Don’t Feed the Monster

A common issue which people bring to therapy is their experience of anxiety and/or depression.  This article will discuss the signs, symptoms and treatment options for anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression can be extremely overwhelming and it may feel as though you have no control over them. However, with the right support, you can learn to respond in different ways to the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, which in turn gives you control over them. The truth is, that we cannot control the thoughts and feelings we have, but we can learn to control our response to them. In this way, we are not working to eradicate anxiety/depression completely, that would be impossible. Instead, we are working on learning the skills to cope with them, helping us to regain a sense of wellbeing in our lives.

Typically, when people talk to me about the skills, they have been using to try manage the anxiety/depression they experience, what I hear are techniques which give immediate relief but unfortunately make the illnesses more severe in the longer term. Think of anxiety/depression as a monster and rather than feeding it (with immediate relief techniques), you want to learn to cut off its sustenance supply so it does not get any bigger. If a person experiencing social anxiety avoids a social event, this may give temporary relief (phew!) but it will make the next social event even more daunting.

What is Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety, at a basic level, is a feeling or fear, unease or worry. It is completely normal to feel anxious at times and it can even be a useful feeling. If I am anxious about an upcoming job interview, I am probably going to be motivated to prepare for it. However, for some people, feelings of anxiety become a regular part of their everyday lives and can interfere with relationships, work and homelife.

The World Health Organisation describe depression as “a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite. Tiredness and poor concentration are common.”

It is common for people to simultaneously experience both anxiety and depression; in fact, it is rare to find one without the other.

Causes of Anxiety and Depression

There is no one specific identified cause for anxiety or depression but there are a number of different factors which can contribute. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics – If you have a family history of anxiety or depression, you are at a higher risk of developing the same.
  • Hormonal changes – Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy, adolescence and peri/menopause can cause anxiety and depression.
  • New or increased stress – A lot of stress can cause anxiety and depression.
  • Major life events – Major life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, retirement or moving to a new place, can also cause anxiety and depression.

Common Treatments for Anxiety and Depression

There are various types of treatments available for anxiety and depression today. Treatment outcomes will differ from person to person, as they will depend on many variables such as; the level of the illness being treated, the capacity of the individual and the motivation of the individual to engage with the treatment.

  • Medication – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely used type of antidepressant used to treat anxiety and depression and are often suggested to use with a talking therapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Therapy – There are many different types of therapy. The right therapy for you will depend on your specific needs but CBT has been proven to be most effective
  • Mindfulness – Studies show that mindfulness can help with anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can be incorporated into CBT as a form of therapy and again, has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety and depression.

Healthy habits that help with anxiety and depression

  • Exercise – engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week could significantly improve depressive and anxiety symptoms. To date, the strongest evidence seems to support aerobic exercise such as; running, swimming, walking, hiking, aerobics classes, dancing, cross-country skiing, and kickboxing.
  • Eating healthy – eating a healthy diet can help improve your mental health
  • Get enough sleep – do not underestimate the power of getting enough sleep. When you do not get quality sleep, it throws your brain chemistry out of whack. It is harder to think clearly and manage your feelings. That can sap your will to get things done and cause mood swings.
  • Spend time with friends – social connections are important to our sense of wellbeing, spending time with people you trust can help your mental health
  • Self-Care – spend time engaging in activities that make you feel good but don’t stop there, practice positive self-talk. Be kind to yourself and show yourself compassion

Contact Emma today to make a booking and learn how to manage anxiety/depression you experience

Categories: Counselling


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