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For Anxiety and Depression, Do You Need Therapy, Life Skills or Both?

When you are anxious and depressed it is sometimes very difficult to figure out what is going on. You may have been to many doctors, taken medications, seen many therapists and still you don’t feel any better. Then you start to really feel hopeless and that something must be horribly wrong with your brain and your overall chemistry or you wouldn’t feel this way.

That is not necessarily true. Sometimes the most obvious things can get overlooked. Sometimes a patient can present with a mixed anxiety and depression that no amount of medication or navel gazing can fix. Sometimes you absolutely just haven’t learned the life skills that can help you through the stressful and hard times, not to mention a very busy life with many diverse responsibilities.

There are many reasons you may not have learned these life skills and patterns. You may have come from a dysfunctional family or other background, you may not have been associated with others who have these skills or even known that they are as important in life as brushing your teeth. Your parents most likely did the best they could and taught you what they knew but maybe they didn’t know all the skills themselves. If you didn’t have a mentor of any kind it is likely you did not obtain all of the life skills necessary to conduct a comfortable emotional world of your own.

Sometimes things happen to you and you interpret them incorrectly, thereby responding incorrectly or irrationally and this can set you on a downward spiral. Usually when this happens you are engaging in what psychology calls Dysfunctional Thought Patterns or Cognitve Distortions.

I have found with my clients over the years that there are 8 major skill sets that are necessary for emotional success.

These are:

  1. Skills of resilience and overcoming adversity
  2. Conflict management
  3. Organization
  4. Time management
  5. Social skills-getting along with others, especially in groups
  6. Problem solving-decision making
  7. Learning to focus
  8. Boundary setting

Each of these are critical to our emotional wellbeing. If we cant get along with others in social situations or at work we are going to be lonely and have no support. This spells depression.

If we allow a failed attempt or disheartening situation to overtake our lives, this also spells anxiety and depression. If we cant figure out how to move beyond these by making changes, we remain stuck.

If we cant get ourselves together and face chaos at home, at our desks, in our cars, we are going to¬† be overwhelmed and finally burn out. This also spells anxiety and depression. Ditto if we can’t manage our time and are always running around like crazy but getting nothing done. Not being able to focus is stressful, anxiety provoking and non-productive.

If others continuously run all over us, demand our time and attention and we don’t learn to manage them then we are also facing potential emotional problems. Sometimes these boundaries have to do with our time but there may also be times when they are necessary to protect us from emotional harm or abuse.

This is not to say that all depressions or anxiety issues stem from the lack of life skills, there are certainly some that derive from hormones, brain chemistry and other medical conditions. But not as many as you might think. If you have tried everything but have not added the skill sets listed above you may not be getting the results that you had been hoping for.

When getting treatment for depression and/or anxiety it is always best to consult with your doctor to first rule out any medical conditions that could be the root cause. If you have ruled those out, a therapist can often help you get to the root of problems by examining your life, history, symptoms and coping skills. There are many treatment modes designed to address these issues. Therapists are usually quite good at helping to correct boundary issues, resilience building and social anxieties.

You can also find other great resources on the above skill sets by looking into self help options including online courses, books, life coaches, organizational specialists and other professional helpers. There are books and resources on all of the above, whether you need help in your career arena or personal life, the good thing is that the skill sets usually translate over to both, so once you master them they will help you across the board.

Just by realizing how important these skills are to your day to day living and taking a few steps towards mastery will make you feel better and more in control of your life.

For Anxiety and Depression, Do You Need Therapy, Life Skills or Both?

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Sherman is a licensed psychologist, coach and the author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. Her expertise is in defining, describing and transforming dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns learned in childhood or beyond that keep you anxious, depressed, angry, stuck in unhappy and unproductive relationships, jobs and more. Dr. Sherman developed the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and other free resources to help you determine the effects of these on your life. She works with individuals, conducts live and online workshops and trains others in her programs. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, you can visit her website.

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APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2018). For Anxiety and Depression, Do You Need Therapy, Life Skills or Both?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 May 2018
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