The people I see are often experiencing difficulties in work, school, relationships, or with family. They may have been recently diagnosed with or experiencing ongoing chronic health conditions (e.g., chronic pain, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis). They may be recently separated or divorced or experiencing other stressful life situations. Some patients may be engaging in addictive behaviors (e.g., smoking, excessive alcohol use, drug use, or gambling) that are interfering with their quality of life.
Health behaviors affecting quality of life (e.g., sleep, exercise, nutrition) are common experiences that prompt a request for guidance.
Many patients are experiencing very successful lives by most people’s standards and are not satisfied with their level of stress or happiness.
In therapy, we learn that the unpleasant emotions we experience can be validated as healthy brain activity. Yes…anxiety and depression are evidence of healthy brain activity. We also learn that we can shift our attention toward responding in a way that builds confidence in our ability to thrive, flourish, and be great in our own lives. We cannot control everything that happens to us in our lives. We can, however, substantially influence how people respond to us and create the space we need for ourselves to practice being consistent with the life we want.
Depression & Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are terms used to describe what our brain may create when attempting to learn from the past and plan for the future in an unhelpful way. These experiences are evidence of healthy brain behavior; everybody experiences anxiety and depression.
In therapy. we can practice recognizing how our unpleasant emotional experiences are associated with unhelpful language. We can also practice using helpful language and healthy behavior consistent with what is important to us. This different way of being allows us to build confidence in responding to what happens in our lives in healthy ways that are consistent with our priorities and how we want to be in our lives.
Anxiety and depression are typically created and maintained by avoidance of unpleasant emotions and physical sensations. While avoidance helps us engage in what seems like a productive activity, it occurs at the expense of effort and energy we could be putting into learning how to live a happy, healthy life.
Anxiety and depression are common when we experience loss of jobs, health, or relationships or encounter new situations with challenging responsibilities. Panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, specific phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are psychiatric diagnoses that can largely be explained by healthy brain activity attempting to keep us out of harm’s way…and, can substantially interfere with value-based living.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorder are often accompanied by significant anxiety and depression that interferes with adhering to effective management of these chronic health conditions.
Substance use disorders, like other conditions described here, result from both genetic and experiential factors that limit anyone’s ability to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Like many others, I am familiar with the paralyzing effects of anxiety and depression due to severe addiction to alcohol, narcotics, and nicotine.