It’s normal to feel anxious or depressed especially when facing challenges in life. But when does it become a cause for concern and when should you get professional help? Dr Victor Kwok, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Psychiatry, and Ms Evangeline Tan, Senior Principal Psychologist and Head, Department of Psychology, both specialists from Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group, give insights into these health conditions.

"In small doses, anxiety can be beneficial. It can motivate us to take action, like studying for exams or pay attention to areas of our life that may not be going well, such as a stressful work situation," says Ms Tan.

Anxiety can also help us to be more cautious, especially during current times, as it motivates us to stay home more, avoid crowds, and wear masks all the time.

ANXIETY & DEPRESSION

When does anxiety or depression become a problem?

Seek professional help when your anxiety or depression starts to become overwhelming or unmanageable, or when it starts to interfere with your daily life. Approach your family doctor, polyclinic doctor or a counsellor at your neighbourhood family service centre for an assessment.

"Some degree of anxiety is normal especially as we navigate our way through life in times like these (during a pandemic and economic recession). But seek help if you find your anxiety getting in the way of your daily functioning," shares Ms Tan.

When to seek help

Consider help for anxiety disorders if you are:

  • Having anxiety for a prolonged time, even when the situation or problem has been resolved
  • Spending a lot of time worrying over common everyday issues, and knowing it is excessive but unable to control it
  • Having anxiety levels that do not match the levels your peers would generally have in similar situations
  • Avoiding school, taking time off work, and withdrawing from social relationships
  • Seeking a lot of reassurance from family and friends
  • Experiencing very intense reactions like panic attacks
  • Having difficulty sleeping, concentrating or focusing

Consider help for depression if you are:

  • Feeling sad on most days for more than two weeks
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Experiencing changes in your sleep pattern and/or appetite
  • Poor concentration, tiredness
  • Feeling that life has no meaning
  • Having disruptions to your day-to-day activities like work or school or looking after family are affected

What to do if you experience a relapse

People with depression or anxiety disorders may face higher risk of relapse due to the additional stress brought on by COVID-19. Having less personal space and getting into more arguments due to work-from-home arrangements, worrying about getting infected, and increased anxiety from financial hardship are common triggers that have worsened mental health conditions for some people.

Other factors that can trigger relapses

  • Stopping medication prematurely or not taking medication as prescribed
  • Being under a lot of stress at work or school
  • Conflict in relationships with friends, loved ones and family members
  • Major life events like moving house, starting a new job/school, death of loved ones

Being aware of triggers can help in managing conditions better. Seek help early if you notice the return of symptoms experienced from previous episodes of depression or anxiety. Your doctor will be able to help confirm if you are having a relapse, monitor your symptoms closely, and discuss if there is a need to restart medication or therapy.

This article was adapted from Skoop magazine (issue 7).

Ref: L20

See the next page for how to manage anxiety and depression.

See page 3 to learn about treatment of anxiety and depression and tips to manage your emotions.

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20 Stress-Busting Tips from Psychiatrists

How to Better Manage Emotions at Work

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