses.  And I, myself, have experienced these and also gone to a therapist.  As a graduate student our professors always told us, "Therapists need therapists, too."  We're human.

As military spouses we often face challenges that leave our heads spinning.  Like we're on a roller-coaster that NEVER ENDS!

So how do you know if/when to seek help?  Well, it's different for everyone, to be honest.  My suggestion is this: read the common symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress that I have written below.  Do a "self-assessment" - i.e. if you have more than a few of the symptoms and these symptoms are affecting you daily life, I would suggest seeking help.  Trust me, it NEVER hurts to seek help.  I have done it myself and my therapist was wonderful and very helpful. 

Depression: Symptoms (remember, you may not experience all of these symptoms - everyone is different)

1. Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings2. Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or hopelessness4. Irritability, restlessness5. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex6. Fatigue and decreased energy7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions8. Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleep9. Overeating or loss of appetite10. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts11. Persistent aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease with (medical) treatment

More info. about depression can be found at www.nimh.nih.gov

(Generalized) Anxiety: Symptoms (again, you may not experience all of these symptoms)

1. Excessive worry about a variety of every day problems2. Inability to relax and feel a sense of "calm"3. Easily startled4. Difficulty concentrating5. Difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep6. Difficulty carrying out simple daily activities (if anxiety is severe)

Physical symptoms may include:

Fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, muscle tension, trembling, twitching, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, nausea, frequent need to use the bathroom, hot flashes, lightheadedness.

More info about anxiety can be found at www.nimh.nih.gov

Stress: Common Symptoms

Anxiety, restlessness, worry, self-doubt, confusion, mood swings, depression, irritability, forgetfulness, guilt, inability to concentrate, confusion, resentment, etc.

Physical symptoms may include:

Headache, chest pain, high blood pressure, muscle aches, back pain, diarrhea, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, sex problems, sweating, upset stomach, teeth clenching, etc.

More info. about stress can be found at www.mayoclinic.com

You may have noticed that many of the symptoms "overlap" among the diagnoses.  Your specific symptoms, how they affect your daily life, and how often/for how long you experience these symptoms will determine whether you meet the criteria for any of these diagnoses.  Often times we go through a period of time that just really sucks, but that doesn't mean we have a specific mental health diagnosis.

And despite the "stigma" of receiving mental health treatment - you have to do what is right for YOU!!!  If your gut says, "Hey!  I could use some help here!"  Odds are you may want to seek help.  It's HARD to take the step to seek help - been there, done that (took me SIX MONTHS to finally call a therapist!).  And I am forever grateful that I made that call.

If you don't feel comfortable making a comment or asking a question in this public forum, I totally understand.  But please feel free to e-mail our site administrator and she can forward your e-mail to me.  Just put "For Joan" in the subject line.  How do you do this?  Scroll down a bit and look at the right-side toolbar for the "Comments and Suggestion" link.  Then send your e-mail.

Above all, I hope this was helpful for all of you.  I wrote this post from my own experience as a milspouse who has had therapy, and also as a therapist.  Therapy is NOT taboo!!!  It's what YOU make of it that counts.  Not everyone needs therapy... but sometimes it's good to have a reminder that there is help available.

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