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Although present day Halloween activities revolve around trick-or-treating and costume parties, historically masks were worn to placate the evil spirits. You may not be frightened by pumpkins carved into eerie faces nor believe in witches and goblins. But when is the last time you thought seriously about the “ghosts” that have been haunting you far too long?
The negative feelings that you may be experiencing – from time to time or perhaps more regularly – could be due to normal unhappiness, stress from overload, situational sadness, or even clinical depression. When there is no obvious trigger for emotional symptoms, they are often minimized, ignored or dismissed. But did you know that 1 in 4 people suffer from depression at some time in their life? Close to 50% don't receive treatment yet, in the past few years, there has been a marked increase in the use of antidepressants – 120 million prescriptions were filled in 2005.
If you have had feelings of extreme sadness, helplessness or hopelessness for more than two weeks, you should consider scheduling an appointment with you family practitioner or internist. After discussing your symptoms, you will most likely be referred to a specialist. Psychiatrists are medical experts who are trained to evaluate clinical depression. This can take some time, especially if anti-depressants are indicated. There may be a process of trial and error while you are being regulated on the appropriate medication and proper dosage with the least side effects.
In the meantime, there are several non-medical actions you can take as you begin to better understand and cope with your moods. After reading the following suggestions about self care and social support, implement the ones that best fit your personal situation:
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when emotional circumstances are complicated and painful. Focus your thoughts on what you can accomplish rather than on what you cannot. Recognize the insight and skills that are already an integral part of you. And notice how your character strengths support what you do and who you are.
Beginning to talk about depression can increase awareness, reduce the stigma and mitigate symptoms. Think about exorcising your “demons,” once and for all. Don't disguise yourself in costume, no matter what time of the year. This Halloween, take off your mask and commit to feeling more positive about yourself.
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are co-founders of Her Mentor Center a website for midlife women and "Nourishing Relationships" http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers' family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website. As psychotherapists, they have over 40 years of collective private practice experience.
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