It is not uncommon for people to describe themselves as anxious or depressed; the different emotions associated with each state are natural when difficult or threatening situations arise. Anxiety or depression for a limited time and for a specified reason is not a problem in itself. When either state becomes predominant and affects a person’s ability to function in everyday circumstances, anxiety or depression becomes a disorder rather than a feeling.
Anxiety is an adaptive response that allows people to react appropriately in situations where they may need to exercise caution or be on alert for danger; this is commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response. When a threat is perceived, the body anticipates and prepares the person for a high level of muscular activity by initiating a series of physiological changes. There is a release of adrenalin, the heart rate increases, blood flow to inessential physiological processes (such as digestion) is immediately ceased so that as much blood and oxygen as possible is available for the muscles. A certain amount of anxiety is healthy, even essential, in order to interact safely with our environment. Anxiety becomes a disorder when the intensity or duration of anxiety is beyond what would reasonably be expected in a given situation. Anxiety disorders may manifest as generalised anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, stress disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Feelings of anxiety can trigger a range of other symptoms. Some of the most common of these include sleeping difficulties, restlessness, tension, high blood pressure, irritability and poor concentration. Anxiety disorders generally arise when a person is continuously worried about a future threat that may not even be realised. Because there is no way to resolve the source of the worry at that time, the anxious symptoms become the primary experience rather than the stressor itself. This is a case of the mind dictating the body’s response. Most significantly the condition can impact a person on every level, affecting their ability to function in the workplace, at home or in social settings.
Depression is a pervasive mood disorder that is characterised by low mood, low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities. Depression is said to result from a perception of helplessness, that is, a person perceives themselves as having no control over their own circumstances and feels pessimistic about their future. There are many different types of depression, such as major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder. People who have depression tend to have overly adverse reactions to incidents that would usually elicit a more moderate reaction, and they often experience these problems as overwhelming or unsolvable.
Some of the common symptoms of depression include lethargy, fatigue, sadness, pessimism, low self-esteem, changes in appetite and difficulty sleeping. More than anything, depression is associated with overwhelming feelings of helplessness and loss of control over one’s life.
Causes of anxiety and depression
The prevailing view among clinicians is that anxiety and depression arise through a combination of factors. These may include a biological or genetic predisposition and environmental factors such as emotional stress, trauma, loss or drug use. Regardless of whether the causal factors for a depressive illness are genetic, environmental, or a combination of these, both produce physiologic changes in the neurotransmitters within the brain.
Treatment of anxiety and depression
The two most commonly-recommended forms of treatment for depression and anxiety are psychotherapy and medication. Although cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are the most researched in terms of their effectiveness, many different kinds of psychotherapy have been found to be effective in treating depression and anxiety. The Listen And Learn Centre provides client-centred counselling to assist with the management of depression and anxiety using a range of strengths-based solution-focussed strategies and interventions. For more information about our counselling services, go to our counselling page.
For more severe cases of anxiety or depression, medications are often prescribed by a psychiatrist. Medications incorporate chemicals which attempt to rebalance the body’s natural chemicals. They usually take about 2 to 6 weeks to have an impact and have a range of different side effects.
An alternative approach to managing anxiety and depression is the use of Neurofeedback, also known as neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a therapy technique which provides the user with real time feedback about their brainwave activity via computerised graphic displays and auditory signals in the context of a game on a computer. The term ‘biofeedback’ means using information from the body to assist it to regulate itself. Because anxiety, depression and stress can be recognised by their unique brainwave patterns, neurofeedback can be used to let a person know when their brain is producing more or less of the anxious or depressed pattern brain waves.
Listen And Learn Centre provides neurofeedback programs to assist people with the management of anxiety and depression. For more information about how neurofeedback works, go to our neurofeedback pages.
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