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Dysfunction Interrupted- Conquer the Underlying Aspects of Depression and Anxiety

If you go through each day in a whirlwind of emotions, particularly negative ones, that are interfering with your ability to achieve happiness, a good relationship or career success you may not even know why.

I find that my clients who regularly experience emotions or conditions such as chronic anger, depression or anxiety are not able to really put their finger on where it comes from, making it almost impossible to eliminate. They describe these feelings as just being a part of their way of life. These feelings are not only problematic, they create behaviors that steal quality of life and joy. If these feelings are dictating your day to day life you are being cheated.

Many times these negative emotional patterns or this emotional baggage latches on to you early in life. You may have a dysfunctional family of some type or a dysfunctional parent or background that influenced you in negative ways. You may have picked up on dysfunctional thinking patterns that are hindering your current development. I find it is usually the thinking patterns that keep people stuck and unhappy, and they aren’t hard to change once you are aware of them. They do not change what you may have experienced but give you the tools to move forward and enjoy the rest of your life.

The aspects or conditions discussed here do not pertain to medical based depressions or serious mental illness like schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. If you are under a doctor’s care these suggestions do not take the place of his/her treatment with you.

So what are the underlying aspects of depression, anxiety? What should you focus on first?

Anxiety– a lifetime of anxiety usually stems from fear. A deep underlying fear and lack of confidence in yourself to address whatever may come your way. Sometimes these fears latch on to specific things like driving or doing things alone just to have a specific thing to focus on. It makes more sense that way. But those particular things are usually not the real culprit.

If confidence in yourself or the ability to trust yourself and your decisions is a problem, find ways to develop these abilities. There are many self help resources or you can work with a therapist or coach. Often these confidence issues coexist with low self esteem.

Anxious clients tend to do well with order and organization. The feeling of being at least somewhat in control. If you are a chaotic mess right now it will benefit you to address that problem right away. Time management fits in that category.

What is it you fear most? What is your worst case life scenario that keeps you up at night? Is it anything you can do something about? Taking steps toward problem solving puts you in a position of control, calming the brain a bit as it then has a concrete problem to solve, not an arbitrary idea floating around.

Are you in a situation you need to get out of? Your brain will be anxious if you are in a toxic relationship or other situation as it is on high alert to protect you.  Don’t look for problems within yourself, look for a solution to getting on the right track. There is nothing wrong with your brain, it is doing what it is supposed to do.

Are you challenging yourself? Interestingly enough, a brain that is not working to capacity can cause you difficulties. If left to its own devices with no particular focus it may grasp some and the ones it grasps may not be fun or pleasant! It may latch on to your health, cause you to ruminate on past negatives or get you into trouble! It needs fodder.

How is your health? Studies show that sleep and exercise play a role in keeping anxiety under control.  Make sure you are getting enough of both.

Depression as well can stem from disorder in your life and often walks a fine line with anxiety, creating a double whammy of toxic emotions filling your days. Again, if you are a chaotic mess with disorganization and poor time management skills you are likely to get overwhelmed and depression can set in. What your brain is doing at this point is asking for a rest, or demanding one by attempting to reduce the  incoming stimulus. That is why you don’t feel like being around others, dislike noise and just want to hop in bed. Time to declutter.

If you are in a toxic situation or relationship it is the same as with anxiety, you know you shouldn’t be there and its not good for you but maybe you don’t know a way out or there are circumstances right now prohibiting it. You are likely to be experiencing a certain level of despair or hopelessness at your situation. You can help yourself by getting a plan in place. Just the first efforts at taking control will make you feel better and instill hope, even if you know the end result is a ways down the road. You are choosing to bide your time, you are not being made a victim of someone’s toxicity. You are now living life on your terms and that slight change in perception can make a world of difference.

Same goes for a toxic or unhappy job or career. You may need to stay there for now for financial reasons but having a road map to an end game of your choosing puts you in a better place mentally. There are many resources for choosing and changing careers no matter what age you are.

If you have had a loss or are experiencing chronic pain or health problems, you may need grief counseling. Grief counseling is not just for handling deaths, it can help you move through the loss of part of your health, a major change in your life like divorce or the loss of familiar support if you are forced to move due to work or family obligations. A good grief counselor or psychologist can take you through these life struggles and losses. These feelings of loss that accompany these situations are very real and do not mean you are damaged, emotionally disturbed or otherwise impaired. You are human.

Low self esteem is also often the biggest culprit behind depression. Going through each day feeling like you are less of a person than those around you, less capable, less intelligent, less attractive, whatever the “less” may be, these are unhappy life suckers. We all have faults, weaknesses and strengths built in. For good mental health, our focus needs to be on building on our strengths, strengthening our weaknesses and doing what we can to overcome our faults, especially if they impact others negatively. These negative beliefs about yourself likely arose somewhere in childhood and may have haunted you all this time. Time for them to go.

Second biggest culprit can be loneliness. Do you have friends and a support system? Do you belong to social organizations, charities or clubs? Studies show that individuals with good social support enjoy better mental health. Get out there, meet people and have fun. Even if you don’t feel like it right now. The different behavior often needs to come first before you believe it can work. Its like proof.

I like to break these things down as I believe it makes them more manageable. When you feel overall “depressed” or “anxious” it doesn’t give you clear direction of what to work on. Identifying the underlying problems gives you a vision of how to put a plan in place. A new plan means a new result. And it means you aren’t wasting time focused on an aspect of yourself you don’t need to focus on. All of the above can be successfully worked through with wonderful results.

Dysfunction Interrupted- Conquer the Underlying Aspects of Depression and Anxiety

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). Dysfunction Interrupted- Conquer the Underlying Aspects of Depression and Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Sep 2018
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