Staggering amounts of people suffer from anxiety and depression in the United States. Specifically, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that 40 million people suffer from an anxiety disorder. To put that in more realistic measurement, about 1 in 5 people have clinical symptoms of anxiety. What is even more surprising is that less than half of anxiety sufferers get treatment.
Everyone experiences anxiety. In fact, look at a few (not all, so please don’t go diagnosing yourself) excerpts of the diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (according to the DSM V):
- Worry is challenging to control
- More fatigued than usual
- Increased soreness
- Trouble sleeping
Sound familiar? We think that most people can relate to these symptoms. Consider this uncomfortable restlessness as a biological gift from your ancestors designed to keep you safe from lions, tigers, and bears. Anxiety often gets a bad rap, but we still need it for survival! It creates a system of responses in the brain to help you be alert to and survive from danger.
However, what is unneeded are levels of anxiety that impair functioning and living healthy. It is common for us to cope with unwanted feelings of worry by choosing behaviors that allow us to numb or avoid. Alternatively, you may feel paralyzed from worry. All of these responses are meant to help, but can lead us to make choices with negative consequences. On top of that, long-term worry may cause health problems in the future.
If you think that you have excess worry, we ask you to think about the following scenario. Something happens in your day that causes your thoughts to start to spin. Maybe you are late to work, or in an argument with a partner, or realized you forgot to do something on your list. Picture your body firing on all cylinders to react to the worry signals that your brain is sending. Chemicals and hormones flood into your system, your pulse increases to get more oxygen into your body, your muscles tense and only critical-for-survival parts of your body are fully functioning. This reaction continues as long as your thoughts about the situation continue to spiral. You finally get relief from going for a run… or perhaps more realistically, eating a package of Oreo cookies. Then enters guilt and shame for using a coping skill that you were trying to stay away from. The cycle continues. How exhausting for the body! This cannot be maintained and eventually the body crashes. It is common to enter a period of depression, which is a sign that your body is exhausted. Anxiety and depression are commonly best friends, and have similar neurobiological functioning in the brain as well.
Although there is a lot of overlap between anxiety and depression, depression can stand-alone. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that around 6.7 percent of American adults suffer from clinical levels of depression.
Just as with anxiousness, sadness can get a bad rap. Everyone experiences sadness. This emotion is biologically programmed to help us connect to others and survive (baby cries to hope that someone provides care). However, clinical levels of depression go beyond feeling sad. Sadness is mixed in with a myriad of unpleasant symptoms such as loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite, excessive guilt, physical and mental sluggishness, and suicidal ideations.
Anxiety and depression can present in many different ways. Some other examples may include experiencing obsessions, social anxiety, fear of certain places or things, or experiencing worse symptoms during different seasons.
The good news is that anxiety and depression are both treatable through medical* and holistic options depending on your preference. At Uplift Counseling Center we will meet with you to find out how your symptoms are affecting your life, how long you have had the symptoms, how you are managing your symptoms, and your goals for feeling better.
Treatment length depends on many variables such as type and persistency of symptoms, coping strategies being used, etc. Our goal is to get you back to optimal health as quickly as possible. As a general outline, we recommend more intensive treatment for the first few months to work on the roots of the anxiety or depression. Then we will taper off the frequency of our meetings to give you time to work on maintaining change. Finally, we will discuss meeting every few months for a period of time to continue maintenance of the change you made, and prevention of the problem occurring again in the future.
Self-care is extremely important when experiencing anxiety and depression. Although the last thing you may want to do is exercise, movement is important. This does not have to be a Shaun T-Insanity level workout! Going for a walk, stretching in nature, attending a local yoga class, group sports, or power walking around a store could all be creative ways to get moving.
It is also important to remember that it is common to feel worse before feeling better during counseling treatment. We may talk about vulnerable stories that are painful when resurface. Think of this as healing a physical wound. Your body will choose how fast it heals, and it may not feel great in the process. Yet in counseling, the process of telling our story can do powerful things to heal our inner wounds.
*It is our belief that there is a time a place for medication, but that it does not treat the underlying root cause. This is why we think that counseling is important for clients who are taking medications for mental health symptoms. Counselors do not prescribe medications or give medical advice. We can assist you with talking to your medical provider about medication to manage symptoms, if you choose. We can assist you with understanding different medication options and questions to ask your doctor. We can also help you track mental health changes and side effects while you are on medication to report to your doctor.