Dr. Daniel Amen has often said that in this pandemic, mental hygiene is as important as washing your hands, and the recent spike in brain health issues certainly supports this. But what if your suffering is going under the radar? In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen go over some of the telltale signs that you may be experiencing COVID depression, even though the symptoms may not at first seem obvious.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
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Hey everybody, think of this as mental health optimization week going into week 20 something of the pandemic. It’s just beaten up so many people. I mean, it’s sort of why we call the podcast, The Brain Warrior’s Way, because no doubt, 2020 has been a war for so many of us. But before we get to the content, we have podcast winners, Jesse Bottone from New Jersey who gets a signed copy of The End of Mental Illness.
And we’ve got [Sandra Nassar [00:00:01]:38] from Texas who gets a signed copy of The Brain Warrior’s way Cookbook. So we are so happy when you guys send us, you go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, you leave us a review, you send us questions that we end up reading and you just tell us what’s going on in your lives. So, it enters you into a drawing. Thank you.
So this week, a lot of the questions we have around depression and anxiety, and it’s been so hard for so many. And ultimately when the pandemic started, I wrote down mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands. In many ways, our brains and our minds have been assaulted and to manage the anxiety, people often do the exactly wrong thing that skyrockets depression
Yeah, it’s been such an interesting time and sometimes it feels like our depression isn’t even necessarily… It doesn’t start on our own. So you end up with other family members who are struggling and you’re trying to help all of them, right, and as that starts to happen, it stops for you. So pretty soon you got kids that are having problems and parents are having problems and siblings that are having problems and you’re the one in the middle trying to take care of it all and that can be really stressful for a lot of people, especially right now. If you’re in that sandwich generation, especially, we’ve just noticed it seems to be really difficult.
Well, and there’s a term that therapists use called compassion fatigue. And the more you give, often it’ll come back to you, but what if it’s not coming back to you?
Well, and even if it comes back to you in other ways, it’s still exhausting. So, I mean, we’ve certainly both had that feeling as many of the people who listen to us have had where it’s like you know you need to help, you’re going to help, but there’s just days where you wake up and you’re like, “I just need to go away. I just need to go away.”
In fact, you did.
In fact, I did, I went away, only 18 hours, but I went away. I just got in the car, drove to San Diego. I was just like, “I need to leave.”
But you weren’t mad.
No. No, it was just a matter of no-
It wasn’t a reaction to a fight or anything like that. But respite days are just so important. So when we look at anxiety and depression, brand new article that just came out, depression has doubled in the United Kingdom, likely here in the United States as well and in much of the world because isolation breeds depression and then chronic fear. If you’re watching the news, breeds depression and often what people do is they go to what’s easy, sugar, alcohol, marijuana.
Trying to just feel better fast. Do you remember? I get very, very, very stirred up by the news. So we made this commitment in our house that I wasn’t going to watch the news because I react too strongly to what’s happening. And so I came in your office one day and it worked really well. For a month, it was just great. I don’t turn the news on. I catch the headlines on my phone. Don’t look at them. I just like read the headlines, just make sure there’s nothing I need to know, like there’s not a firestorm outside my house. But other than that, don’t want to know. And so I walked in your office one day yelling and you were like, “Did you turn the news on?” And I’m like, “I did.” By accident, I turned the TV on, I got busy and walked away from it. I didn’t switch the station. Five minutes it took, five minutes. So you have to know your triggers.
Sort of like a modern day Game of Thrones.
Oh, it just, it’s like reality-
But it doesn’t end well.
No, it’s like reality television. It’s so frustrating.
So how do you know if you’re depressed? I think that would be a good topic for us.
Yeah, because sometimes it masks itself, doesn’t it? I’ve talked to people who clearly seem depressed and they have all the manifestations of depression, but when you ask if they’re depressed, they’re like, “No, I’m just tired. No, I just feel a little blah.” I think it masquerades maybe as fatigue or there are symptoms that maybe people are not recognizing as maybe it’s the start of depression.
Right. So answer these questions in the last two weeks. Have you found that you had little interest or pleasure in doing things you usually like? Have you felt down, depressed, hopeless, helpless, worthless? Have you had trouble sleeping, either getting to sleep or staying asleep? Do you feel tired, have little to no energy? Has your appetite gone away or has it skyrocketed?
Feeling bad about yourself? Feeling that you’re a failure, like you’ve let yourself or your family down? That’s a big one. I know I’ve got a couple of family members that feel that way right now because just the COVID thing. It feels like even though you’re doing the best you can and there’s not much any of us can, you feel like you’re letting people down. Trouble concentrating, even on simple things like reading news headlines or watching TV? Moving or speaking slower than normal or being more fidgety, speaking faster and being more restless than normal? Or thoughts that you’d be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way? And that’s a big one. As soon as you have the thought, what’s the point? Why am I here? You need to start worrying. Yeah, pay attention.
And so knowing if you’re depressed does not mean jumping to medication. So we’re going to give you other alternatives. But what makes people vulnerable to depression? If you have a family history of depression, if you’re isolated. So what are we now? Isolated. If you’re surrounded by negativity.
Yeah. And you want to be careful too. When you’re talking about negativity, if you’re a person who tends to be that person to fix things, like I think of myself as being pretty tough and I tend to be that person in the family who’s going to fix things for family members. I’ve got a mother, she’s very self sufficient, but I worry about her because she’s older and she’s living alone and it’s COVID. So I’m always trying to check on her. And I’ve got my two nieces in the house with us and my daughter. And then I’ve got a couple of family members who are really struggling at the moment, more than they normally do because of COVID.
And so there’s a lot of us that are like, “I’m the one, I’m the one they have to count on,” and you want to jump in and help everybody. Well, the problem with that is it’s great, but when you’re that person that everybody relies on, that stress manifests itself. So you can start to see things like hair loss, your sleep patterns, we already talked about sleep patterns change, skin breaking out, things like that. So you may not be seeing it in traditional ways, but there’s also ways to fix it. So one thing I noticed is I was so busy, I was getting away from my normal strategies. So we should talk about strategies.
We’ll talk about fixing, but not in this episode. We’ll talk about it more in the next episode. I want us to go, so how do people get this way? Chronic stress, which I think everybody’s experienced, actually shrinks cells in the hippocampus, the major mood and memory center of the brain. I’ve noticed through this time, I mean, sometimes I’m like, “Where’s that word?” And that usually doesn’t happen to me. Ten years ago, it happened actually a lot more until I was taking Brain and Memory Power Boost and fish oil and my supplements and then it stopped happening to me. But chronic stress can certainly leave you vulnerable to depression as can having a head injury in the past and having low thyroid. So getting your hormones checked is really critical. And we often say you can’t change what you don’t measure and so getting your important numbers checked is just critically important. When we come back, we’re going to talk about what do you do about it? You’re really struggling with your mood or with your mind. What are some simple strategies you could do? Stay with us.
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