Newsletter of Practical Psychology
Ask the Psychologist
A Newsletter of Practical Psychology �1996
DAVID S. LITTON, Ph.D.
Depression: A sadly common experience
Do you feel blue, down, out of sorts? Everyone has their own name for feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
Maybe You're Depressed
If so, you are in good company: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Vivian Leigh, Leo Tolstoy, Senator Eagleton, and astronaut Edwin Aldrin all suffered with depression.
How Do You Know?
Depression is a disturbance of mood, a variation from your usual mood state, much like a fever is a variation from normal body temperature. If feelings of sadness are interfering with your everyday life, or if four or more of the
following are true for you, then you should seek help from a mental health professional. Without attention, depression can worsen: procrastination, motivational problems, apathy, and work interference can take their toll as disappointments in work, school and relationships mount. Untreated depression
can last for years. It is important to remember that depression is a very real and treatable condition, not a failure of will.
______ Change in eating or appetite
______ Weight loss or gain
______ Change in sleeping pattern
______ Slowed thinking
______ Persistent sadness or crying
______ Suicidal thoughts
Who and Why
Ten million Americans suffer with depression at any one point in time. Adolescent depression is becoming more common. As many as 25% of Americans will suffer an episode of depression in their lifetimes. Depression has many sources. Some researchers have identified genetic conditions that may predispose individuals to depression. Loss, stress, and other psychological factors can combine to precipitate depression.
The Good News
Depression is a very treatable condition. In many cases, psychotherapy alone is sufficient. In others, a combined program of medication and psychotherapy is indicated. With treatment, 80% of depressed people will recover. It is not uncommon for people to obtain relief in a matter of weeks.
Early detection is helpful in treating depression, so if you suspect that you or someone you know may be showing signs, seek out the opinion of a professional. Life is too short and precious to suffer unnecessarily.
Ever Experience Stage Fright or Fear of Public Speaking?
What does the thought of giving a speech or presentation do to you? If you are like the majority of people in this country, your response is less than eager anticipation. In fact, it's probably something you would like to avoid. Yet many of us will be called upon to make some sort of public speech or presentation at some point in our lives. Knowing the psychology of public speaking anxiety can help you make it work for you instead of against you.
Almost everyone, even pros, experience a touch of "stage fright." What happens after that initial sensation of anxiety is the key. For most of us, the initial experience of anxiety or fear prompts our body to release some adrenaline. The adrenaline, in turn, makes our heart rate climb and our breathing sharpen and we may experience sweaty palms and an impaired ability to mentally focus. At this point, part of our brain interprets the adrenaline rush as fear, and if the body is experiencing fear, the next thing that occurs to the brain is that there must be something to be afraid of. This
triggers a feedback loop than can result in ever increasing anxiety or fear.
The key to controlling the problematic feedback loop is the mastery of the initial experience of anxiety. There are psychological methods to do this. Then, rather than being an enemy, the initial "rush" be comes a performance enhancer that can sharpen your wits for the event ahead. Stage fright
is a problem that can usually be dealt with relatively quickly and simply. If you want to learn more about turning anxiety into a strength, call me for a brief consultation at no charge.
Improve Your Performance at Work
It has been estimated that 60-75% of all problems in the workplace have their roots in some type communications failure. When you think about it, it's not all that surprising. We are usually trained to perform some job function and for most of us effective interpersonal communication is not the primary job component. However, it is an important underlying aspect of much of what we do and being good at it can give you a significant advantage. Often it's not the words we say, but how we say them that counts.
Whether or not we are aware of it, most of us have a communication "style." That style has both strengths and weaknesses when it comes to using it with others. Some people will be very receptive to your style, while others may not understand it at all. Learning what the basic styles are and identifying your own preferred style equips you to recognize and adjust for stylistic differences. By recognizing and adjusting, you can become a much more skillful communicator, get your points across more effectively, and avoid misunderstandings that others might not. At my office we can quickly determine your own style as well as ways to recognize other styles. I can also teach you how to use your knowledge of your communication style effectively as well as ways to recognize and maximize your interactions with other styles.
Please call my office for more information on these or any other concerns you may have.
DR. DAVID S. LITTON
Counseling, Psychotherapy, Consultation
I received my undergraduate degree from The University of Virginia and my Masters degree fro m The University of Texas at Austin. My Doctoral training was completed at The University of Texas at Austin. My career has included management and executive development experience as well as individual, couple, and group psychotherapy and performance training.
If for some reason I can't help you, I will refer you to someone who can.