We live in stressful times, so it’s quite understandable that there’s an epidemic of anxiety in our culture today. In the case of anxiety, the body’s ability to adapt to stress is overwhelmed.  Every time something stressful happens, a bit more adrenaline is squirted into the blood stream, increasing heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure and negatively affecting the immune system. The body adapts to this pressure, up to a point.
When the system gets overwhelmed by anxiety, certain symptoms begin to appear:

  • Sleep disturbances—there may be trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep
  • Racing thoughts—the stream of thoughts runs on, following worrisome tracks
  •  It’s easy to be startled and irritably jumpy
  •  There can be frequent headaches, back aches or digestive problems
  •  It’s easy to be distracted and forgetful
  •  In extreme cases, panic attacks may occur, indicated by heart pounding, racing thoughts, shortness of breath, fear of closed places or crowds and even fear of having a heart attack

Some folks are born more vulnerable to anxiety, while others have experienced traumatic life events that leave an enduring imprint on the mind?body process. Traumatic events may be sudden and dramatic, such as combat or an auto wreck. It’s also traumatizing to be exposed to frequent upsetting events, particularly in childhood. While living in a home where there’s often verbal or physical abuse, the effects of the anxiety endure. Some folks suffer from both kinds of trauma.

Psychotherapists often give diagnoses for these disorders. Here are some that are often seen in therapy:

  •  Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This is just what it sounds like. Individuals are generally anxious and preoccupied.
  • Social Phobia: With this disorder, folks tend to become anxious when in a group, particularly when they don’t know anyone else.
  • Panic Disorder: Folks who suffer from this often have unexpected attacks. It may happen in any setting, or primarily in crowds or small spaces like elevators or airplanes. The experience is quite frightening, which makes things worse: someone then becomes fearful about being fearful. This can lead to Agoraphobia, which can leave someone unable to leave their home, anxious that they may have an attack elsewhere.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Individuals plagued with this disorder can have panic attacks, respond fearfully or violently when exposed to something that reminds them of the trauma, or try to control the anxiety through recreational drugs. They often have difficulty maintaining relationships at home or work, and are subject to mood swings between anxiety and depression.

There are other diagnoses of anxiety disorders, but all require some specialized interventions. The best treatments include:

  • Training to help improve relaxation. This might involve meditation, self?hypnosis, regular exercise and decreasing the amount of caffeine
  • Identifying the triggers of anxiety and developing specific strategies to interrupt the anxiety early in the escalation cycle, desensitizing to the trigger
  • Using the therapeutic relationship to provide soothing, well?trained support in an ongoing way
  • Sometimes a referral to a physician for medication would be helpful


What is depression? There’s an epidemic of depression in our society today. Antidepressant medications are among the most prescribed categories found in pharmacies today. How can you determine if you are depressed? Here are some symptoms:

  • Persistent sadness or tearfulness, often accompanied by irritability.
  • Loss of appetite, or, paradoxically, episodes of binge eating.
  • Problems with sleeping. If there’s also anxiety, you would have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. If you have no anxiety, you may sleep too much. In either case, you don’t feel rested or alert during the day. There’s little or no motivation to do normal things.
  • Distractedness, forgetfulness or feeling spacey and disconnected.Life seems dreary, flat and uninteresting. Things you normally enjoy are not appealing, and life seems to be a series of unenjoyable chores.
  • You’re not particularly social, either because you feel unworthy, or because other people seem to just be uninteresting.
  • There may be persistent negative thoughts of unworthiness, failure or feeling overwhelmed with doing the normal things of life.
  • In extreme cases life may seem meaningless.It’s not unusual for a depressed person to experience morbid thinking, wondering if life is worth the effort, or whether anyone would care if you weren’t around. In extreme cases, there may be thoughts or plans of suicide. If you have morbid thoughts, that’s not dangerous, just uncomfortable—come see one of us and talk about it.
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts or plans, please tell a loved one and call 911 or go see a physician right away. It’s an emergency at that point! Depression is a disease, not a death sentence. It’s very treatable, but suicide prevents treatment from being effective.

There are two basic categories of depression—major depression, which is quite disabling and emotionally painful, and dysthymic disorder, which is a chronic, low grade depression that lingers for years, perhaps decades. Dysthymia can be one of the lingering effects of a dysfunctional childhood.

What can be done about depression? As mentioned above, depression is treatable. The sooner you seek help, the easier it is to overcome the disease. Here are some well?established strategies for overcoming depression:

Make an appointment to talk to one of us. One of the most disabling symptoms of depression is feeling hopeless about life getting better. We can help, but you must let us know what’s happening.

Regular exercise is a great antidote for depression. Going for daily walks of 30 minutes or more have been shown to be very effective, especially to prevent depressive relapse.

Talk therapy has many benefits. We can help you identify unrealistic and self defeating thoughts and substitute more beneficial thoughts. This is called “cognitive therapy” and is proven to be quite effective at alleviating the symptoms of depression.

Laughter makes a difference. Join a laughing club. Watch a funny video or whatever gets you going. Even forced laughter will help until the real thing comes bursting out.

Another well?established intervention for depression is “interpersonal therapy”, which relies on the quality of trust and emotional empathy in the therapeutic relationship to provide benefit.

Tidy your living space. A messy home makes depression worse. If depression makes it impossible for you to take action, get a friend to come over or hire a professional.

Research shows the most reliable and enduring recovery from depression combines talk therapy with antidepressant medication. Most research indicates that taking medication without talk therapy increases the likelihood of depressive relapse after ending the medication. The medication does allow you to hear and apply what we might recommend more effectively, because the prescription increases your motivation, and decreases feelings of hopelessness, irritability and sadness.

Research indicates that depression is a relapse?prone disease, somewhat like malaria or alcoholism. This is not hopeless, however. The more you apply yourself to the suggestions we make during your talk therapy sessions, the less likely relapse will occur. In fact, the end results might be that you’re more effective and more joyful than you’ve ever been!