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“I feel so alone”: Depression, Anxiety, Stress, & Panic

By Leslie Massicotte, Teens Climb High Coordinator


This pandemic has been ROUGH. On all of us. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but after a year of isolation, so many teens and adults alike are still feeling so alone.

You are not alone. Recent youth responses in the Real Talk app


Your mental health absolutely impacts your sexual health. For example: If you feel sad, anxious, or stressed, you’re often not feeling sexy. If you take anti-depression meds, the meds can sometimes decrease your sex drive. If you’re struggling with your mental health, it can impact your relationships with others.


Determining if you are experiencing mental health symptoms can be tricky. So while I am no therapist, this blog post highlights some of the ways to differentiate between common symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and panic to help you determine if and when you need more help.


Depression:

"Depression," posted on Reddit by vu0tran, 2019


Some signs you might be depressed:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Feeling worthless

  • Crying all the time

  • Sleep difficulties

  • Feeling tired all of the time

  • Not able to concentrate

  • Less interested in sex/decreased sex drive/poor body image

  • Recurring thoughts of death and suicide

What to do if you’re depressed:

  • Remember that you are loved and that you are awesome, despite what your brain is telling you.

  • Create a coping skills toolbox: On a day when you’re feeling pretty good, think about things that can help you get out of a funk. Some example of coping strategies include:

    • Getting some exercise--taking a walk, going for a run, practicing yoga.

    • Naming three good times from your day

    • Socializing--call a friend or family member

    • Practicing self care--doing something that makes you feel good like dressing up, getting a haircut, praying, preparing a yummy meal, etc.

    • Doing a meditation

  • Know that coping skills alone are often not enough for folks with depression. Consider seeing a therapist and/or taking medication to help ease symptoms. It is ok to ask for help.

Stress:


Some signs you might be stressed:

  • Frequent headaches

  • Muscle tension

  • Tightness in your chest

  • Prostrasination

  • Fatigue

  • Feeling worried

  • Loss of motivation

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Disinterest in sex or using frequent or risky sex as a coping mechanism

  • Constant thoughts about stressors

What to do when you feel stressed:

  • Remember that you are not alone. Breathe. Take a break if you can.

  • Create strategies to help you prioritize all the things you need to do (writing in a planner, having a *virtual* study buddy for accountability, etc.)

  • Practice self-care: journal, listen to music, take a long shower, go for a walk. Do things that make you feel good and help put your mind at ease.

  • Avoid watching screens (phone, computer, TV, etc.) at least 1 hour before bed.

  • Notice if your stress symptoms are starting to become more like anxiety or depression. Think about if it would be helpful to speak to a therapist

Anxiety:

"Anxiety," posted on Reddit by Clarmice, 2018


Anxiety and stress can feel similar in our bodies, but anxiety is when your brain and body label certain things as threats and then reacts strongly to them. If anxiety is severe, it can prevent you from doing things you normally do because your mind and body reacts to them with fear.


Some signs you might be anxious:

  • Excessive nervousness

  • Sleep problems

  • Shakiness (in body)

  • Upset stomach or feeling nauseous

  • Uncontrollable worry

  • Poor concentration

  • Pounding or racing heart

  • Muscle tension

  • Avoidance of things that feel scary

  • Poor body image, disinterest in sex, or fears about sexual performance

What to do when you have anxiety:

  • Remember that it’s ok to not be ok.

  • Relaxation techniques: deep breathing, meditation

  • Distraction: do something that makes you feel good about yourself to get your mind off your swirling thoughts

  • Therapy

  • Medication

Panic:

By cdd20/Pixabay


Sometimes anxiety can turn into a full-on panic attack. A panic attack is a brief period of overwhelming fear or anxiety. Typically an attack is shorter, with intense symptoms for 10-30 minutes, while anxiety lasts over general periods of time.


Some signs you might be panicking:

  • Pounding or racing heart

  • Sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Sense of terror

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Feeling sick to your stomach

What to do if you’re panicking:

  • Just breathe. You will be okay. It feels scary in the moment but panic attacks don’t cause physical harm.

  • Relaxation techniques: meditation, breathing exercises, etc.

  • Grounding techniques like: singing a song, focusing on your 5 senses (what are 5 things you can? 5 things you can feel, hear, small, taste?), playing categories with yourself (Disney movies, animals, books, etc), clenching your hands into firsts and then releasing them 10 times, etc.

  • See a therapist, especially if you experience more than one panic attack over a short period of time

Remember that you are awesome and great just how you are. Your mental health is such an important part of your overall health and it deserves our attention. Practicing a little self-care every day will do wonders for your health, including your sex life :)


If you or someone you know are considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to talk to someone: 1-800-273-8255.



References:


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