Depression Symptoms, Coping, and Social Distancing
Los Angeles Christian Counseling
Are you experiencing depression symptoms in relation to COVID-19? With the increase of confirmed cases of COVID-19 every day, we are faced with challenges each day. In addition to health concerns, many of us are struggling with losing our jobs, businesses are being threatened, we’re losing our sense of self-efficacy, and we’re experiencing a sense of loss of our social networks and supports.
If you’re a parent, you might have to juggle all of these losses with the added responsibility of keeping your kids occupied at home. There is an overwhelming number of obligations to manage.
If you’re already working hard to manage your mental health the current climate might be posing more challenges. The American Psychological Association and the Centers for Disease Control have helpful tips on how to care for your mental health during this unprecedented time of collectively and individually coping with the threat of COVID-19.
You might be experiencing a range of emotions, and these emotions might fluctuate each day. Feeling sad or fatigued might be part of your experience and completely congruent with current global circumstances, but the presence of such states might not indicate that you are experiencing clinical depression.
There are several diagnosable depressive disorders. The DSM-5 lists specific criteria to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder:
A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same two-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report or observation made by others
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation).
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
B. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
C. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
Note: Responses to a significant loss may include feelings of intense sadness, rumination about the loss, insomnia, poor appetite, and weight loss noted in Criterion A, which may resemble a depressive episode. Although such symptoms may be understandable or considered appropriate to the loss, the presence of a major depressive episode in addition to the normal response to a significant loss should also be carefully considered.
This decision inevitably requires the exercise of clinical judgment based on the individual’s history and the cultural norms for the expression of distress in the context of loss (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association).
If you are not currently receiving mental health treatment and suspect that you are struggling with depression symptoms please reach out to us to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
Tips for Coping with Depression Symptoms During COVID-19
Some of you might have been experiencing depression symptoms for some time now, or you might be experiencing the hardship that is particular to this moment in history with the threat of the epidemic. You might also be experiencing both scenarios.
To cope while social distancing, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend a combination of the following:
- Limit news consumption and try to read from only reliable sources. There is a lot of information circulating, some from sound sources and others from more dubious ones. Take breaks from social media as well. The APA recommends reading, listening to music, or learning a new language.
- Take care of your basic needs such as eating well, staying active, sleeping well, avoiding the use of alcohol and drugs, consider telehealth options for psychotherapy or ask your current therapist ahead of a potential quarantine if they can continue sessions by phone or online.
- The APA encourages readers to use psychological strategies like positive imagery or mindfulness exercises to cope with depression symptoms.
- Stay virtually connected to others and share your experiences and feelings.
Most churches at this time have found ways to connect with streaming worship services and have been utilizing platforms for holding online meetings. If you haven’t participated in connecting with a church body, now is the time to begin.
While this is a time of great uncertainty for all, grieving the loss of shared physical presence, many churches are experiencing a revived sense of solidarity by being more connected virtually now that the use of technology is quickly becoming the only way to commune together.
As Christians, we are not only called to consider the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:4), which in addition to other considerations means honoring the guidelines set regarding social distancing, but part of this reflection is that we are also to consider the state of our hearts during this time of tremendous upheaval.
The news publication Foreign Policy and The Gospel Coalition have helpful articles on how the Church has historically handled epidemics. In a conversation offered by the Veritas Forum called “Coronavirus & Quarantine: What Big Questions Can We Be Asking?,” New York Times commentator David Brooks stated that perhaps the reason so little was produced in accounts and art about past epidemics like the Spanish Flu in the United States in 1918 was because as a society people were ashamed of how they behaved.
What are some considerations for you as an American Christian to ponder, so that you will not be filled with regret about your choices during this crisis?
For many Christians who observe the liturgical calendar, this is the season of Lent. Lent is traditionally the six-week period leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of solemn reflection. During this time many adopt the practice of fasting to accompany and magnify this period of reflection and penitence, which eventually culminates in the joyful celebration of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Are there ways you can find meaning in light of your current circumstances during this pandemic, and could the current season of Lent aid you in your journey of reflection?
In some ways, social distancing might have added to your busy schedule, and yet in other ways, you might find space and time that you never previously had to ponder questions related to meaning and purpose.
The APA includes the tip that “focusing on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine or isolation can also help mitigate psychological distress.” One possible way to find meaning and motivation for the choice of social distancing is to consider that such an action is for the benefit of others.
There is a phenomenon within God’s design that allows for benefits for generosity and sacrifice, even for the type of selflessness that has no earthly reward and that might even result in scorn and harm to self. This type of selflessness, of course, is the cruciform way of Christ where our reward ultimately comes from abiding in our heavenly Father and trusting in His promises which will be fulfilled in the time to come.
If you require assistance or are interested in delving into some of the American Psychological Association’s suggestions about psychological strategies to cope with depression symptoms, please contact us to schedule an appointment.
Do not suffer alone. We are a resource to help support you at this time and can also work with you to find additional networks of support through your church and community.
“Mask and Bottle”, Courtesy of Anshu A, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Looking Out the Window”, Courtesy of Alec Douglas, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Newspapers”, Courtesy of Mr Cup / Fabian Barral, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Crowd”, Corutesy of Timon Studler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License