- According to a new survey, 29% of U.S. adults report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime – and this number is 10 percentage points higher than results from 2015.
- With roughly 258 million adults in the country, that comes out to about 75 million Americans who have had depression.
- Actress Gwyneth Paltrow experienced postpartum depression after her second child was born in 2006.
- She got through it by making lifestyle changes, including going to therapy and focusing on exercise and sleep. She also stopped drinking alcohol.
- Prioritizing your mental health is important. Some ways to do that are seeking professional help if you are struggling, trying therapy, seeking medication and practicing mindfulness/meditation.
- Medication isn’t necessary for everyone, but one of our experts says genetic testing can help determine the best course of mental health treatment for people struggling with issues like anxiety and depression.
According to the survey conducted by the analytics and advisory company Gallup, 29% of U.S. adults report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime – and this number is 10 percentage points higher than results from 2015.Read More
“Social isolation, loneliness, fear of infection, psychological exhaustion (particularly among front-line responders such as healthcare workers), elevated substance abuse and disruptions in mental health services have all likely played a role.”
Thankfully, there are ways to work through mental health illnesses like depression. And Paltrow’s experience with postpartum depression sets a great example for people to look to if they’re feeling overwhelmed by a depression diagnosis.
How Gwyneth Paltrow Overcame Postpartum Depression
Gwyneth Paltrow had two children with her first husband, Coldplay singer Chris Martin, 46. She says she experienced postpartum depression after her second child was born in 2006.
Expert Mental Health Resources
Postpartum depression is a long-lasting form of depression that develops in some mothers during pregnancy or after giving birth. The Mayo Clinic says it may be mistaken for the more common experience of “baby blues” at first, but postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms are more intense and last longer.
Signs of postpartum depression can include:
- A depressed mood
- Severe mood swings
- Persistent crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Loss of appetite or eating in excess
- Sleep issues
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Less interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear of being a bad mother
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Trouble thinking clearly, concentrating or making decisions
- Severe anxiety or panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Paltrow’s doctor tried to put her on medication once she was diagnosed with postpartum depression, but Paltrow decided she wanted to try making lifestyle changes first.
“And I thought, if I need them, then yes, I’ll come back to it, but I wanna first try and see — because, of course, I had done some research on them and I think they are lifesavers for certain people, for sure — but I thought, well, what if I went to therapy and I started exercising again, and I stopped drinking alcohol and I just gave myself, like, a period of regeneration and I slept more? And it really broke me out of it,” Paltrow said.
There is nothing wrong with mothers turning to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to treat PPD. But in the case of Paltrow, lifestyle changes proved to be an effective way for her to feel better.
RELATED: Your Mental Health Data Is For Sale Says New Report — The Fappening Of Mental Health — How To Protect Yourself
“I think it was just all those little threads from my life that came together and made it really clear to me that it’s OK to try to turn inward, listen inward, and put faith that the body knows how to heal itself if you are willing to sit with what’s there. And sometimes it’s really dark and scary and painful,” Paltrow said.
“[But] I came to understand that if you delve into it, that’s how you move through it.”
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health isn’t always easy, but it should always be a priority. One place to start is simply being aware of how you’re feeling and reflecting on any changes you’ve noticed in your emotions or behaviors.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you should see a professional if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Struggling to leave bed in the morning because of your mood
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
- Inability to perform normal daily functions and responsibilities
It’s important to try to get help before your symptoms of a mental health issue become overwhelming. Talk with your primary care doctor about any concerns you’re having, so they can refer you to a mental health professional if needed.
How to Fix Relationships When Depression Hits – A Survivors Guide
Therapy can also be a way of taking care of your mental health. But know you might need to shop around for the right therapist. Ovarian cancer survivor Ni Guttenfelder says finding the right counselor allowed her to work through the complex emotions of her cancer battle.
“One of the things that my counselor has taught me from the very beginning that has helped me is the concept of acceptance,” she said. “Acceptance is a process. It’s like downloading a computer file in increments. Visualizing it in that way has really helped me.”
Ovarian Cancer Survivor Stresses the Importance of Finding the Right Counselor to Support You Through Your Journey
Meditation and practicing mindfulness can also be great tools in mental health care. Dr. Deepak Chopra, acclaimed author and pioneer of mindfulness movement, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about mindfulness. He says asking yourself who you are is the first step on the path to practicing mindfulness.
“If we can combine our actions in the world with reflective self inquiry, love and compassion, and a state of secure, stable, ornamental, peaceful being without the addictions that humans have, then we can begin our journey of healing,” Dr. Chopra explained.
Dr. Brian Berman, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at University of Maryland, takes SurvivorNet through a guided meditation
In addition, medications can also help people with a mental health illness. They are not necessary for everyone, but medications can make a difference. And there should be no shame attached to taking them.
That being said, it can be tricky to find the right one – and your needs may change over time. Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik says genetic testing through Genomind can help. It gives a profile of how a person is likely to respond to different types of psychiatric medications.
MORE: How Can Genetic Testing Help Determine the Right Form of Mental Health Treatment?
“Doing the genetic testing has absolutely transformed the landscape of psycho-pharmacology,” Dr. Plutchik told SurvivorNet. “It’s something that I highly recommend for anybody that is taking medication, whether they are being treated for cancer, or not.
“I recommend it for children who are taking medication. I recommend it for elderly people. Anybody who is taking medication, I think, can greatly benefit from genetic testing.”
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.