Tag Archives: depression

The Catholic Guide to Loneliness: How Science and Faith Can Help Us Understand It, Grow from It, and Conquer It

Kevin Vost, Psy.D.
Sophia Institute Press, 161 pages

Kevin Vost offers expert advice for battling loneliness and its effects through practical and spiritual means. Through “adaptive social thinking,” we can train ourselves to approach social situations more rationally and avoid self-destructive behaviors. He recommends the four cardinal virtues as “hinges” by which we can overcome the “distress” of loneliness, and stresses the importance of friendship. We can also look to Christ’s experience of human loneliness, particularly by reflecting on his “seven last words.” Each chapter offers a five-step “action plan,” and Vost concludes with 30 ways we can alleviate our loneliness by focusing less on ourselves and instead simply loving our neighbor — who may just feel lonely himself.

Parenting a child with depression

Depression is on the rise in American teens and young adults. Adolescent girls seem most vulnerable, per research published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Data collected between 2005-2014, by Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, concluded that “the 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes in adolescents increased from 8.7% to 11.3%.” The reasons remain under discussion. However, cyberbullying is hypothesized to be a trigger, particularly for girls.

Susan Locke

Susan Locke

How can parents support their child or adolescent suffering from depression? Here are some general guidelines:

Observe your child’s behavior for changes. Children with depression may demonstrate low mood, irritability, anger, fear or anxiety, mood swings, disruptive or risk-taking behavior, disobedience/ defiance/ illegal behavior, isolation, lack of self-care/ hygiene, decreased interest in previously enjoyable activities, decreased energy, increased or decreased sleep, increased or decreased appetite, and changes in friendships or family relationships. Some children turn to drugs or alcohol. Others turn to the internet for support or socialization. School performance may deteriorate, or attendance may decrease due to physical complaints or blatant truancy. Some children engage in self-harming behaviors or talk of death and dying.

Engage your child in daily conversation or other activities to open communication. Gently ask questions about your child’s change in mood, daily life/issues. Find ways for your child to communicate his or her feelings.

If your child expresses suicidal thoughts or wishes, please take him or her to the local emergency room for further evaluation.

Talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about your child’s mood or changes in behavior. They can arrange timely assistance for your child and provide you with qualified mental health professionals.

Monitor and limit phone, computer and electronics time. Watch internet history, texting, and social media. Kids often scout in the wrong places and meet the wrong people.

Ascertain healthy and consistent sleep schedules. Children and teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep per night. A regular presleep routine that does not include electronics, along with a scheduled bedtime/wake-up time encourage healthy sleep habits.

Encourage healthy eating habits. Observe behaviors at meals, such as restricting calories,  or leaving the table to go to the restroom and hiding/throwing food away. Watch for weight loss, excessive exercising, or obsessive concerns with body image that may indicate an eating disorder.

Be consistent and firm with limit-setting. Maintain the same or even slightly more stringent rules with your child to maintain structure. Treat all children in the family equally. Be aware of your child’s whereabouts and safety at all times.

Safety-proof your home. Lock up all medications, alcohol and OTC medications. Secure anything that could be used as a weapon, particularly firearms.

Ensure that you are taking care of your own well-being and mental health. Depression can run in families. Resist the urge to tell your child that you know how they must feel or that you were once, or are currently, depressed. Practice listening attentively and reassuring your child that you will get them whatever help is needed. Be sure to get help for yourself as well.

Identifying child and adolescent depression and dealing with it can be overwhelming. The key is to reach out for assistance and allow others to provide their support and expertise, so that a team approach can be utilized to its fullest.

By Jennifer L. Shoenfelt, MD
Board Certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist
Lindner Center of HOPE (a partner to Healthnetwork Foundation)

SUSAN LOCKE is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.
HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org

HEALTHNETWORK FOUNDATION is a non-profit whose mission is to improve medicine for all by connecting CEOs with leading hospitals and their doctors to provide the best access to world-class care and increase philanthropic funding for medical research.

Myths and realities of depression

Millions of Americans suffer from forms of depression, but help is available . . .

Dr. Susan Locke

Dr. Susan Locke

An estimated 19 million American adults are living with “major depression.” Depression can be caused by life events, biochemical components or a combination of both. Whatever the trigger, it’s never easy for the person struggling.

Most people suffering from depression want to feel better, but the nature of the disease makes it difficult for them to find the motivation to take the necessary steps.

How can you know if you or a loved one is depressed or just feeling down? To help, here are some symptoms of different depressive disorders.

Major depression: The diagnosis of major depression requires five of the following symptoms, at least one of which is depressed mood or loss of interest. The symptoms must be present for at least two weeks and must cause clinically significant impairment in social, work or other important areas of functioning almost every day.

  • Depressed mood most of the day
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Significant unintentional weight loss/gain or significant increase/decrease in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Agitation or psychomotor retardation
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

Dysthymic Disorder: This disorder is distinguished from major depression. The diagnostic criteria require a depressed mood most of the day for more days than not, for at least two years and the presence of two or more of the following symptoms which cause clinically significant impairment in social, work or other important areas of functioning.

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Bipolar disorder: Recurrent major depressive episodes commonly occur in bipolar disorder. To make a diagnosis of a major depressive episode as part of bipolar disorder, the individual must have had at least one manic or hypomanic episode.

Manic episodes are characterized by a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood lasting at least one week. During the period of mood disturbance, three or more of the following symptoms have persisted (four symptoms if mood is irritable).

  • Increased self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative/pressured speech
  • Flight of ideas/racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Increase in goal-directed activity/psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences.

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood: This is a psychological reaction to overwhelming emotional or psychological stress resulting in depression or other symptoms. These symptoms do not reach the level of severity of major depression and do not last as long as dysthymic disorder.

Substance-induced mood disorder: Disturbance in mood is the direct physiological effects of a substance such as prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Depression may also result from use of an illegal substance. Alcohol does not tend to cause depression, but can significantly worsen existing symptoms.

Mood disorder due to a general medical condition: Some underlying medical conditions cause mood disorders like Parkinson’s disease or hypothyroidism.

Depression is a treatable disorder and you should call your primary care physician if you concerned about your symptoms. Healthnetwork may also be able to assist with treatment centers for more severe cases of depression.

Susan Locke, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director. An abridged version of this article appeared in the December 2012 issue of Legatus magazine.

Healthnetwork is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org