Steven Eastmond, LCSW – September 2012
Depression and anxiety are unfortunately all too common in today’s society. Yet despite the high prevalence rates, very few people seek treatment and of those who do, many keep both their illness and their treatment quiet. Typically the reasons why treatment is not sought is because of a poverty of information about what treatment for depression is really like or is about. For those who have concerns about seeking help for their depression or anxiety, may I offer some encouragement and some information as a sample of what you can learn from going to a qualified counselor to seek help for depression, anxiety, or other challenges.
Two primary things are common culprits for fueling depression and anxiety: chemical imbalances and negative thinking patterns. In counseling we work to identify those negative thinking patterns and learn how to think in more realistic (not just positive) ways. One example of what could be targeted in counseling is a negative thinking pattern in depression that comes in the form of “should haves” – regularly thinking of many things that I did in my past that I now recognize and/or acknowledge I should not have done. For anxiety the common pattern is the “what ifs” – worries and concerns about hundreds of things that will more than likely never come to pass. We may worry about 20 different possible things that could happen in a given situation, but only one thing actually will. Typically that one thing is much less-anxiety provoking then all the other possibilities we have imagined. The worst part about anxiety is that emotionally we suffer the potential outcomes of all 20 concerns instead of dealing with just the one that actually ends up happening.
The most balanced way to think is to stay grounded in “what is.” Focusing on what is in front of you at the moment, while learning from the past and planning and preparing for the future is a great way to steer clear of negative dialogues like the “should haves” and the “what ifs” that we waste so much time thinking about. As an experiment try focusing for a few days on “what is” in your life.
For example, if you are not very happy in your employment and have heard rumblings about possible layoffs, avoid the trap of the “should haves” which would take the form of “I should’ve seen this coming years ago and gotten out before I got so old” or “I shouldn’t have wasted time on the computer the last couple of weeks – I’ll bet they’ll can me because I haven’t worked as hard as I could have.”
Also avoid the “what ifs,” which might look like “What if my job position becomes obsolete?” “What if they know I hate my job – then I’m sure to get the ax!” “What if I really do get fired? How will I feed my family and pay for insurance?”
Try instead to focus on “what is” – what do you know right now? You have only heard rumors of layoffs. Do you KNOW that these will happen? “What is” true is that you have a job. Also notice what is true about how your boss treats you – no different then before. Note that your performance numbers (actual data) are higher then other staff members with whom you work. Once you really start paying attention, you will almost always find several truths that can help you stay grounded in fact – in “what is” – and as a result avoid very real potential for escalating your depression or anxiety.
Steven Eastmond, LCSW