You may be like the clients who enter my office to find help with the anxiety, depression or chronic anger that is interfering with their happiness and overall wellbeing.
They describe a lack of energy, fatigue, sadness, irritability and everything from a general nervousness to all out panic attacks. Some don’t even want to get out of bed anymore. Some know they need to make changes but have no idea where to start. Most feel very alone and burdened with problems.
Anxiety and depression occur together more often than not. They are BFFs. Together they take a toll on every life they touch. You are not unusual or severely disordered somehow if you are feeling both.
As in most of my posts, I am referring here to non-medical related depressions, not those caused by endocrine or hormonal imbalances. This also does not pertain to grief.
When I see clients suffering from anxiety and depression I almost always see the same 6 themes emerge.
1. Fear-Almost no one experiences depression and anxiety without fear being in there somewhere. In fact, it is often this fear that prevents you from being able to make the necessary changes in your life. It may keep you from meeting challenges. It may have put you in the depression/anxiety trap to begin with. It is very likely that it is standing in the way of your happiness.
Ask yourself-Is there something I fear right now that is keeping me unhappy? Examples are things like being afraid to change jobs, change relationships, unending worry about medical problems and the fear of being alone. Fear that you aren’t good enough or smart enough to be doing what you would really like or even just to get through life?
2. Overwhelm and Burnout-These go hand in hand. When you have seriously stressed out for a period of time sometimes your brain just screams “Thats enough!”, and puts you in shut down mode. This is where you don’t want to see people or interact, everything is annoying and makes you angry and the thought of one more task makes you pull the covers over your head.
Ask yourself-Do I manage my time well? Do I draw boundaries or do I take on too much at work or at home? Can I say no? Is my work or home environment a chaotic mess? Can I find the things I need when I need them? Do I need an overhaul in this arena?
3. Stuck thinking, ruminating and dysfunctional thought patterns- These are patterns you have learned through no fault of your own but are keeping you stuck. These happen to everyone from time to time but become a real problem when they keep you from attaining the life that you want. Frustration and anger are common responses as well as the tendency to give up on goals and life in general.
Ask yourself-Do I go over and over troublesome things in my head and never come up with a solution? Do I experience the same guilt, shame, anger or whatever terrible emotion every time I go over the same things? Is my thinking rigid or flexible? How are my problem solving skills? Is there another way to look at my current problems?
4. Social isolation or loneliness-Even if you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you feel heard or supported. You may feel you are facing the world alone and that is a scary thought. You may feel unimportant or rejected. You may not know how to find the friends that will make you feel good about yourself and them. You may be interacting with really toxic people on a day to day basis. You may be afraid to put yourself out there and do what it takes to meet people (back to number 1-Fear).
Ask yourself-Am I lonely more often than not? Are my friends supportive and fun? Do I feel good after being with them or run down? Do I feel close to my partner like I can share my thoughts and feelings without feeling ridiculed or like I am not important? Do we have anything in common or do I have interests I need to seek outside the relationship?
5. Hopelessness-The feeling that nothing can change or will change. This often has it roots in number 3-stuck thinking. The feeling that your life now is how it will be forever.
Ask yourself-Have I given up all hope that I can be happy or have a life I enjoy?
6. Helplessness-The belief that no matter what you do, things will not change. You believe your life is out of your hands and in the hands of your boss, partner or fate. You may feel out of control or like a victim of what is going on around you right now.
Ask yourself-Do I have the skills to change things in my life right now? Are there things I can do to improve something, even if it is a small thing, right away? Do I have or can I make a road map to get me where I want to go?
You can see how the answers to all these questions guide you toward hope and taking control of your life. Nothing feels better than to crawl up out of the gloom and take charge! It doesn’t mean this will always be easy or that every day will be a great day but it does mean you will gain the resilience and emotional strength to get through those times relatively unscathed.
Just knowing where your emotional discomfort is coming from and being able to pinpoint a starting place for recovery makes you feel better.
The answers to those questions should help guide you as to how you can best help yourself. If you realize you are overwhelmed, you can ask for help with scheduling and time management or with boundaries. Depending on how severe you perceive the problem to be you can utilize self help tools or you can call a therapist who specializes in the help you need. The more specific you can be about your issues the faster you can get help. The faster you get help the better you will feel.