Depression and Anxiety Counseling and Therapy
We often use the words “anxious” and “depressed” in our casual conversation and this is because they are both normal emotional experiences. It is normal to feel a little anxiety around an upcoming presentation, new social situations, or even a dangerous situation and it is normal to feel depressed when one experiences loss, disappointment, or an upsetting circumstance.
These normal human emotions can become a disorder when they are experienced over an extended length of time. This can have a negative impact on one’s ability to function day to day resulting in a decrease in one health and well-being
What is Depression?
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It is estimated that 17 million Americans have had at least one major depressive episode in the last year. It can result in serve impairments that limit one’s ability to carry out many life activities.
Anyone can experience depression without it becoming a disorder. If your depression symptoms though are getting in the way of you being able to enjoy your life counselling can offer tools and skills to help you overcome it and boost one’s well-being.
Common Depression Symptoms
- Feeling sad, empty or despair
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling like a burden on others
- Feeling excessively guilty or even for no apparent reason
- No interest or pleasure in activities
- Anger and irritability
- Feeling tired and a loss of energy
- Unable to do everyday tasks
- Insomnia or lack of sleep
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Lack of appetite or overeating and weight gain
- Aches, pains, and physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, muscle and body pain)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression turns into a problem when an individual experiences a depressed mood and or loss of interest in or pleasure in daily activities that last over an extended period of time. It also includes a majority of specified symptoms such as problems with sleep, energy, eating, concentration and self-worth.
There are some unique types of depression that people can experience that are linked to their current life events or their environment.
Your body and mind go through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy. Many moms experience the “baby blues” after having their baby or they may feel sad or empty a few days after birth, but it often goes away within 3-5 days. If these feelings of emptiness, sadness and/or hopelessness last longer than two weeks you may be experiencing postpartum depression. You may experience feeling unconnected to your baby or feel you are not able to care for or love your baby. This can become a serious mental illness that involves the brain and affects your behaviour and physical health as it impacts your day-to-day life.
Grief and Loss
Many people experience depression symptoms after experiencing a loss, this is normal and should not be considered a disorder. Although some people may benefit from support in processing larger losses. We live in a culture where it can be hard to feel safe and okay to experience difficult emotions that are related to grief and loss. It is normal sometimes to want some support or to have a safe space to feel and know everything you are experiencing is okay.
For some people, the feelings of grief do not subside with time and in these cases, it might be helpful to reach out to someone to help guide you in learning to live with your grief in a way that does not impact your ability to function and enjoy your life. Although, the ones we lose will always be with us and it can take a bit to adjust to a world without them. If you are feeling alone in this process, it might feel good to reach out and have some support in this transition.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress and can manifest itself in a number of different ways and for different reasons. It helps us get prepared for the challenges that lay ahead of us. A little bit of stress or anxiety can help us perform better and helps warn us about danger and supports our survival.
It is normal to have some anxiety around making a speech, having an exam, going on a first date can be a source of nervousness. However, when it becomes chronic or not connected to specific scenarios it could be pointing to someone thing more serious. Here are some physical and mental signs your anxiety may be becoming more extreme.
Anxiety can cause excessive worry or having a sense of dread. The anxious feeling can stem from workplaces, school, personal relationships, social interactions, health, or finances to name a few. You may know you are experiencing anxiety when the feelings of worry do not end after the original trigger. You may find it hard to control feelings of worry and stress even when you realize they may be irrational or too extreme given the current situation.
Difficulty Sleeping and Restlessness
It is common for anxiety to keep people awake at night as they review daily stressors or tomorrows’ to-do lists. When you review stressful events, you activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” system making it impossible for your body to relax enough to fall asleep. Learning to calm one’s mind will help the body access the parasympathetic nervous system connected to sleep which is an essential part of one’s mental health and well-being. Although anxiety may keep one from sleeping if this continues it will create more stress and anxiety on the mind and body as it has no time to reset and restore functioning which creates a cycle of more anxiety.
Even if you are able to fall asleep and get enough of it some people may still feel fatigued throughout the day or become easily tired. This is to do the stress anxiety puts on the mind and body which can lead to feelings of burnout and exhaustion that sleep does not fix. High levels of anxiety over time tax the mind and body making one more susceptible to depression as well which is why these disorders often co-occur. Learning how to regulate the nervous system and decrease anxiety is an important part of healing.
Concentration and Focus Issues
When you experience chronic stress and anxiety your brain is in survival mode due to the activation of the sympathetic “fight or flight” system that cuts off access to your prefrontal lobes the problems solving, abstract thinking part of your brain. Without access to this part of your brain it is hard to concreate, focus, problem solve and learn new things. It is important to help your body’s nervous system to regulate better to improve focus and help access more flow.
Since the body and mind are under a lot of stress from chronic anxiety it often leads to people being more on edge. It is common to lash out more at others or to be easily caught off guard when one’s mind and body is in anxiety. This can have a negative impact on one’s social life and relationships.
Feelings of Terror or Impending Doom
This feeling can be very terrorizing and paralyzing. It is the feeling that something bad is about to happen. This feeling can appear out of nowhere and although it might go away in a few minutes for some it can stay and be out of touch with reality and disproportionate to the events in one’s life.
Since anxiety is connected to our body’s survival network there are a number of physical symptoms connected to anxiety and stress. Here are a few symptoms to be aware of that will help you be able to identify anxiety in your own body.
Increased Heart Rate and Palpitations
Our heart rate is connected to our “fight or flight” response and thus can be felt when experiencing heightened stress. When faced with a stressful event one may feel their heart rate go up or it may become to feel irregular. This is very common in social anxiety or those who experience panic attacks.
Shallow Chest Breathing
One’s breathing is also often affected by anxiety and stress. When the “fight or flight” response is activated, breathing can become more shallow and in one’s chest. There may also be the feeling of not getting enough oxygen into the lungs and there could be a tightness or pain in the chest. How we breathe can also impact how we feel, learning how to breathe through one’s nose and using one’s stomach and diaphragm muscles can help decrease anxiety in the body and mind.
Sweating and Hot Flashes
An increase in heart rate is often accompanied by increased body temperature and blood pressure. You may find yourself warming up or becoming sweaty when experiencing stress and anxiety
Trembling and Shaking
Anxiety can also be felt as shaking uncontrollably especially in the hands. The shot of adrenaline that is accompanied by the “fight or flight” response can be felt throughout the body as tremours or shaking.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This involved chronic worry and tension even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: This disorder is characterized by recurrent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and or repetitive behaviours (compulsions) that are performed in hopes of preventing or obsessive thoughts or making them go away. The rituals only cause temporary relief through and not performing them results in increased anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This disorder can develop after exposure to terrifying or emotionally distressing events that may have threatened or caused physical and mental harm. Common events that can trigger PTSD include assault, physical and sexual abuse war, accidents, natural disasters, terrorism, etc.
Panic Disorder: This disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms of heart palpitation, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress and fear of embarrassment, heart attack or feeling like one is dying.
Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-conciseness in everyday social situations.
Treating Anxiety and Depression with Counseling and Therapy
Depression is often treated with medications called antidepressants and therapy. Antidepressants will not cure depression, but they can help provide one with enough stability to get someone into healthy routines and patterns needed to boost one’s mood and well-being. If one is unable to make positive changes to one’s lifestyle often medication can help boost one in the right direction.
Anxiety is less easily treated with medication. Although there are some forms of medication you can use to help with anxiety many of them are “as needed” or for instances of emergencies. It is important to learn different tools and skills that can help the body regulate.
During counselling, a therapist will use “talk therapy” to help you understand and work through the problems and issues that are negatively impacting your life. A therapist will listen, and provide you with feedback, unique insight and help you develop strategies to cope and access more well-being.
Counsellors will help evaluate your progress and adjust your sessions accordingly. You may be given homework that helps you progress quicker and continue to learn and grow between sessions.
Therapeutic Approaches For Anxiety and Depression
There are a number of different therapeutic approaches that can help learn to work with and overcome extreme feelings of anxiety and depression. Here are some common approaches used:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This form of therapy blends behavior and cognitive approaches to help people modify patterns of thoughts and behaviors to change moods. It is based on the idea that negative actions or feelings are a result of disordered thoughts and beliefs. Therapists help one recognize negative thought patterns or distorted perceptions that may be leading to anxiety and depression. Once self-defeating thought patterns and beliefs are recognized they can be changes to more constructive ones.
Healthy Lifestyle Interventions
Creating healthy habits that take care of one’s mental, emotional, and physical health will decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. Exercise can be as effective as medication in treating anxiety and depression. Healthy lifestyle habits include incorporating more fun, engaging in creative activities, life skills, hobbies, healthy eating, social activities and cultivating healthy relationships and social activities.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness-based therapy helps individuals cultivate a mental state that includes non-judgement awareness of the present moment experience including one’s thoughts, sensations, bodily states, consciousness, and environment. This form of therapy invites curiosity, openness and acceptance of oneself and others.
This form of therapy helps people change the way they respond to and process stressors making them less overwhelming resulting in greater resilience. Additional relaxation techniques such as mindful breathing, body scans, and yoga can help alleviate distressing physical symptoms and balance the body’s nervous system.
Identifying and Processing Underlying Causes
Therapists can help identify underlying issues such as trauma that may also be contributing to the feelings of anxiety and depression. Once these underlying conditions are recognized and treated depression and anxiety often decrease. Anxiety and depression symptoms also often accompany a number of other mental health disorders and learning how to manage and better cope with life stressors can help in all areas of life.
Benefits of Counseling For Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety and depression can hold one back from being able to enjoy one’s life. They can limit your ability to go after your dreams and desires. They can limit your ability to be present in your life and be able to enjoy your accomplishments and successes. Developing the insight, tools and skills to understand and overcome your anxiety and depression can open up your world.
Here are some of the main benefits of receiving counselling for anxiety and depression.
- Learn effective positive ways to handle day-to-day life
- Reduce overall stress
- Accomplish more with greater ease and flow
- Gain relief from mental and physical trauma
- Boost your well-being and happiness
- Develop a new mindset and perspective on life
- Increase your self-awareness and self-compassion
- Develop greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- Develop better time management skills and increase productivity
- Build and repair meaningful relationships
- Greater resilience and ability to bounce back from life setbacks
If you are in need of counseling for relationships and are in the Fort Worth, Keller, Southlake, Alliance, Texas areas, reach out today.