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For many, the new year is a time to imagine great possibilities. Sadly, there are others of us who struggle to get into the spirit, whose depression and anxiety is even exacerbated by the turn of that first calendar page. During this heightened time, the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, or any big life change that may have happened during the previous year can cause overwhelming feelings that can manifest as crying spells, irritability, fatigue, sleeping more often, insomnia, panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts.
It is essential to remember that, even when things seem hopeless, they’re not. These emotions are not uncommon and are treatable. You don’t have to feel miserable for an indefinite amount of time. Irma Acosta, PA-C, an experienced, bilingual physician assistant at Apopka Family Practice, says that after starting treatment and following up a month later, patients more often than not feel tremendous relief and are glad they decided to do something about their mood.
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No shame. You don’t need a reason to be depressed or anxious. Sometimes you just are. Needing help doesn’t make you weak. “Some of my patients come in saying they don’t know why they can’t just snap out of it, that they have nothing to be sad about,” Acosta says. “But depression and anxiety are medical conditions that need treatment, just like you would seek help for hypertension or diabetes.”
Sad vs. Depressed. It is normal to sometimes be sad or “stressed,” when life is difficult. But when those symptoms begin to affect your life, you should reach out to your primary care physician for help. Do you feel withdrawn, angry, or have a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed? “During an office visit, I will typically listen as the patient talks about how their mood is affecting their life, and I’ll talk about treatment options,” Acosta says. “The patient and l will then decide on a course of treatment together.”
You have options. Treatment options might include:
- Referral to a psychologist or counselor. “Sometimes talking through the emotions and underlying issues can make a tremendous difference to a patient. Just the feeling of being ‘heard’ is very important,” Acosta says. “For religious patients, Florida Hospital’s spiritual counselors can call and pray with a patient, as well as connect the patient to local churches in the area who might offer free counseling.”
- Clinical depression is a medical issue and can be greatly relieved by medication. “Some patients are concerned that starting a medication for their mood may turn them into a ‘zombie’ or might make them dependent on the medication,” Acosta says. “The truth is that many of the medications we use these days can be tolerated easily; are not sedating; and are safe to use for as long as the patient needs, as long as they comply with routine monitoring.”
Don’t tough it out. “If someone is anxious or depressed during this time of year, it’s not unlikely that they have a chronic condition which was simply exacerbated due to the holidays and all the changes January brings,” Acosta says. “Ongoing issues should absolutely be addressed in a doctor’s office visit.”
Sometimes anxiety and depression can become so severe that a person may consider taking their own life. Signs of someone having suicidal ideations include: verbalizing their wish, thinking/talking about how they would do it, or withdrawing from their significant others/friends. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call 911.
Make an appointment for your next health screening with Irma Acosta, PA-C, at FHMedicalGroup.com, or call (407) 886-1300.
Irma Acosta is a certified physician assistant at Apopka Family Practice who is fluent in English and Spanish. Working with Dr. Rae Ringenberg, her clinical specialties include depression, anxiety, weight loss, skin cancer screening and well-woman exams. The practice provides compassionate care for patients ages two years and older, and has same-day appointments and extended office hours.