In May we bring awareness to mental health. And the first week of May is dedicated to raising awareness of common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Here’s some insight to help understand these common disorders and how to recognize their symptoms.

Understanding Depression

It’s not unusual to feel down in the dumps occasionally, and usually, those feelings pass within a day or two. But if feelings of sadness consistently last longer than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.

So, what are some of the signs of depression? When you’re depressed, you might not want to be around other people, and may even start to isolate yourself. This kind of withdrawal can negatively affect you and those around you.

Here are a few other common symptoms of depression:

  • Experiencing significant changes in sleeping patterns or appetite
  • Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, pessimistic or guilty
  • Becoming easily fatigued or restless
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Experiencing thoughts of death or suicide

If you think that you might be depressed, your first step should be to speak with your doctor. The good news is that depression can be successfully treated. Your doctor will perform a full evaluation with a history and physical examination. As some medications or medical conditions can cause symptoms like depression, your doctor may also order lab tests to help rule them out.

Try to stay active and get exercise as recommended by your doctor. Be around other people. Talk to those whom you trust and who will keep your conversations private; ask them for support. But also, be patient — don’t expect your energy and positive outlook to pop back into place right away. It should return over time, as you get the help you need. If your doctor prescribed medication for depression, keep in mind that it might take several weeks to work. Be sure to discuss any side effects that you experience with your doctor; they can help you manage symptoms or make changes if needed. Also, if you’re concerned that your medication is not helping, talk to your doctor about it, as there may be alternatives.

Understanding Anxiety

Many people feel anxious some of the time, for instance, before taking a test, after losing a job or when speaking in public. Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes, such as panic attacks. These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, can be difficult to control and can last a long time. Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. Some people have more than one anxiety disorder, and sometimes anxiety is caused by a medical condition that needs treatment.

If you or someone you know worries excessively — every day, all day, without an obvious cause, it could be due to generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder causes unrelenting tension and anxiety that interferes with common daily activities, and it can last for six months or longer. If you have symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, it’s recommended that you talk with your doctor, as psychotherapy, medication or both may be recommended. Exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, can help too. You may also find that practicing meditation can help manage your anxiety.

It’s recommended to see a doctor, if:

  • You feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
  • Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
  • You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
  • You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
  • You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately

Counseling can help

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges, Focused Solutions can help. Our experienced and compassionate providers assist with self-improvement through counseling, psychotherapy, acupuncture, and more. We also offer workshops on meditation that can assist with mild anxiety and symptoms of depression. Our Introduction to Mindfulness Workshop is a great place to learn and practice meditation to help manage stress and stay focused.

As we head into the month of May, remember that knowledge is power and building awareness is key to helping end the stigma surrounding mental illness as shame and secrecy cause many to suffer in silence.


Sources (accessed 5/2/2022):

National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

American Psychiatric Association. What is depression?

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Tell My About Depression.

Mayo Clinic. Anxiety Disorders.

National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders.