Perhaps because I’m a therapist, whenever I’m out in the world I tend to ‘people watch’. I can be sitting in a restaurant waiting for a friend and without even thinking about it, I start to observe those around me. I notice conversation patterns, seating arrangements or body language. One of the most common interactions I overhear goes something like this:
Person one: “How are you?”
Person two: “Busy/stressed.”
Person one: “Me too….work…kids….spouse/partner…parents…
Person Two: “I hear you. Let me tell you about my ……”
We appear to have become a society of over-stressed/over-busy individuals. What happens to us when we’re stressed for a long time? One possible outcome is that we begin to suffer from anxiety and depression. While we all may suffer from some level of anxiety as a normal part of life, it is temporary and manageable. Chronic anxiety is something else entirely, and can be the first step towards not feeling well.
The Path to Depression
While chronic anxiety can be caused by personal history and/or heredity, the cause I would like to focus on is chronic stress (or stress over time). When we are stressed, with no respite for a long time, we may find it difficult to control any anxious thoughts, leading to increased worry. We may start to experience physical symptoms such as tension headaches, muscle tightness and digestive issues. Sleep problems can develop that may lead to increased anxiety. A vicious cycle starts.
When we experience this level of anxiety/cycle for at least six months, and it focuses on two more areas of our life, we may be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. We may not be experiencing panic attacks or phobias, though we could start to.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder can lead to Depression if we start to lose hope that the anxiety (or our life) will ever get better.
There are Ways to Feel Better
If this sounds life what you are currently experiencing, you are not powerless. There are things that you can do and skills you can learn. The negative thinking that often accompanies anxiety and depression has been shown to be reduced with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Improved lifestyle choices can help with the physical symptoms and breathing exercises/mindfulness practices have been shown to change brain chemistry.
Talking with a therapist can be useful as a way, to learn these skills, and to explore the underlying issues that could be causing you to experience chronic anxiety. If you think that you are negatively suffering from anxiety and/or depression and could benefit from therapy, feel free to contact me and we can explore how I can help.