How Depression Potentially Shows Up
It is important to be aware of current events, but it can often become a double-edged sword. In today’s environment, it is possible for us to become so informed that we become consumed. And when that happens, it can negatively affect our mental health.
Alkeme Health recently spoke with therapist Arron Muller, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) on the importance of stepping away from trauma.
With social media it is extremely difficult to be unaware of the traumatic experiences happening around us. Oftentimes these experiences include graphic and disturbing images or information. How important is it to disengage from that content?
It’s very important. That consistent and persistent exposure can be very harmful to your mental health. There has to be a balance. Racial tensions continue to exist and with the pandemic, negative information is being talked about all the time. It can be very overwhelming, causing an increase in anxiety and depression. Setting limits and telling yourself, “I’m only going to watch a certain amount of TV or listen to a certain amount of radio” and then cutting it off, is completely okay. It’s important to limit how much you’re watching and listening.
How does the consistent engagement with negative information affect our mental health?
Your brain needs to settle. The continued overabundance of graphic images and vicarious trauma can cause a shift in mood. You never know what can trigger things that happened to you in your past that you may not be aware of. So that’s why it’s important to set limits and say “okay, that’s enough, I’m going to turn it off.” You don’t want to become consumed by it and addicted to watching these images.
It’s often looked down upon to not know the latest news. Why shouldn’t we feel bad about taking a break?
You can see a variation in a number of different areas. You will notice an increase in anxiety and potentially an increase in depression. It depends on the person. Someone may act out more and become aggressive through that frustration. You could see an increase in alcohol or substance use. You may see an increase in eating and changes to your sleep patterns. It can definitely affect your mood and daily function in a negative way.
If we are consuming so much do we run the risk of becoming numb to these events?
Desensitizing, for some, is a coping mechanism. Because of the overexposure, you become numb. That is harmful because now you have lost touch with reality, and you have lost touch with your feelings and emotions. What does that say about our Black people? That they can no longer feel because they’ve seen so many countless people in the neighborhood murdered or killed? Overall, when we become desensitized, we’ve lost touch with ourselves, and that’s harmful.
What are some best practices to balancing our intake? How can we better respect our friends with this information?
We need to be okay with telling our friends that we don’t have the emotional capacity for their story. We naturally just take it on and feel that we have to listen. Let’s become comfortable with saying “no” to what makes us feel bad. Let’s set limits and say, “nah, I can’t hear that right now” and be okay with that. It should also become normal to ask if someone has the space for your story. Preface and say, “this is a really tough story, do you think you can handle it?” That can shift the conversation and the language we use, it also makes the other person aware that you care about their emotions too.
If we are more careful with how we share and spread information it can help us better manage our own triggers. Yes, a story may be interesting or at the top of mind, but it is important to recognize the impact it will have on us and those who are listening. We are strong, but we are not invincible, showing vulnerability to something does not make us weak. It makes us stronger for recognizing what we can and cannot handle at a given time.
As a community, it is of utmost importance that we mentally settle. Take a listen to one of our Waves and block out the unneeded distractions to center you. Your healthy mind will only lead to a healthier community.