The Truth About Men and Depression

The Truth About Men & Depression - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville TherapistAlthough women are more likely to attempt suicide due to depression, men are 4x more likely to succeed. This means that the suicide rate is 4 x greater in men than in women! I believe that talking about and raising awareness about men and depression will hopefully set in motion some necessary changes to our societal stigmas.

Certain stigmas, in our society, have become widely believed despite the fact that they are inaccurate or untrue. Last month I addressed one of these in my blog post about women who face pornography addiction–in hopes to dispel the misnomer that men are by and large the ones to become porn addicts. This month, I wish to speak to another fallacy: that women are the main ones who face depression. Last May I wrote a general post on Depression entitled “Depression is Not a Life Sentence”, Today I want to build on that foundation and hone in on a more specific group suffering from depression: MEN.

There is a wonderful book by Terrence Real entitled, I Don’t Want to Talk About It which addresses this issue head on. I highly recommend reading it if you or a male loved one is battling depression. It is a compelling read uncovering the frightening fact that just as many men face depression as women, but only a fraction get help.  He writes about how these men battling depression often go undiagnosed because they do not want to tell others for fear of no one listening or of damaging their image.

The truth is that everyone feels sad or irritable and has trouble sleeping once in a while. But these feelings pass after a little while–usually a couple of days. Depression, on the other hand, is a common yet serious mood disorder that has symptoms that do not dissipate with time. Depression affects one’s ability to feel, think, and handle daily activities.  To be diagnosed as depression, these symptoms must be experienced for at least two weeks.

Signs and symptoms of depression in men

Just like with any illness or mental illness, there are a plethora of symptoms, but the common depression symptoms include the following:

  • Anger or irritability
  • Feeling anxious or restless
  • Loss of interest in work, family, or hobbies
  • Problems with sexual desire and performance
  • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering details
  • Fatigue, not being able to sleep, and/or oversleeping
  • Overeating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • A need for alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from family and friends; isolation.

Every man will respond to his depressive feelings differently. Some may exhibit several of these behaviors while others may only experience a few.

Causes of depression in men


Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of risk factors including genetics, environmental stressors (like financial problems, loss of a loved on, major life changes, or any stressful situation), and illness (particularly serious illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart disease or Parkinson’s disease). There is no difference with how men and women arrive at depression–it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Studies suggest you are at greater risk of developing depression if you’ve suffered a severe loss as a child, an overwhelmingly stressful event as an adult, or you have a family history of depression.

Regardless of how one develops depression, men react differently than women.  When men experience depressive episodes, they retract completely from their social circles. One man reported that he did not want to get out of bed or leave the house, that his depression took over his life. He said, “Men are not supposed to be depressed. Men are supposed to be the providers, the pillar of strength, the one everyone else turns to. You can’t talk about it because…you don’t want to admit any weaknesses.” Men facing depression feel ashamed and embarrassed, which leads them to internalize their struggle with depression, close themselves off from others, and not seek professional help. This greatly affects their work performance, their relationships, as well as their self-image and self-worth. Many men who feel depressed enter into this negative cycle of denying/ignoring their symptoms, isolating themselves, experiencing diminished self-worth, and not receiving treatment. It is likely because of this that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women!

Treatment for with depression

Now knowing that both men and women can experience depression, let’s talk about treatment. These suggestions are not gender specific. Such suggestions include spending time with friends, family, or coworkers; increasing your level of physical activity (particularly important for men who are supposed to be masculine and strong); breaking large tasks up into small ones; delaying important decisions until you feel better; keeping daily routines; and avoiding alcohol, drugs, or harmful substances. These are suggestions that will help if are not yet ready to receive professional help.

For those that have had enough and are ready to stand up to depression, here is my plea: Remember that help is available! To effectively treat depression, a combination of medication and therapy is recommended–regardless of gender.  If you are struggling with depression, it is okay to ask for help. I want to support you. I want to offer you hope! The amazing news is that researchers has proven that between talk therapy and medications, about 80 percent of depression cases can now be treated effectively–for both women and men! In reality, the risks of untreated depression far outweigh those of taking antidepressant medications under a doctor’s supervision. You do not need to carry the heavy burden of depression any longer. Please, contact me today or click here to schedule a session. You are not alone! Help is out there!

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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Eating Disorders 101

Eating Disorders - Cluff Counseling, Denton TherapistUp to 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Understanding this epidemic is the first step to getting help–either for yourself or for someone you care about.

Everywhere we look we see ads, movies, tv shows, billboards, and models all flaunting perfect bodies: skinny legs, impressive thigh gaps, flat tummies, chiseled abs, massive biceps. With social media at our fingertips, it is easy to compare our body to what we see in the media. Other times, social comparisons are not at the root of an eating disorder–it may be that you are watching you parents go through a divorce, or you did not make the cut onto the Varsity team, so you look for an outlet to feel some sort of control over your life. When controlling your food intake becomes extreme or obsessive, it is called an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are very serious; many young women and men die each year from complications associated with their disorder. Both genders can develop an eating disorder, although rates among women are higher than among men. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life.

Eating disorders are psychological conditions with both physical and emotional symptoms. The three most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (voluntary starvation), bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging), and binge-eating disorder (binge-eating without purging). Today, we will take a deeper look at each of these three types of eating disorders and discuss how to overcome them.

Anorexia nervosa
Those with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat tiny quantities of a small variety of foods.  They relentlessly pursue thinness–it consumes their life. Common symptoms seen in those with anorexia is an intense fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, low self-esteem (one that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape), and a denial of the seriousness of his/her low body weight. The long-term effects of anorexia include but are not limited to infertility, thinning of the bones, anemia, muscle weakness, brittle hair and nails, severe constipation, low blood pressure, damage to the heart, brain damage, and multiorgan failure.

Bulimia nervosa
The next eating disorder I would like to discuss is bulimia. This is where the individual eats excessively large amounts of food and then purges by vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, those with bulimia nervosa usually maintain a healthy or relatively normal weight. Their binging and purging behavior gives them a feeling of control. Some of the negative symptoms include an inflamed sore throat, swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel (plus increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid), acid reflux disorder, gastrointestinal problems, intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse, dehydration from purging of fluids, and electrolyte imbalance (which can lead to stroke or heart attack).

Binge-eating disorder
Like the other types of eating disorders, binge-eating disorder involves a person completely losing control over his/her food intake. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. Thus, those with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Symptoms include eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, eating even when he/she is full or not hungry, eating fast, eating until he/she is uncomfortably full, and eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment.

An eating disorder is considered a process addiction, meaning the person is dependent upon a behavior– instead of a substance– for power, control, or satisfaction. I have worked with many patients who struggle with various types of addiction, and I know that recovery is possible. When a mental illness (such as depression or anxiety) is present along with the eating disorder, medication may be needed. Lasting recovery for eating disorders may also include regularly working with a dietician in order to establish and maintain a personalized, healthy goal for caloric intake. These actions, coupled with regular counseling from a qualified therapist, will address the physical and emotional factors of the eating disorder, and can lead to a full recovery.

The earlier an eating disorder is detected and the sooner help is sought, the greater the chance for a full recovery. If you or someone you care about struggles with an eating disorder, now is the time to make a change. Health, happiness, and recovery is possible, and I am here to help. Please contact me today or click here to set up your first session.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

Resources:

ADHD At a Glance

ADHD - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville TherapistIn November of 2013, a report was released showing that up to 11 percent of children aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives–a 7.8 percent from 2003. In adults, the rate is much lower (about 4 percent), but experts caution that since adults who were not diagnosed in childhood are more likely to remain undiagnosed, the true prevalence of adult ADHD may be significantly higher than reported. If you or someone you know suffers from undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, now is the time to get help.

Many of you have likely heard of ADHD and may be familiar with some of its symptoms, but most people do not know that much about it… including what it stands for. Not only that, what causes it, how to treat it, how to recognize it in others, or how ADHD might impact the life of those it affects. This post will go over frequently asked questions to tell you what you need to know about ADHD

What does ADHD stand for?
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

What is the difference between ADHD and ADHD?
ADHD includes the symptom of physical hyperactivity or excessive restlessness–this is the “H”. In ADD, the symptom of hyperactivity is absent. People with ADD can be calm and serene outwardly, yet struggle to focus and not get distracted.

What causes ADHD?
While the cause is not entirely known, there are certain factors that play a part. For instance, ADHD seems to run in families; anywhere from 33 to 50 percent of parents with ADHD will have a child with the disorder. There are genetic characteristics that are passed down. Children whose mothers had difficult pregnancies, or children who are born either premature or with low birth weight run the risk of having ADHD. When the frontal lobe of the brain is affected (which controls impulses/emotions), the chance for ADHD is even greater.

Who can get ADHD and when does it show up?
Anyone is susceptible–children, teens, and adults from all socio-economic backgrounds can develop ADHD; although, studies show that the disorder occurs at least twice as often in boys than in girls, aged 3 to 17 years. Boys are nearly three times more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD (13.2 percent) than girls (5.6 percent)! ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood.

How does ADHD manifest itself?
Symptoms vary greatly depending on the individual but include limited attention and hyperactivity, low self-esteem, troubled relationships; difficulty with school or work; being easily distracted; difficulty paying attention or focusing; “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation; struggling to complete tasks; the tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work; poor listening skills like having a hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Can ADHD be treated?
These disorders are chronic, meaning they can last for years or be lifelong. There are, however, several options for effective treatment, including medication and therapy. Patients often find great success coupling the two in order to achieve a refreshing level of normalcy. When ADHD is diagnosed in children, teachers and other school staff can be a great resource in educating child and parent on ways to cope with ADHD in the classroom. Look out for my upcoming post on strategies to deal with this disorder.

ADHD deeply affects the lives of those who have it. I have counseled with many clients who feel misunderstood, or as though something is fundamentally wrong with them because ADHD holds place in their lives. This disorder is real, but help and hope are available. Remember, I am your advocate and your cheerleader, and will help you find control and stability in your life. If you would like help learning how to thrive with ADHD, contact me today to set up your first session.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

Resources:
ADDitude: “How Many People Have ADHD?”
ADHD Center: “What is ADHD?”
Cluff Counseling: “Choosing the Right Therapist for You”
Dr. Hallowell: “Top 10 Questions on ADHD”
Healthline: “What’s the Difference Between ADHD and ADD?”
Healthy Place: “How Do You Get ADHD? Cause of ADD and ADHD”
HelpGuide.org, “ADHD in Adults”
WebMD: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD”

Finding Happiness After Hurt

Finding Happiness After Pain - Cluff Counseling, Denton TherapistLife isn’t fair: people are unkind, injustices happen, and life sometimes seems to have dealt us a pretty hard hand. Here are practical tips to overcome emotional pain and find happiness.

Every day I see clients who are hurting. Some are suffering from childhood trauma, others from addiction, chronic illness, or the unexpected ending of a key relationship in their life. One of the things I have learned firsthand as a counselor is that there is a lot of hurt out there. You and I are literally fighting a world of hurt. But the main reason I absolutely love my job is that I have the chance to help my clients fight through their hurt and find happiness.

We have all experienced something unjust or painful in our own lives. Sometimes it is easy to shake those feelings and other times we just cannot seem to let them go.  Prolonged anger and feelings of injustice—directed toward a particular person, circumstance, or yourself—have a steep price tag: they can rob you of happiness in the moment and have negative impacts on your overall health. But there are steps we can take to overcome the inevitable feelings of hurt, pain, and resentment to find happiness. In addition to seeing a therapist, there are several simple ways you can start today:

  1. Fill your own cup. Sometimes, when we feel empty, we hope for and expect others to fill our cups for us…which is incredibly dangerous. More often than not, we let people in who are not healthy or worthy, and they do more harm than good. Stop that. Fill your own cup. Sandra Bienkowski writes for Mind Body Green, “You have to fill your own cup. Whatever you didn’t get and need, you have to give to yourself. If you didn’t get praise, give yourself praise. If you didn’t get love, show yourself some love and compassion with kind thoughts and doing things that make you feel good about yourself. If your home didn’t feel safe, create a safe and secure home as an adult.” Happiness begins when you are at peace with yourself.
  2. Stop looking for external validation. Be comfortable in your own skin.  Do not look to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, your friends/family, or anywhere else for validation. Look in the mirror. Use your internal gauges to measure how you are doing and how you could improve. That is what they are there for!
  3. When people show you who they are, believe them. We sometimes make the mistake of hoping or expecting others to be who we want them to be. Let your friends, family members and acquaintances be who they are. Accepting their limitations and allowing them to be imperfect will help you avoid feeling disappointed when they do not measure up to your high expectations of them.
  4. Set boundaries. You are the only one who can set limits of where you end and others begin. Do not let other people’s issues/history/negativity hurt you. Your boundaries set the bar on how you expect to be treated or set the limits of what you accept and what you do not. Knowing how to protect yourself is really just you protecting your happiness.
  5. Have patience and compassion for yourself. Recognize that you are dealing with something hard. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself time to make changes, and focus on what you are doing well!
  6. Decide it is not worth it. Feeling angry, frustrated or wrong only harms you. Decide that is it not worth it, get help, and move on. Do not dwell on the negative!
  7. Separate facts from emotions. Yes, you got laid off–fact. Yes, that will impact your finances–fact. But these facts do not mean you are entitled to feel angry, frustrated, and wronged for years to come. Reconcile the facts (what you are NOT always in control of) with your emotions (what you are ALWAYS in control of), and you will be a lot happier.
  8. Seek treatments that help resolve feelings of anger and injustice. Effective modalities include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Loving Kindness Meditation, and Compassion Meditation. Contact me today if you are seeking one of these treatments to increase your happiness.
  9. Use relaxation as the antidote for anger. Have a plan or strategy to calm yourself down in the face of anger or frustration…because you are sure to need that plan at some point.
  10. Use imagery. Imagine yourself letting go of the negative emotions you are feeling and holding on to. Then envision yourself finding and clinging to happiness. As cheesy as it sounds, it may be remarkably helpful for you visual learners out there!
  11. Talk it out. For some of us, talking to a therapist or someone we trust can be extremely liberating. Getting a fresh perspective, as well as, suggestions for how to move on is invaluable. Use your words to extricate your feelings, work through them, and let them go. It is remarkable how liberating talking it out can be.

Of course there are a plethora of ways to replace hurt with happiness. I could spend hours talking about the power of hobbies, a balanced diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, religious outlets, and several other physical and emotional-reducing strategies. The 11 suggestions I have mentioned above are simple things you can do now with no added time, props, or money. In fact, most of the 11 suggestions I have shared begin with you deciding to be happy. At the end of the day, you are the one who decides to hold on to feelings of anger, guilt, resentment, frustration and injustice. While there are many tools available, your will is the most important. So if you are looking to stop the hurt in your life, decide now. Do it. Use the above methods and contact me if you need additional assistance. I find immense joy witnessing the personal transformations of my clients as they prepare to move on to the next phase of their life–as healthier and happier people. Stop the hurt in your life and welcome the happiness that is waiting for you.

Resources:
Cluff Counseling: “Choosing the Right Therapist for You”
Cluff Counseling: “Welcome”
Mind Body Green: “The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s”
Psychology Today: “7 Practical Strategies to Overcome Emotional Pain”
Psychology Today: “9 Tips to Stop Anger and Injustice from Hurting You”
Psychology Today: “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”
Psychology Today: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”
Psychology Today: “Happiness”
Psychology Today: “Meditation”
Psychology Today: “Mindfulness”
Psychology Today: “Stress”

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Taking the Stigma Out of Mental Illness

Taking the Stigma Out of Mental Illness | Cluff Counseling, Dallas Mental Health TherapistDo you shy away when you hear the words mental illness? For years, there has been a stigma about mental illness in our society. It was taboo–something uncommon and misunderstood; some even ventured as far as to say it was made up by the “weak” as a ploy to receive attention. However, over the past two decades, much has been learned about mental illness and a fair amount of resources have been developed to educate mental and medical health professionals.  Mental illnesses are very real; in fact, 43.8 million, or 18.5% of US citizens are affected. Mental illness influences the way one thinks, feels, behaves, and relates to others and to his/her surroundings. Those with mental illness often feel tense, anxious, and/or sad to the point that it is difficult for them to function normally.  That is no way to live! If you feel you or someone you love may have an undiagnosed mental illness, now is the time to get help. My purpose in writing this post is to increase understanding and awareness of mental illness in order to help you or someone you know who is suffering. Let’s begin with some basics on mental illness:

  1. What is a mental illness? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Mental illnesses come in different types and with varying degrees of severity. The most common types are depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder, personality disorders, trauma and eating disorders.
  2. Who has a mental illness? While some studies show that mental illness can be hereditary, we are all susceptible. In fact, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year! Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, income, social status, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, background or other aspect of cultural identity. It can occur at any age, but 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24.
  3. How do you get a mental illness? Although the exact cause of most mental illness is not known, researchers are finding that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of the following factors and not personal weakness or a character defect (as was previously believed):
    a. Heredity (genetics passed on from affected family members)
    b. Biology (imbalance of neurotransmitters)
    c. Psychological trauma (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; a significant early loss; neglect)
    d. Environmental factors (death or divorce, a dysfunctional family life, changing jobs or schools, substance abuse)
  4. Are mental illnesses treatable? Certainly! Much progress has been made the last two decades to better understand mental illness and how to treat it.  A full recovery from a mental illness is not simply a matter of will and self-discipline. With therapy and/or medication, a full recovery is absolutely possible.

I hope that better understanding mental illness will remove the stigma and allow more people to seek the treatment they need. It is very real and it is very treatable. If you suffer from mental illness, I want you to know that there is hope! There is nothing shameful about a mental illness, and there are a myriad of resources available to you today–the foremost being a trained and experienced therapist to be your coach and advocate along the way.  Start treatment early and be an active participant in your own recovery process. Contact me today to set up your first appointment!

Resources:

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