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Mental Health Depression Seeking Help

Depressed or Just Sad?

The difference between clinical depression and feeling down

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in Australia, affecting people across all age ranges, social backgrounds and personality types. While it’s a condition which can have severe impacts on our relationships, our families, our quality of life and our careers, it’s also a condition which is treatable and manageable.

“Depression can sometimes be confused with regular feelings of sadness and unhappiness, and that misunderstanding can be a problem,” says Di Young, a senior therapist at Sydney's South Pacific Private treatment centre. “It can lead to loved ones not providing the right type of support and telling people to ‘get over it’ or ‘toughen up’, and it can also prevent people from getting professional help which could be truly transformational in ending their suffering.”

While sadness or grief can be a part of depression, depression is very different to just feeling down. Efforts to ‘cheer up’ or distract someone with depression will often fall flat, so it’s important to understand the difference.

 

Sadness vs Depression

At some point in our lives, every Australian will experience intense feelings of sadness or grief. It’s a normal and healthy emotional response to events which involve loss, failure and disappointment. 

“As unpleasant as it might be, there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad if you’ve experienced something upsetting,” Young says. “The easiest way to tell if it’s normal and healthy is if it’s tied to a specific event and passes after a few days or weeks.”

While grief and sadness can feel overwhelming, we can expect the intensity of our feelings to fade as we process our response. Even if we’re continuing to feel sad or angry about a particular part of our lives, we’ll soon return to finding happiness in the usual experiences, friendships and activities which brought us joy before.

 

Understanding Depression

If a period of sadness has lasted more than two weeks with little sign of lifting, it’s probably time to reach out for support – it may be that you are experiencing reactive depression or situational depression, which is a condition in which our responses to an event are magnified by a temporary form of depression.

“Seeking professional help can not only shorten the depressive period in this type of situation but can help avoid the risk of developing unhelpful coping mechanisms which will cause problems down the line,” Young says.

Depression itself is a much more all-encompassing and long-lasting condition. Rather than being confined to a specific upsetting experience, depression casts itself over every situation and thought process. It can affect your mood, the way you understand yourself, the way you understand your relationships and where you see yourself in life. 

“Depression can really throw your self-perception out of balance,” Young says. “It’s like looking into a mirror which makes everything darker and more negative – yourself, those around you, your place in life, society in general and the future. You become downcast about everything.” 

 

 

Those experiencing depression say it can feel like your body is shutting down and you’re unable to enjoy anything – one of the most challenging parts is that we’ll often feel like there’s no possible solution and we’ll feel this way forever.

If we’re experiencing depression we may have a consistently low mood, experience weight fluctuations, have difficulty sleeping or find ourselves sleeping too much. We may experience ongoing fatigue, have difficulty concentrating, find it difficult to make decisions and may withdraw from family and friends. This persistent sense of hopelessness and worthlessness can eventually lead us to thoughts of guilt, death and suicide. 

“Depression turns you against yourself, so it can be extremely difficult to fight your way out of it,” says Young. “That’s why it’s so important to reach out for professional help, and for your support network to understand how depression works so they’re not saying unhelpful things or blaming you for the way you’re feeling – that only makes us feel more worthless.”

“Drinking, taking drugs or engaging in risky behaviours can be a way of numbing the pain of depression in the short term,” Young says. “In the longer term, however, taking depressive substances, escalating drug use or engaging in behaviour which ultimately makes you feel bad about yourself will only make things worse.”

As a fully accredited private hospital in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, South Pacific Private offers comprehensive, holistic treatment programs for addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma. To schedule an assessment or discuss treatment options, call our team on 1800 063 332.

For individuals experiencing immediate, intense feelings of worthlessness or depression, please reach out to Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1800 010 630.

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Cutting-edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.

Categories
Seeking Help Addictions Mental Health

Eight Roadblocks to Recovery

...and How to Overcome Them

Even if deep down we know we have a problem with alcohol, drug or medication addiction – or a behavioural addiction such as sex or gambling – the idea of getting sober, going to rehab or attending addiction treatment can provoke intense feelings of fear, shame, anxiety and worthlessness. 

These feelings can be debilitating. Our apprehension can lead us to delay treatment, to deny we have a problem, to deny treatment is necessary or even to increase our intake of a harmful substance to try to get over those feelings or block them out. 

At Sydney's South Pacific Private, many of our staff who work on our addiction recovery programs have been through addiction themselves, so they know exactly what you’re going through. They’re walking proof that recovery is possible. 

Here are eight fears we’ve seen about entering addiction rehab, and how you might reframe your thinking to help beat them:

 

 

1) Fear of withdrawal symptoms

If your body has become dependent on alcohol, drugs or prescription medication, stopping usage can provoke intense physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal as your body readjusts. These symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, nausea, depression and even seizures or hallucinations. Fear of this process is understandable. 

The good news is that at a drug and alcohol treatment centre which offers medically supervised detox, you won’t have to go through this process alone. Undergoing supervised detox means you’ll have a team checking on your symptoms and monitoring your progress, and you’ll have access to withdrawal medications to reduce any pain or other symptoms. 

Withdrawal can be tough, but it will only get tougher the further down the addiction cycle you travel. The very best place to experience withdrawal is in a setting where the reassurance and support of experienced medical care is on hand, and the best time to start is now. 

 

2) Fear of living substance-free

If we’ve been using a substance or behaviour to cope with intrusive negative thoughts or painful emotions, the idea of living without that substance can be daunting. We worry those feelings and thoughts may come flooding back if we don’t have an addiction to keep them out. In reality, however, substances are not a sustainable way of managing anxiety, depression, trauma or intrusive thoughts. In many cases it will only make them worse longer-term. 

At a comprehensive treatment centre, staff will aim not only to end addictive behaviour, but to help equip you with tools, strategies and techniques to manage and minimise intrusive thoughts and painful emotions. With expert psychologists, therapists  and psychiatrists on hand, the conditions causing distressing thoughts and emotions can be diagnosed and treated. It is possible to live both substance free, and free from emotional pain.

 

3) Fear That You’ll Be Alone

Addiction can be an incredibly isolating experience, cutting us off from friends and family and making us feel like nobody can understand the pain, pressure and forces we’re experiencing. In reality, however, addiction is a condition experienced by people across all socioeconomic levels and all personality types. 

At South Pacific Private, a number of our founders, directors and clinical staff have experienced addiction and trauma themselves and are living proof that recovery is possible. Their lived experience, and the experiences of others you’ll meet in rehab, can be a powerful point of connection and understanding. There are people out there who understand what you’re going through – and who understand the pain, loss and destroyed relationships which addiction can cause – because they’ve been there themselves. 

 

4) Fear that you’re not worthy of help

In the grips of addiction, we can feel utterly worthless and completely defeated. Trauma from our past can leave us with little self-respect and a distorted perception of ourselves 

We’ve been working in addiction treatment for almost 30 years though, and we’re yet to meet anyone who isn’t worthy of recovery. For individuals suffering from addiction, trauma and mental health issues, the substances we use and the way we’re thinking can warp our reality and distort our sense of ourselves. 

Feelings of worthlessness don’t have to be permanent, they can be treated and our self-perception can be readjusted and repaired. Everyone deserves the gift of recovery. 

 

 

5) Fear of the unknown

If you’ve never been to rehab or a treatment centre before, apprehension about not knowing what to expect is completely understandable. Then again, most people who walk through our doors have never been to treatment before, so you’re not alone. We pride ourselves on helping people quickly feel comfortable, welcome and at home. 

If you’d like to learn more about our treatment and what to expect, take a look around our website. We’re available to answer any questions on 1800 063 332

 

6) Fear of failure

If you’ve tried and failed to end your addiction before, or if you’ve never tried before, it’s understandable that you may be anxious about failure and what that may mean for you. First, it’s important to understand that even with professional support, the recovery process isn’t always a straight line. Relapse may happen, it’s how we deal with it that matters.

Effective addiction treatment will deliver you the tools and strategies you need to sustain recovery longer term, and help you identify warning signs and how to address them. You’ll develop a relapse plan, with a course of action to follow if you feel yourself verging into relapse. It’s also important to understand that even if it takes a few tries – as it does for some people – each attempt will help build resilience, expand your awareness, develop skills and help you start a step ahead next time.

It’s a cliché, but it’s definitely true that trying and failing is far better than never trying at all.

 

 

7) Fear of admitting you have a problem

Admitting we have a problem, to ourselves or to loved ones, can make our addiction feel very real and we may worry about the impact it will have on others. In reality though, our addictions are real whether we acknowledge them or not, and they will almost certainly escalate and accrue increasingly significant damage – becoming more and more inescapable. The best way to truly minimise an addiction is to intervene as soon as possible.

Often, we’ll find that our friends, family and even colleagues are aware that we have a problem, and may be harbouring their own deep concerns about your behaviour and wellbeing. Rather than surprised, loved ones will likely be relieved to know you’ve acknowledged the issue and have a clear plan to get better.  

 

8) Fear of facing the consequences

Getting clean and sober, and dealing with the impact of our actions, is an important part of recovery. This can be daunting, particularly if our addiction has resulted in damage to our families, our relationships, our careers and our finances. But there’s no better place to deal with guilt and remorse than in a supported recovery environment, surrounded and supported by people who have gone through the same thing and can guide you toward healthy, productive responses.

Remember: Entering treatment doesn’t mean you have to solve all your problems in one go. Rehab is often the start of your recovery journey, and a place which will equip you with the tools, awareness and long-term support to be successful. 

At South Pacific Private, we understand it takes courage to reach out for help. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey and break free of addiction, call us now on 1800 063 332. 

 

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Learn more about addiction and recovery with South Pacific Private.

Categories
Mental Health PTSD Trauma

What People Don’t Understand About PTSD

PTSD isn’t always like the movies

The most widely held understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one which has been popularised by film and television. It’s a version characterised by flashbacks and panic attacks, almost exclusively following acutely violent or threatening events. 

This is a very real condition which can have a significant and debilitating impact on individuals, especially those whose work routinely exposes them to such trauma. While such responses to trauma in the short term are normal, it's categorised as a ‘disorder’  when symptoms persist, recur or intensify for months, or begin to interfere with our ability to function normally in our daily lives.

But there’s another and far more common form of PTSD which is less well understood, and it’s called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or ‘C-PTSD’. 

C-PTSD describes the impact of ongoing, longer-term forms of trauma which occur during developmentally important periods of life, such as childhood or young adulthood, or at other times of extreme vulnerability. Rather than a singular threatening event, this form of trauma is often inflicted by individuals intentionally and often involves a power imbalance such as older-younger, parent-child, teacher-child or boss-employee.

Examples of such trauma may include parental neglect, a parent’s drinking or substance addiction, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, the death, imprisonment or separation of a loved one, or instances of physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse. “Trauma from our childhoods, especially early childhood, has an especially deep impact because it’s inflicted while our social, emotional and physical responses and identities are still developing,” says Tori McCarthy, a senior therapist at Sydney's South Pacific Private, an addiction and mental health tretment centre with a special focus on trauma.

 

 

Understanding Complex PTSD

“Trauma that an individual perceives as intentionally inflicted, and when it occurs in an intimate, interpersonal relationship, can have a long-lasting negative impacts,” McCarthy says. Sexual or physical abuse from a caregiver or authority figure can have especially deep impacts, even if memories of the events have faded, been blocked out or become jumbled. “That kind of trauma wreaks havoc with our notions of trust, our sense of self and ability to maintain healthy relationships.”

Several symptoms of C-PTSD and PTSD are quite similar, they may include:

  • Hyperarousal, which describes being easily startled, on high alert or feeling an ongoing sense of threat
  • Intrusions, which describe past traumatic experiences recurring in our thoughts, and are sometimes described as flashbacks.
  • Avoidance, which describes a defence mechanism which may include withdrawing from others, avoiding emotional triggers, or numbing feelings with substances, behaviours, addictions or self-harm.

Symptoms which are more unique to C-PTSD include:

  • Emotional dysregulation, which describes struggling to control our mood and emotions.
  • Negative self-concept, which describes a persistent feeling of worthlessness and defeat as well as extreme feelings of shame and guilt.
  • Disturbance in relationships, which describes ongoing difficulties in forming and sustaining relationships, including within friendships, partnerships, families and the workplace.

 

Trauma's Long-lasting impact

McCarthy says that because C-PTSD symptoms can persist for years after the trauma and last deep into adulthood, they can be mistaken for inherent personality characteristics or other mental health issues. Such symptoms may include an unhealthy relationship with shame, enduring sadness and loneliness, issues with body image and self-worth and/or an ongoing search for, or reliance upon a ‘saviour’.

“Close friends and family members, including the individuals themselves, may not realise that the challenges they’re experiencing in adulthood actually stem from trauma experienced in childhood or early adulthood,” McCarthy says. “In our rehab programs at South Pacific, we pay special attention to it because C-PTSD can often lead to addictions or other mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. If you don’t treat it directly and just focus on medication or detox, then the driving cause will remain unresolved.”

Just like PTSD, C-PTSD is treatable, and there is hope for survivors of ongoing trauma.

“Treatment includes equipping patients with healthier coping strategies and mindfulness techniques to lessen the impact of symptoms, as well as raising their own awareness of how their responses to situations in adulthood may stem from the impact of trauma,” McCarthy says. 

“Compassionate, delicate therapy by a therapist or psychiatrist can also aid in addressing unresolved aspects of trauma,” she says. The aim is to help individuals develop healthier relationships, a more balanced approach to their self-worth and increased resilience.

“It can be a challenging but rewarding process for both therapists and patients – it can be a real journey,” McCarthy says. “There’s a reason it’s known as ‘complex’ PTSD.”

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Cutting-edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.

Categories
Mental Health

The Loneliness Epidemic

It started long before cOVID-19

I give a simple greeting, but it invites a deluge of pent up emotion. 

“How are you?” I ask over Zoom. Her large eyes begin to well with tears. “Oh God,” she says, reminding herself to breathe, tears beginning to stream down her face. “I’m just so lonely.”

I'm in Sydney but she's in lockdown interstate, and it’s tougher on her than most. She’s facing her early recovery period alone, overcoming a serious substance use addiction while also battling the urge to act on her other addiction, food, which has dogged her all her life.

It’s something we in the recovery field are seeing more and more: Loneliness is on the rise, and it’s having real health impacts.

The research backs that up. Studies have shown that loneliness poses a similar risk of premature death to smoking or obesity. It is a key indicator of early cognitive decline and can have real, physical impacts on our cardiovascular health. Teenagers and young adults in their early 20s are especially vulnerable, as are older people over 75.

Public health officials are starting to take loneliness more seriously too, with messaging campaigns underway in the US, UK and Australia. The London School of Economics estimates that for every dollar invested in loneliness prevention, the community saves two to three dollars down the track.

 

 

While COVID-19 has led to a spike in isolation, the epidemic of loneliness started long before, and it’s been hitting the recovery community especially hard.

That’s because we’re wired for connection, it is the one thing that helps us soothe, be felt, be heard and understood. As British author Johann Hari says, “Loneliness is not the physical absence of other people: you can be surrounded by people and be lonely. It is the feeling that you are not sharing anything meaningful with other people.”

The 12-step recovery program is built on connection, and it seems that from the many stories I hear, that this is what we all crave (and not only in the midst of lockdown). So make a habit of saying hello to people in the street, say hi to your barista, strike up a conversation at the dog park. You just never know how much you will lift your own mood and theirs, or how much extra confidence it might give you to develop more substantial connections down the line.

I tell this to my client on Zoom. We talk. I work to soothe the pain, support her in sitting with her feelings, reminding her to breathe, to let emotions flow in, and to release them out. 

We develop a plan of action. To reach out to a friend, to walk every day, and to ring another friend to recap the small seemingly insignificant things in her day – it’s about solidifying connections, even while trapped in isolation. It may be just a subtle shift, but it’s already making a difference, building confidence, and helping break the cycle of loneliness.

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Cutting-edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.