Depression and Anxiety: Flip sides of the same coin, Part 2

In part 1 of this series of blogs on the relationship between depression and anxiety, I discuss how they are often related by their both being a response to a difficult task or issue.  In Part 2, I describe how depression and anxiety become such problems when dealing with difficult tasks or issues. Finally, in Part 3, I explain how my clients and I work together to rid their lives of depression and anxiety.

Heads it’s Depression…

Depression is a kind of slowing down in most cases. People struggling with depression often sleep more, or want to sleep but can’t, and end up fatigued either way. We might lose interest in the things that used to excite us. We become withdrawn, not attending to our social connections. We might eat more, or less. We might isolate from most of our world. We might start thinking about death. Depression is serious business and can be deadly. So, what causes such a disastrous mood to take over people’s lives? In many cases, it seems to be a creeping belief that “I am not capable of doing the things I need to do.” This may not be a conscious thought, but can be a powerful limiting factor underlying our seeming inability to do what we know we need to do. It can last just a few days or weeks, or can drag on for years, always lurking in the background, wearing us down, making it difficult to see what is really possible—overcoming the challenging tasks that caused the depression in the first place.

We all have self-doubts. All of us. Within reason, Self-doubt can even be a good coping skill—it can teach us about our limitations and therefore the areas of personal growth we might need to meet a new challenge. When taken to an extreme, though, self-doubt can really become a debilitating problem, telling us that we are far more limited than we really are. We can engage in cycles of failure brought about by negative self-fulfilling prophecies brought which in turn can be brought about by low self-worth: “I generally do not get what I need, so I don’t ask for what I need, so I don’t get what I need, which confirms that I am not worthy of getting what I need…” and the pattern continues, keeping us stuck.

Sometimes depression knocks on our door because we’ve convinced ourselves that we must obtain a goal which is actually unobtainable and we therefore end up living lives with continual and important disappointment. Think of the “myth of Sisyphus,” the guy from Greek mythology whose version of hell was that he had to keep pushing a big rock up a hill that gets more steep until he has to stop, let the rock roll back down, and start all over.  The example above, about wanting the approval of a parent who simply isn’t going to give it to you because it’s not in their nature or they are dead, is just like Sisyphus.  Who wouldn’t be depressed if this is their goal, their challenge.

… and Tails it’s Anxiety

Anxiety occurs when we are confronted with a challenging task or issue that we believe we are not adequate to complete or resolve, coupled with an overriding sense of urgency to complete the task or resolve the issue. So, we fret about it. We worry. We can’t stop thinking about it until we have dealt with it.  With anxiety, the most common problem is trying to control an outcome we cannot fully control.  Like depression, anxiety often starts out as a good coping skill, motivating us to overcome our fears, our distractions, our procrastinations and deal with something important. Anxiety compels us to reject our tendencies to follow the path of least resistance and do the difficult thing because it simply must be done. Anxiety starts to feel overwhelming when the thing we think must be done either cannot be done or even if it can, we are not able to do it because of some perceived inadequacy.

Anxiety is about control and power.  We want the power necessary to control situations, people, and the future, and of course we nearly always have either no such control, or limited control. The funny thing about anxiety is that when we realize we don’t need nearly as much power or control as we thought we did, we are able to meet our needs just fine, and with far less anxiety. For more thoughts in anxiety and control, see my article: “Anxiety and two powerful mistakes.” Here’s the link: