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Depression: Over-Diagnosis And Management Strategies

The Short Advice Depression Post

Depression and Over-Diagnosis

Depression, along with other mental illnesses like ADD, has been in the media spotlight for some time. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, although some experts consider many of these diagnoses to be somewhat inflated. Allen Frances MD states that over-diagnosis of mental illness is making normality an ‘endangered species’, and threatens to increase the already alarming percentage of the population diagnosed as having a mental illness. So, with diagnostic inflation in mind, how can an individual presenting symptoms of depression know for sure whether they are diagnosable, or are simply facing the inevitable challenges of everyday life?

The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

The internet can be a wonderful place. After all, it did bring you The Short Advice… There are a plethora of helpful resources online that offer support for various conditions, and can assist in making a diagnosis for mental illness. Whilst finding advice online isn’t totally unadvisable, it’s generally a good idea to confer with an expert before concluding that you have a medical condition. As stated above, over-diagnosis is currently considered an ‘epidemic’ by some medical professionals, and self-diagnosis has been highlighted as a contributing factor. So lets say you’ve done some online research, and decide to pay a visit to a psychiatrist. They tell you that, based on your symptoms and behaviours, you likely have depression. Let’s not forget now, that over-diagnosis by medical professionals has also been cited as a contributing factor to the epidemic… So who do we trust? Well, that’s a difficult question, and unfortunately there is no answer. Although, if you do agree that over-diagnosis is real, then anybody diagnosed should not rule out the possibility that perhaps their diagnosis is a stretch.

Depression vs Ordinary Life

So perhaps you are exhibiting some common symptoms of depression. It can be difficult not to be caught up in the hype of psychiatric fads. Yes, it is a mental illness. But, with the over-diagnosis of depression, it could also be considered a fad. Sometimes, trusting a diagnosis as widely-accepted and de-stigmatised as depression, is an easy way to explain, label and justify one’s suffering. Of course, de-stigmitisation is largely viewed as a positive outcome for patients. But it might also encourage others to buy into what is already an epidemic of over-diagnosis. So before you choose to medicate, take the time to engage in some critical self-reflection – at least make the pharmaceutical companies sweat a little… Lets start with 5 simple questions:

  1. Can you identify what exactly is causing you to feel depressed? i.e. Work pressures, bereavement, relationship woes, uncertainty about the future.
  2. When did you begin to feel depressed? (This might help to answer question 1)
  3. What (if any) changes were present in your life when these feelings began?
  4. What changes has your mood/current mental state caused in your life?
  5. Have you taken any steps to improve your situation? What are they?

Making Sense of Our Emotions

Hopefully you’ve been able to pinpoint some of the events in your life that have caused you to feel depressed. In this case, we are using the word ‘depressed’ as a temporary emotional state, rather than an illness. If we allow these issues to go unaddressed, what should be a temporary feeling of depression could turn into something far-less temporary. When we don’t properly deal with our emotions, and allow ourselves to fall into a ‘rut’, we get a snow-ball effect of poor decisions. These decisions only contribute to an elongated period of feeling depressed. And so, the hole gets deeper. A more effective management plan would be to address our emotions as they arise. Consider why you are suddenly feeling depressed. Is it an abstract concept, like fear of the unknown? Or perhaps something more concrete, like a fight with a loved one? Understand when you feel this way, and note other times you have felt the same.

Management Strategies for Building Resilience

Whatever the reason for your negative emotions, you need to develop strategies to counter this. It’s all part of ‘earning happiness‘, and developing resilience. If we immediately succumb to the challenges that are posed by ordinary life, and choose first to seek a diagnosis, it is almost as though we are ducking responsibility for our own emotions. So, the first and most important step is to:

1. Take accountability for your situation, and the improvement thereof.

Now you can start taking positive action to combat your negative emotions. It’s normal to feel depressed from time to time. We can’t always be happy. But falling too deep into self-pity is a trap that almost everyone can relate to. So feel sad, and pay heed to the negative experience. Understand the cause, and consider how you can minimise the effect of this should it happen again. This is a necessary process that helps us better manage our emotions the next time round. But, after you’ve focused on yourself, and improving your situation, the next step is to remind yourself how valuable you are. The best way to pull yourself out from under the blanket of self-pity is to:

2. Do something meaningful for somebody else.

Perhaps a family member, or friend, or maybe even a stranger. Helping others can be a humbling experience, that takes our mind away from our own problems. It is of mutual benefit for both the person helping, and the person in need of assistance. You might even be able to relate to some of the challenges that others are facing, and find that those challenges are indeed a part of ordinary life. Through helping others, you might also be helping yourself to find solutions to your own problems. Our third and final step for today’s article is an important one, which focuses on resilience:

3. Embrace the challenge.

Nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy. Accept the reality that you will not immediately find your happiness again overnight. You will have ups and downs, but the quest for happiness presents amazing opportunities to explore new avenues towards achieving a better balance. Your experiences, both positive and negative will continue to shape you, and your response to such experiences will define you. If you have experienced immense sadness, then moments of euphoric happiness await if you choose to work towards them.

Final Note

Diagnosing clinical depression is difficult. There is no blood test or scan that can give conclusive evidence. Whilst there are many legitimate cases, there are also illegitimate ones. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should consider engaging in professional consultation (counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, GP). However, never waive the responsibility that you have over your own wellbeing. If you have been diagnosed, it may be worth seeking multiple opinions, or simply engaging in a management plan (developed by yourself and/or a professional), rather than medicating. The choice to medicate/accept diagnosis must be your own.

As always, thanks for reading and we’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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Building Resilience And Self-Confidence: The Military Perspective.

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About This Article…

This week we’ve been lucky enough to interview active military personnel to quiz them on resilience and self-confidence. We’ve gained a good insight into some of the practices used in the military designed to build resilience and confidence, and how it applies to everyday people too. So, lets start by looking at how resilience and self-confidence is valued in the military.

What does the military know about resilience and confidence that we don’t?

Resilience and confidence are two of the strongest fundamentals of a well-rounded capable person. They feed and strengthen each other when either is high, but can also negatively affect other aspects of your life when either is low. The effort of building, maintaining and exuding both resilience and confidence is therefore necessary to success. Without confidence, would you have the guts to approach your future husband/wife at a bar? And what if you did have the confidence to speak and are promptly rejected? Would you be resilient enough to speak to another potential date?

A Brief History of Resilience and Confidence in Militaries.

Militaries have understood the importance of resilience and confidence for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. For all of recorded history, civilisations have depended on their armies to either protect them from hostile civilisations or to further their interests by invading others. The Romans would not have been the powerhouse they once were and held influence over the known world without a strong, resilient and confident army. All those that faced battle did so with resilience to brace them against their fears and marched with the understanding and confidence that they and their colleagues had the skills to defeat their enemies. So, what did The Roman armies, and every other successful military, do in common to ensure their people had the resilience and confidence required to make important decisions, do difficult things and risk their lives to win victory for their family, friends and fellow countrymen?

All Armies Share Three Basic Techniques to Toughen Their Soldiers into Confident, Resilient War-Fighters:

1. Rigorous Physical Training.

Have you ever worked out to the point where you feel like you’re going to be sick or pass out? It’s a feeling that most of us can relate to, we’ve worked particularly hard that day and now we’re ready for a rest. Most modern militaries utilise Physical Training (PT) to push their personnel past their previous levels of strength and endurance not only to improve them physically, but also to improve them mentally. Mental toughness is significantly more valuable to a soldier and the military than physical toughness. Interestingly, rigorous PT that stretches you beyond what you thought was your capacity pushes more mental boundaries than anything else. You can almost always work harder than you think you can. So get working. This will make difficult things seem easier and therefore make you more resilient against hard work and leave you confident in your abilities. Checkout these bootcamp programs to start pushing your limits today.

“Why do I have to carry these jerry cans for five kilometres?” “Because, I said so!”

2. Military Exercises and Tasks.

Practicing the rigours of being on a military campaign – going out into the field, camping, eating rations and enduring harsh climates – is exhausting. It is here that you can build a real confidence in your ability to withstand the harsh realities of warfare. Obviously, not everyone will partake in military exercises within their lifetime, but essentially the underlying message here is, learn to live outside of your comfort zone. All of us inadvertently seek the ‘easy way’, the path of least resistance, but more often than not, that is not the path that is actually most beneficial to us.
Get out of your comfort zone, try something you find difficult and relish the challenge. If you fail, take a different approach and try again. This will help you to build resilience and prove that life’s challenges are often the biggest rewards.

“Why are you so upset? There was only a little bit of dust!” “How can I expect you to protect your team mates if you can’t even be trusted to dust your room properly?”

3. Mandatory Shared Accommodation.

Who likes privacy? Everyone. The hot tip: there is very little to no privacy in initial military training. For many new recruits, living amongst a bunch of other new recruits means being ripped away from family, friends, comfort zones and essentially, all previous support networks and being placed into what can seem like a hostile environment. It is uncomfortable, stressful and frustrating, which is entirely the point. Learning to self-manage and problem solve by yourself, as well as with others, is an important skill. Military training teaches this through simply separating you from how you’ve always problem solved or managed your life. By suddenly altering your lifestyle, you are put in a sink or swim situation that requires your immediate attention.

“How am I supposed to get to sleep when my bunk-mate snores?” “Figure it out.”

B.L.U.F (Bottom Line Up Front)

(Yes, that was some military lingo that we picked up along the way). The point of all this stress and frustration is designed to build resilience. So many of the ‘pointless tasks’ required of soldiers in training are not pointless at all. They build resilience, cohesion amongst the team and give the instructors confidence that their soldiers can operate as required, when required, as opposed to when the soldiers feel like it. Bottom line, push yourself to solve problems in ways you wouldn’t normally. Put yourself in difficult (albeit safe) situations and test yourself. Avoid using the support networks you normally use and test your abilities when under stress. And the best part is that all of this can take place in everyday life too, outside of the military.

As always thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Overcome Your Fear of Failure: 5 Fail-Proof Tips

The Short Advice Fear of Failure

Understanding Fear of Failure.

Fear of failure is quite common. It’s normal for us to experience this to some extent, although in extreme cases it can become a phobia. More specifically, atychiphobia. Of course, there is a phobia to describe just about every fear imaginable, so don’t throw yourself into that category just yet. A powerful emotion that is a driving force behind fear of failure, is shame. The shame in knowing that you are not good enough if you do fail. The shame in others knowing too. It can drive us to self-sabotage and procrastinate until we give up. So don’t let these feelings mount, combat them by putting some simple strategies in to place…

The 5 Fail-Proof Tips to Overcome Fear of Failure

We all have dreams and aspirations. And they wouldn’t be dreamy, if they weren’t somewhat difficult to achieve. Achieving your dreams is never going to be easy, and sometimes we tend to talk ourselves out of even trying. Because, what if I don’t succeed? Well, the reality is that you won’t always succeed. And yes, failure can be a scary thought. But don’t let that get in the way of trying. Trying leads to opportunity, and with every small step that you take, your chances of success increase. Maybe only slightly, but they do increase. As will your access to more new opportunities. But the closer you get, and the more work you put in, your fear of failure mounts. We’d prefer to believe that the reason we didn’t achieve our goals is that we didn’t try in the first place. Because trying, and not being good enough is terrifying. So, we stop trying. But before you give up, and continue working in a job that doesn’t motivate you, consider our first ‘Fail-Proof Tip’… 

1. Embrace Your Fear.

Are you afraid? Good. You should be. If you aren’t, then you haven’t stepped out of your comfort zone yet. There isn’t a great deal of personal development that happens there, so step number one is to throw yourself into the path of fear, simply by trying. Your fear of failure is necessary in order to balance out the positivity that is associated with courage and bravery. Without fear, these positives could not exist. So be brave enough to try! Yes, you may not succeed your first go, or your second, or your third… But if you can succeed at trying, that is a big step towards achieving something of value, even if that something isn’t what you initially set out for… “Well, Columbus wasn’t looking for America, my man, but that turned out to be pretty okay for everyone.” – Beanie, Oldschool

2. Plan for Success.

Through planning, you allow yourself to visualise your path towards achieving your goals. Breaking down your goals into smaller, more achievable steps will help you to create a pathway towards your long-term goal. In doing this, your approach becomes far more realistic, and your fear of failure will be combatted by the confidence you feel after achieving each step. Don’t expect it to disappear though. It won’t, and it shouldn’t. Rather, use it to remind yourself how you felt before reaching the last small milestone. If you were able to overcome your fear of failure once, you can do it again, and again, and again… 

3. Leverage Your Passion.

Hopefully, it is your desire to succeed in an area that you are passionate about. Don’t let success/failure dictate your level of enjoyment. Your passion should not be dependent on either of those things. If you are doing it because you love to, and not because you have to, then you will immediately have an advantage. Of course, to excel in an area you are passionate about, you’ll have to do some things you may not want to do in order to improve your position. Next time you’re undertaking one of these tasks, just remember it is your passion that will benefit, and give you satisfaction, rather than solely focusing on what you will gain from success. 

4. Manage Your Emotions.

If you’ve just trawled through instagram and seen all the happy, smiling faces earning six figures a month working from home, you might think it looks easy. Firstly, it’s not. Secondly, most of these people are probably liars, and not earning anywhere near what they claim (nor are they helping anybody in the process). Aim to be realistic about your expectations of what your journey towards success will look like. A few months in, after strictly following your plan and seeing little to no reward, you will be upset. Disappointed, angry, dejected, embarrassed… Any combination of negative emotions that stop people from doing what they want to every single day. Emotions will arise without your permission. How you respond though, is completely within your control. 

5. Build Your Resilience. 

Accepting your fears is the first step towards developing mental toughness. But don’t stop there. Be resilient as you face your fear of failure, and keep going. There is much to be gained by embracing the old saying ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. As the negative emotions arise, and try to keep you from realising your dreams, remember that it is action that will make them subside. You will build a resistance to this internal negativity by proving to yourself that you can overcome it through your actions. The road to success shouldn’t be a dark and miserable one. It will be tough, but happiness can (and should) be found in hard work, and not just the end result. 

Final Note…

One step at a time, you will be able to overcome your fear of failure. It won’t disappear forever, but it doesn’t have to for you to achieve success in your chosen field. Never stop trying, and enjoy the trying part too, not just the succeeding part… As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.