Dr. Barbara Rexer, DSW, Executive Director of Advanced Health & Education, Shares 5 Tips to Recognize Early Signs of Depression

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Advanced Health & Education, an addiction treatment center specializing in treating co-occurring mental health disorders, is sharing ways New Jersey residents can spot early signs of depression, a disorder that affects more than 57,000 people in the state.

With more than 15 years of experience in the fields of mental health and substance use, Executive Director Dr. Barbara Rexer, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, ICCS, DRCC, has seen many of the ways that people can struggle with depression. Not all of them are obvious, she says.

“Even those who have suffered from depression or anxiety before may have a hard time recognizing the symptoms when they resurface,” she explains. “When you add a traumatic event, like the pandemic, or co-occurring issues like substance use, it can be even more challenging.”

After a year of financial strain and social isolation, many Americans are still feeling the emotional toll of COVID-19. According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of people who reported symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder have tripled since the pandemic. Many more have suffered without understanding their symptoms.

To help those who may be struggling with depression in silence, she offers these five tips to recognize early signs:

1. Look at your spending.

Your buying habits can help you spot patterns in your behavior that, taken alone, may not feel like a problem at the time. Is that impulse pack of cigarettes becoming an ongoing purchase? Are you ordering takeout more often because you don’t feel like cooking? An honest look at your spending can help you catch signs that you’re not feeling quite like yourself.

2. Keep a diary.

Anxiety or depression can often feel like the result of external factors. Writing down how you feel can help you recognize when feelings of depression become a pattern — and not just a response to occasional stress.

3. Track your sleep.

Sleep quality is another helpful indicator of your mental health. Most people recognize insomnia as a problem, but getting too much sleep can also be a sign of depression, Dr. Rexer says. “If you find that it’s hard to get out of bed, or you’ve struggled to stay focused during the day over a period of two weeks or more, this is a sign to seek help.”

4. Eat mindfully.

Paying attention to changes in your appetite can also help you spot early signs of depression. Notably, not everyone reacts in the same way. Some people lose their appetite; others engage in emotional eating. Understanding your own behavior can give help you stay attuned to your mental health.

5. Ask friends and family for help.

Finally, Dr. Rexer recommends building your support system to help you recognize changes in your behavior that can be difficult to see in yourself. “The people who know us best can be our biggest resource,” she says. “When we don’t feel like ourselves, we don’t act like ourselves, either.”

For anyone who has struggled with substance use, becoming attuned to early signs of a mental health disorder can help to avoid relapse, Dr. Rexer says.

“Sobriety is a lifelong process that involves your whole health. When you’re facing the challenge of a mental health disorder, it’s harder to stay in a recovery mentality.”

To learn more about how mental health and addiction intersect, or to get more information about recovery for yourself or a loved one, get in touch at (732) 348-0705.

About Advanced Health and Education
Advanced Health and Education, a Sprout Health Group facility, is an accredited drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, located in Eatontown, New Jersey. With more than 40 years of experience, the staff provides a complete milieu of counseling services with a full range of therapy programs at a state-of-the-art facility. At Advanced Health and Education, each client is assigned a team of multidisciplinary professionals to plan, implement, and monitor every phase of the recovery process.

About Sprout Health Group
Sprout Health Group is a nationwide network of licensed, accredited treatment facilities for mental health disorders, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders. Led by medical experts in behavioral health and psychiatry, Sprout utilizes the most advanced therapeutic treatment methods and evidence-based treatments to promote long-term recovery and wellness. New Jersey facilities include Advanced Health and Education (www.advhealth.com) in Eatontown and Endeavor House North (www.endeavorhouse.com) in Kearny. Both are licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Licensing and accredited by the Joint Commission. To learn more, visit www.sprouthealthgroup.com