Long Life and Health
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Mental Health

Are You Overlooking Your Mental Health Needs?

Mental health checkups aren’t an annual event like a physical exam with your primary care physician, but that doesn’t mean that we should overlook new or worsening behavior patterns that indicate a potential issue is on the horizon. Recent data shows that this may be more important than ever as the world recovers from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mental health stats

A study published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on March 21, 2021 found that from August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. The percentage of adults reporting an unmet mental health care need rose from 9.2% to 11.7%. The study found that these increases were largest among young adults (those aged 18-29 years old) and those with less than a high school education.

Common sources of anxiety or depression include:

  • Death or loss of a family member, close friend, or other loved one
  • Trauma such as an unexpected turn of events that significantly affects your life
  • Stressful life event
    • This includes financial stress, global or political occurrences, diagnosis of a serious medical illness, and changes at school or work

The time period covered in the study included plenty of opportunities for people to feel anxious and depressed. Last year saw schools close without warning and offices shuttered overnight. Employees were suddenly expected to work from home and educate their children at the same time, without prior preparation or childcare. Hospitality and restaurant workers were hit especially hard by the shutdown. Watching the news became an alarming all-day obsession for some as they watched the Covid-19 infection rates rise across the globe.

Worse yet, many people lost loved ones to Covid-19. Social distancing protocols prevented large funerals and mourners weren’t able to find closure by saying their final good-bye in person. The world was forced to stay home and cut off social contacts in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What is the difference between anxiety and depression?

While people can experience anxiety and depression simultaneously, the two conditions are distinct and each have individual symptoms and treatments. Some symptoms can overlap, such as restlessness and sleep disturbances, but anxiety sufferers are generally more hyped up and agitated, while those with depression tend to be more melancholy and down spirited. Both conditions are treatable, usually with a combination of talk therapy and medication.

Symptoms of anxiety

  • Worrying excessively about everyday situations to the point where it interferes with accomplishing daily tasks
  • Uncontrollable thoughts that can quickly race out of control
  • Physical responses to unreasonable fears that can result in:
    • Dizziness
    • Increased heart rate
    • Muscle tension
    • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating caused by inability to focus thoughts while agitated
  • Changes in sleeping patterns from trouble falling asleep to sleeping too much

Symptoms of depression

  • Fatigue that makes it difficult to complete common everyday tasks like going to work or taking care of children
  • Pessimism and feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Changes in sleeping patterns that includes both insomnia and sleeping too much
  • Crankiness that can come across as rude to short-tempered to others
  • Changes in appetite from overeating to hardly eating
  • Loss of interest in things once found enjoyable, from hobbies to sex
  • Personal hygiene can suffer as desire to maintain appearance declines
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of either anxiety or depression, contact your primary care physician and let them know. These conditions are treatable, but only if you take that first, all-important step of asking for help.

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