Understanding Anxiety & Depression
you are not alone
Anxiety and depression are the two most common reasons that clients seek therapy. Paradoxically, a hallmark of both conditions is a sense of isolation. Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating, and each individual’s experience is unique. Nevertheless, the associated emotions are fairly universal. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, you are not alone.
what are anxiety and depression?
Most people are familiar with the symptoms of anxiety and depression, but when it comes to identifying root causes, there is much debate in the mental health field. I want to make my theoretical approach clear so that you can make a discerning choice of practitioner.
I take the approach that in the majority of cases*, anxiety and depression are caused by stressful life events. These may range from relationship issues to professional challenges, financial concerns, abuse histories, systemic oppression, ancestral traumas and beyond.
how do anxiety and depression become chronic?
Stressful life experiences trigger the nervous system’s automatic threat response in the form of one or more of the following:
Fight: A defensive response accompanied by anger, aggression.
Flight: An escape response accompanied by fear, alarm.
Freeze: An immobilizing response accompanied by numbness, shutdown.
Appease: A compliant response accompanied by helplessness, submission.
These responses can be highly effective as short-term survival strategies. However, when a threat response is triggered intensely or repeatedly, it can become habitual as the brain learns to react to a wider and wider array of stressors with the same threat response patterns.
Threat responses that activate mobility, such as flight, can lay the groundwork for anxiety, while threat responses that activate immobility, like freeze, can lay the groundwork for depression.
As stress levels rise, the nervous system escalates its response style from mobility to immobility – and anxiety can crash into depression, or one can boomerang back and forth between the two.
THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE!
Just as anxiety and depression patterns can be learned through exposure to intense or repeated stressors, these patterns can also be unlearned. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to replace old patterns and learn new ones through the intake and repetition of new information.
The key to unlearning anxiety and depression is to learn how to feel safe – in your environment and in your body. This may involve:
Developing a greater knowledge of how your nervous system works, so that you understand what you’re experiencing with anxiety and depression.
Creating safety in your relationships and environment by learning how to assert your needs and set clear boundaries.
Unlocking stuck stress patterns in your body by learning to acknowledge, express, and release feelings of anger, sadness and grief. (Often, we first have to work through feelings of fear, guilt and shame.)
Creating safety within your body by learning how to sooth and regulate your nervous system.
what could your future look like?
Learning new ways of being is not always easy. But the rewards can be well worth it. Outcomes of this work may include:
Feeling a greater sense of presence and vitality.
Gaining a sense of safety and ease in your environment and in your body.
Improving the quality of your relationships.
Pursuing career goals with greater confidence.
Greater access to playfulness, curiosity and joy.
Anxiety and depression can feel overwhelming, but they don’t have to be a life sentence! The fact that you’ve found this page lets me know that you have the curiosity and motivation necessary to embark on the path toward greater empowerment, freedom and ease.
READY TO LEARN MORE?
Let’s talk. Click below to set up a free 15-minute phone consultation so that we can discover if working together feels like a good fit.
* There are certain medical conditions and drugs that can cause chronic anxiety and depression, and these should be ruled out before dismissing them – which is possible in the majority of cases.
from Unlearn Your Anxiety and Depression by Dr. Howard Schubiner:
“Chronic or recurring anxiety can be caused by … hyper-thyroidism (over-activity of the thyroid gland), carcinoid syndrome (a rare condition caused by a tumor in the intestine), pheochromocytoma (a rare tumor of the adrenal gland), certain neurological disorders, or by medications or drugs that can cause anxiety, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and excessive caffeine intake.”
Depression can be caused by “low thyroid function, low testosterone levels, low pituitary or adrenal levels, anemia and a few other conditions that cause low energy, fatigue, and lack of interest in activities… Side effects of certain medications, including the benzodiazepines, certain hormones such as birth control pills, and some blood pressure medications, can also cause depression.”