The Triad—Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Stress, anxiety, and depression can affect our lives singly or in an insidious, synergistic way.
Stress and its emotional toll affect most people on a daily basis. We learn to compensate for adverse and demanding circumstances such as allergies, chronic illness, current national events, and troubling relationship dynamics, for example, to keep stress at a manageable level by choosing good nutrition, restorative sleep, constructive down time, exercise, recreation and spending time with friends.
But when we’re stressed so much that we become physically exhausted, a wired-but-tired feeling, we have also become anxious. The most common coping mechanism is to embrace unhealthy behaviors we think are protective, such as: withdrawing, becoming fearful for imagined reasons, displaying nervous jesters such as hair pulling and nail biting, drinking excessively, or failing to focus and being unable to complete tasks. If we are unable to step back and resume beneficial coping strategies, we can easily develop panic attacks, agoraphobia, or other irrational fears that serve to trap us in an emotionally unhealthy whirlpool.
Depression is a discrete mood disorder, but it will always exhibit characteristics of excessive stress and anxiety. To complicate matters, each member of the Triad exists on a continuum within itself. An all-too-common circumstance is the depressive state that follows a natural disaster. First, the stress of anticipating the event, then the anxiety born of the event itself, followed by the depression of dealing with the aftermath.
All Triad disorders can develop from a genetic component. Knowing that as part of your family history can serve as a motivator to hone your coping strategies or learn new ones to increase your capacity for resilience.
Stress, a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances, inevitably exists at the wellspring of problems we often find so difficult to deal with in our daily lives. Situations beyond our control nurture it: the threat of terrorism; controversial, endless war; political stalemate that leaves us feeling helpless and unheard, and worldwide fiscal difficulties that strike at the very foundations of our financial security and leave us vulnerable to frightening, unavoidable consequences.
To ignore the effects of these stressors is to embrace enormous risk. But we have within ourselves the power to fight back with active steps and give our minds the opportunity to experience tranquility for at least a few minutes a day. While that may not seem like much, the result is to function better when confronted with situations we can effect.
Exercise and good nutrition, conflict-free interactions with friends and loved ones, practices such as prayer, yoga and meditation in a disciplined, structured form, or simply by listening to a soothing media rendition can provide an internal defense against external pressures.
Most aspects of life exist on a spectrum with polar-opposite extremes: all or nothing, black and white, good and bad, happy and sad, love and indifference, like and hate. When we are stressed, feeling anxious, or struggling with a depressive mood, our thinking tends to focus on these absolutes. The result is that we concentrate on why our behavior creates a trying situation rather than how the behavior works for us. With very few exceptions, we only do what we choose to do. The key is to give ourselves the time and space to choose healthy alternatives, and on the middle ground we can find a myriad of options.
Emotions are usually either absent from our consideration or too present in the equation. Feelings never have an IQ. They are neither good nor bad, but they must be honored lest we spend negative energy struggling to keep them at bay. They float in and out of our consciousness and can wreak havoc on our lives if, when confronted with a stressful situation, we permit emotions to dominate our behavior.
Fortunately, our bodies gift us with warning signs, such as an upset stomach, a lump in the throat, a tight chest and racing heart. These internal reactions to stress occur long before the brain catches up. And when they do, we can learn to function out of thought and respond with four questions: What just happened? Who said what? What am I feeling? What am I thinking? The reward is greater inner peace and expanded confidence in negotiating our complex world.
Some anxiety can be advantageous, by helping you respond to real dangers, for example. Likewise, a case of the jitters can motivate you to excel at work, school or at home. But some people have excessive or unrealistic anxiety and worries, well beyond what is appropriate for the situation.
Living with anxiety can be difficult, but therapy can help you take back your life and learn healthier ways to cope. Working in our sessions, you will explore ways to manage your thoughts and feelings. You’ll also gain new coping and thinking skills that will help you know how to let go and not dwell on past concerns. You’ll also learn to change what you can and allow the rest to take its course.
Treating Depression with a Therapist and Counseling
It’s quite normal to feel sad at times or be hopeless about situations in life. But with depression, these feelings linger for weeks, months or even years. Depressive feelings are far more intense than just having a temporary case of the blues and can interfere with relationships, work, daily activities and even your ability to function, such as eating properly, bathing regularly or working effectively.
Although depression is a common health condition, it isn’t something you can simply snap out of. Depression involves both the mind and body, affecting how you think and behave. You might feel fatigued all the time, or you might avoid people who were once good friends. Or you may feel life just isn’t worth living.
Through our counseling sessions, you will learn how to identify and make changes in unhealthy behaviors or thoughts, and explore relationships and experiences. As a result, you’ll discover better ways to cope and solve problems, and set realistic goals. Therapy with an experienced therapist can help you regain a sense of control and help alleviate symptoms like hopelessness, helplessness and anger. It also may help you adjust to a crisis or other life issue. Even if an unwanted situation doesn’t change, you can modify the way you think and respond in a more healthy way.
For Your Austin Counseling Convenience
For more information, please call (512) 306-9992, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All inquiries are held in strict confidence. Please understand that no counseling will be provided via the Internet or e-mail. Working with you in person is the best way to help you achieve your goals.
Daytime and selected early-evening sessions are available, Tuesday through Thursday 10:00am to 6:30pm. You may choose from three types of sessions: individual, couples, and family. Please feel free to ask about other possibilities to fit your lifestyle and needs.
Ann McIntosh, MA, LCSW, Counseling and Psychotherapy
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 5, Suite 513
Austin, Texas 78746
Video produced by Michael Quick of QuickOne Media Ann McIntosh is also listed on the following Web site directories: Psychology Today | YellowPages.com | Eating Disorder Referral and Information Service