Living with Summer Depression: ‘Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder’

summer sky shadow over woman

When people talk about seasonal depression, we usually think of the “wintertime blues.” But there are those who live with a rarer form of Seasonal Affective Disorder known as “summer SAD.”

What was previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is now under the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder with a specifier for a seasonal pattern. Referred to as “wintertime blues,” those living with seasonal depression report episodes of fatigue, depressed or sad mood, and a host of other symptoms. For most, this occurs when the days are shorter, darker and cooler, usually during the fall and winter months.

What is less common — yet still valid — is summer SAD. Much like it’s wintertime counterpart, summer depression leaves those living with the condition feeling fatigued, hopeless, and lethargic. The difference is it has this effect during months when people are expected to be bright, happy, and excited. This can be frustrating for those with summer sadness. The pressure to seem well can exacerbate the depressive symptoms they may be experiencing. Continue reading Living with Summer Depression: ‘Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder’

In Defense of Stress

stressed woman on computer

Upcoming dinner plans, a half-baked trip to the beach, and a hold waiting at the library are all small stressors I keep in the back of my mind and contribute to my anxiety. My planner is full of scribbles of upcoming plans and reminders to make future appointments. I’m preoccupied by mild rashes, engine lights, and sudden sounds. In an average week, every member of my immediate family and a handful of close friends tell me to “chill” or “relax.”

My baseline stress level is above average. A reminder “not to stress about it,” whatever it may be, is sometimes helpful. More often, it’s an annoying comment, a directive that actually increases my anxiety. And yet, it’s a comment that many of us toss out to our stressed friends and family members without a thought. Indeed, the pressure to “chill” is increasingly another stressor anxious people deal with. At this point, ads for wellness, mindfulness, and relaxation cures increase my blood pressure. Continue reading In Defense of Stress

How to Deal With Multiple Mental Illnesses

brain diagram chart illustration connecting dots

Having a mental illness can change your life. Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness can alter the way you live every day. While this can certainly be hard, perhaps even more difficult is a diagnosis of two or more mental illnesses.

Having more than one medical illness is known as a comorbid condition. Unfortunately, comorbid mental illnesses are more common than most people think.

Comorbidity in Major Depression

The most common comorbidity with major depression is an anxiety condition. The comorbidity rate can be up to 60%. It’s so prevalent that the appearance of one disorder is often considered a predisposing factor for the other. Approximately 5-9% of the general adult population has an anxiety and depression diagnosis.

Patients with major depressive disorder also have higher rates of psychotic disorders and suicidal risk. Those with a higher suicide risk may have a higher risk of anxiety or psychotic disorder. Continue reading How to Deal With Multiple Mental Illnesses

7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

couple in bed holding each other tenderly

As a sexual abuse survivor, dating terrifies me. Abuse taught me that a relationship meant losing all of my agency and performing sexual acts I didn’t want to — “no” wasn’t an option. Subsequent relationships have been mixed at best, from the partner who got mad when I froze during sex, to the dates when I could barely squeak out what my job title is because I was so petrified.

Survivors like me are not rare, especially considering the statistics. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, including both male and female victims. This means at some point in your dating life, odds are you will encounter a survivor.

“If we’re going to be dating, and if we’re going to be dating a lot, we’re going to run into someone who probably is a sexual assault survivor,” says Cynthia Stocker, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience. “It’s really pretty common.”

Dating as a survivor often brings out traumatic memories, sensations, and emotions because of past experiences. When a current partner is empathetic, educated, and understanding, however, that can make dating easier to manage for both parties.

With that in mind, here are seven tips for dating a survivor. Continue reading 7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

Returning to Therapy After a Break

woman texting smartphone sweater

Like any journey, your therapeutic journey may have starts and stops, highs and lows, departures and returns. Sometimes unexpected changes in life force you to pause the investment in your mental health. Or maybe you wanted a break to focus on another part of your life.

Once you are ready to return to therapy, you might wonder how you should go about it. What should you say to your therapist? Perhaps something to the effect of “I’m back” doesn’t seem like enough.

Ultimately, the therapist is not going to judge or reprimand you for taking a break. Even if you ghosted on your therapist, he or she will most likely approach with curiosity, not anger or criticism. Therapy is a place of acceptance, and no amount of absence can change that. Continue reading Returning to Therapy After a Break

How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

bride planning wedding on tablet

Life transitions — regardless of whether they are happy or sad occasions—are inherently stressful. And yet, they are something we all go through at one time or another, whether it’s a job change, a break-up, a big move, or the birth or death of a loved one. Watching others go through these transitions can be stressful as well, especially if they trigger our own difficult memories or feelings.

While wedding season can be a time of fun and merriment, it can unearth all sorts of mixed emotions. Weddings are a major life event jam-packed with feelings of fear and high expectations — expectations that can be easily crushed.

If we are the ones getting married, we will likely have our own deeply personal set of fears about this transition: Will life ever be the same as it once was? What if our feelings change? Will our marriage last? These questions are natural, but extremely stressful nonetheless. Continue reading How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

How to Maintain Your Motivation While Depressed

depressed man sitting in bed

Most of us take action because we believe it will bring about a concrete benefit or result in future happiness. These prospects are what motivate us. Clinical depression, however, can change your brain in a way that makes it difficult to experience a sense of pleasure or reward. When depression makes you unbearably sad, numb, or exhausted, you might not feel like there is a reason to do anything. If nothing has satisfied you lately, you might think, “What’s the point?”

Fortunately there are mental techniques and strategies you can employ to gradually regain the motivation needed to live a full life. You can try them on your own or by working with a therapist. The latter, however, will most likely yield better, faster results.

Below are some strategies recommended by therapists who have worked with clients to restore their motivation during severe depression. Most of these solutions focus on incremental steps, so change is more manageable and easier to commit to. Continue reading How to Maintain Your Motivation While Depressed

Talkspace Customer Support: When Mental Health Is On the Line

blank smartphone computer woman with ripped jeans

In most companies, customer support is relatively simple and the stakes are low. The goal is to resolve issues that may arise with a product or service. Customer support representatives receive “tickets” that contain technical issues or complaints from customers. The reps respond and solve the problem. When necessary, they forward the ticket to another employee or “escalate” the issue by involving supervisors.

Even when there is a persistent technical problem or an upset customer, not much is truly on the line. Customers may be irritated if they need to wait a few extra days on a shipment or refund, but they’re OK.

Now imagine if a ticket could contain anything from anxiety to depression. The Talkspace customer support team works with these sensitive issues every day. Continue reading Talkspace Customer Support: When Mental Health Is On the Line

Confession: Sometimes I Use Mental Illness as an Excuse for Flakiness

woman in bed texting

This story is a part of our Mental Health Confessions series, a collection of stories from people who open up about times they felt guilty or conflicted about their mental health issue.

I’m pretty tolerant of most types of people, but I absolutely hate flakes. I have cut off friendships because I can’t deal with others’ flakiness, especially when it comes down to repeated incidents of bailing on plans at the last minute.

However, some might say I’m a hypocrite. Why? My mental illness, at times, causes me to become the very type of person I hate.

Friendship is a two-way street. We expect our friends to put in the same amount of time and emotional labor into maintaining a relationship as we do ourselves. Of course, we know this isn’t always the case, and I’ll be the first to admit it: with some of my friends, I feel like I am giving less than I’m getting. I’ve flaked on even the best of my best friends, and I fear one day they’ll decide to cut me loose because of it. Continue reading Confession: Sometimes I Use Mental Illness as an Excuse for Flakiness

When You’re Not Sure What To Say to Your Online Therapist

woman sunglasses texting frowning confused

Therapy can be super awkward. And necessarily so if you’re discussing difficult material. Even if you are talkative and gregarious, you might not know what to say during certain parts of your therapeutic journey. This can be even more of a challenge during online texting therapy because you don’t get your therapist’s visual cues that might prompt you to say something more on a topic.

To help you continue therapy without hesitation when you’re feeling stuck, shy, or just don’t know what to discuss, we created this guide for communicating with therapists online. Use it as a reference whenever you draw a blank or aren’t sure what to say.

Starting the Conversation With Your Therapist

Your therapist will most likely ask several questions to get the ball rolling. Nonetheless, there will be times during the beginning of therapy when you might need to start the conversation. If you can’t think of anything, try one or more of the following: Continue reading When You’re Not Sure What To Say to Your Online Therapist