Anxiety and depression appear to be very opposite in the way they’re experienced, but often they actually appear together, and one exacerbates the other. This is how we explain the two conditions to our clients:
Anxiety is a fear of the future. A fear of something that hasn’t happened yet, but which might. If you’re suffering from anxiety, essentially what is happening is that things in your past have been interpreted in such a way that you’re left feeling insecure or threatened by life. While it might have begun with a particular threat, over time this becomes more and more generalised until your protection system is on high alert and has a hair trigger – primed to respond to the next occasion when you could be under threat – either physically or in terms of your self-esteem. In the end even the chance of having a panic attack can trigger one, and to avoid possible triggers your life becomes increasingly small – as well as scary and miserable. The good news is that this is actually relatively simple to help, and our research project had 71% of our clients reporting themselves recovered in an average of six sessions. Which goes to show that the scale of the issue isn’t predictive of how long it needs to take to recover – and that goes for any presenting issue.
Depression can have several causes. The rarer kind is that caused by a physical issue in the brain that means your brain isn’t producing the chemicals needed to create the feelings of wellness that accompany positive states. That may be beyond our ability to help. The more common type can be termed ‘reactive’ depression, where your feelings are a result of your history. You may have experienced an event that has shocked you – such as a loss of a loved one, or your job, experienced a health crisis, or something else that has shattered the way you saw your life going forward. Or it might be as a result of a longer-term struggle with things you’ve found difficult to live with, such as an abusive partner, bullying or challenging family relationships – really, anything life has thrown at you over time that made you give up hope that life could be better. This is how we explain depression to our clients:
Our brain is amazing in the way it uses memory. Whenever you’re in a situation your brain looks for a match between it, and something from your past. This helps you to know how to respond to what’s going on. To do that it takes the memory that’s been matched and uses it to predict how the situation will turn out. If it predicts a positive your brain releases chemicals that reward you for moving toward it. If it predicts something negative it releases chemicals that get you ready to fight, run or freeze. The trouble is, if you predict something is going to be negative, you go into that situation primed for that to be the case, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. With depression, what has happened to you in the past becomes such a powerful predictor of a negative future that that is all you see ahead of you. You lose hope of any improvement in your life. Now, if you’re sane, if all you see ahead of you is more pain, why would you be motivated to walk toward it? As a simplistic description, depression is your unconscious shutting you down for a while until the way ahead looks better. The trouble is, once you get stuck in a depression, nothing much can happen that will change the future, so you get bogged down in a seemingly never-ending loop of negativity. The good news is that your brain is plastic – it’s always capable of being moulded. We have many tools available to help you find a way out of your depression and, even better, shift your thinking so you never have to go back. In our research study, 71% of our clients reported themselves recovered after an average of only six sessions.