Michelle Obama’s talk of low-grade depression inspires others to seek help during pandemic

Coronavirus

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WNTH) — Throughout the pandemic, people’s lives have been impacted in many ways. Low-grade depression is one condition that many are not always comfortable talking about, but when former First Lady Michelle Obama addressed experiencing it on her podcast, many felt relieved.

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“Low-grade depression is not a clinical term; it is used to describe, does not meet the full criteria for a diagnosis,” according to Dr. Andre Newfield, Chair of Psychiatry at Hartford Healthcare‘s Saint Vincent’s Medical Center.

“COVID has taken away a lot of our coping mechanisms that we’ve normally come to rely on, and have sort of disrupted our routines and our schedules in these major ways,” Dr. Newfield adds.

Dr. Newfield is seeing both men and women experiencing low-grade depression and even though it is not a clinical term it is very real to those dealing with it.

He says people are creatures of habit so losing life’s normal routines can rob people of their happy feelings.

He advises creating new routines.

“Getting up at the same time approximately every day and making sure that you’re eating regularly and healthily. Making sure that you’re getting time for exercise and fun, you’re socializing, and if you can’t do so in-person doing so over Zoom,” says Dr. Newfield.

As for the stigma of experiencing any type of mental illness, he says knowing others are going through it during the pandemic is very encouraging.

“There is a bit of a normalizing force when you have someone like Michelle Obama on her podcast telling people this is what I was experiencing.”

He says treatments that people are comfortable with vary.

“I think some people are just scared of pharmaceuticals and want to just be able to tell somebody about what they’re experiencing and have some empathy, so talk-therapy and supportive-therapy can be really helpful,” adds Dr. Newfield.

He says drug treatments tend to work on one-third of people, and trial and error can be necessary to find the right fit and results. Dr. Newfield adds that primary care doctors are a good first line at trying a treatment or drug, but if they can’t find relief a psychiatric professional may be needed.

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