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Overcoming Anxiety & Depression

by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

A newly referred client came into my office some months ago and shared with me that she had struggled with anxiety her entire adult life. She had been in therapy with the same person for well over six years and had made little progress. I inquired as to what she had learned from their work together. If I actually had hair on the back of my neck, it no doubt would have stood straight up upon hearing her response. “He told me the best that we could do we be to try and manage my anxiety,” she offered. So many mental health professionals are literally trained to believe that matters of anxiety and depression can at best be managed, and often with the associated medication to achieve the lessening of symptoms. This speaks to their mindset of pathology and the absence of a deeper understanding of the relationship between thought and anxiety or depression. The limitations of such a worldview are limiting and produce a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Our bio-medical culture would have us believe that we’re hard wired or genetically inclined to suffer from these ailments, and disappointingly induces us into a disempowered condition of victimization. Too often we become the diagnosis. Rather than stating “I often feel depressed,” or “I’m given to feeling anxious,” we wear the label handed down to us. So we become the depression as in “I’m a depressed person.” This state of victimization ironically leads us to an even deeper depression or anxiety, for we lose hope of healing.

I believe that very often the struggle with anxiety or depression really speaks to our relationship with our thoughts. I have learned that very often the intrinsic difficulty is in the nature and quality of our thoughts. The difference between one who suffers and one who is free to enjoy life is in their quality of thought. Neuroscience is beginning to confirm what quantum physicists and Buddhists have suggested for quite some time. The continued repetition of negative thought literally alters our brain chemistry. This is a fascinating discovery. In other words, if we learn to witness and observe our quality of thought, and ultimately improve the nature and context of our thinking, there is every opportunity for relief. This is a radically different way of looking at the problem. We live in our minds and the thoughts we choose paint the canvas of our lives. Rather than seeing the problem as a result of our chemistry, we might look at the phenomenon of our thinking as an active participant in scripting how we experience life. As knowledge progresses and old paradigms begin to fade, new approaches permit an evolution of thinking that create new opportunities for healing.

A person who suffers from anxiety is often stuck in the groove of thoughts that habitually seek out problems and create stressful states. Having focused in such a way, they become the thought and the thought summons up the associated emotion, namely anxiety. Learning to free ourselves from the enslavement to our thoughts is the key to not only moving beyond the diagnosis, but ultimately toward a gratifying and happy life. I’ve enjoyed considerable success with many individuals in assisting them in “not becoming their thoughts,” but in identifying how the thought is leading and tricking them. This is at the core of my work in what I call emergent thinking. I’m not suggesting that the relief comes from suppressing or pushing away negative thoughts, but more subtly from learning how to witness what thought is telling us. The ultimate goal is to turn your mind into your ally. This is both achievable and liberating.

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

16 Responses to “Overcoming Anxiety & Depression”

  1. hjs Says:

    This article really hit home with me. It includes a lot of insight and touched on points that have bothered me since i was a teenager who was put on anti-depressants.

  2. hjs Says:

    On the other hand, I kind of feel like it is not as easy as this implies. Just changing my way of thinking is incredibly difficult. It seems I am overwhelmed a lot, maybe most of, the time by my emotions. What I like is that the author says that we shouldn’t feel like victims with no hope of recovering. I would like to keep that hope that I can recover and also someday get in control of my thoughts. But the emotion is sometimes just so crippling that it is not as easy as just trying to think “happy thoughts.”
    Nevertheless, a thought-provoking article.

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  5. LYnn Sturgeon Says:

    I am entering and studying the physical of counselling for addictions, mental or physcal abuse….etc.

    I am looking for a book/article called on Stage as one……it says the forthcoming book was exerted in christian phy 1985 1986 its an autobiography and Jan Meier helped write it…..and was written anonymously.

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  6. CH Says:

    This article was spot on. I have been battling with anxiety and depression for quite sometime, and found myself in a mind frame, of convincing myself i was damaged, and forever i will be. Then i began controlling my thoughts, and trying to look at life in a more positive way. I’m not completely over what i have endured, it still scares me to slip back into that state, and it does come ever so often when i am stressed out or have an issue at hand that really drains me. You see, my state of mind of anxiety or depression was not just affecting me, but my relationships too. so much that i havent been able to last in a relationship for longer than two months, because the negativity and sadness would always kick in. I’m just worried that i will never be able to get married or stay in a relationship long enough.

  7. Dija Says:

    dont you think that pushing bad thoughts is kind of lying to ourselves to feel better and see that everything is fine even its not ???? its like living in an other world thats not real at all

  8. dylan Says:

    is pushing bad thoughts lying to ourselves? how come the “sad world” is more real than a “happy world.” S***, think happy. I used to ask the same question, but god I’ve been able to let go of so much; and once you gain control over yourself, you’re old way of thinking will probably seem nonsensical.. if you want to be happy. Self-Talk has been very liberating for me. I’ve dropped my girlfriend off and told myself “it’s ok” until i got home and crawled in bed for the night. Now when I tell myself “don’t worry,” I listen… because I know that this way of thinking cripples me. And I know that I really shouldn’t worry about it – it’s nonsensical! If you’re not in therapy, GO!

  9. Nada Says:

    just came across. Nice blog

  10. cecilia Says:

    this article made me understand what my boyfriend is experiencing….I use to feel lost and confused because i didnt understand what he was going through now that i’ve read your article I understand he is experiencing anxiety and i would love to get him some help with therapy thanks for lifting a huge weight off my shoulders. God bless

  11. Anirban Says:

    Really a nice blog, without any doubt. Just to make all a more informed Treatment for substance abuse had come across a detail research about the root cause of anxiety and depression where addiction got the highest points so one of the very few effective measures to be free from such disorders get in touch with your nearest substance abuse centre.

  12. stephanie Says:

    This blog is great. I strongly believe that with will power and believing in yourself that you can live with out depression and anxiety. I know tjis from my own experience in which I dealt with a constant panic attack for a year. At the beginning I was put on klonapin which only made me forget…..everything. I could not live life like that. After research I learned to talk myself through each moment telling myself I was ok. Over time you believe your ok and the anxiety goes away. I still after years have moments where I feel myself start to panic for no reason but habit has allowed me to push it away and talk myself through it. I trust myself that I am ok. It is amazing how self assurance can heal someones mind and take you through to a better mind set.

  13. joey bennett Says:

    Depression is part of our human makeup. Many of us find it to be very uncomfortable when it emerges. However how we define it is not ok. It has a function, and understanding its function and how it operates is where we will find relief knowing we can controll it once we know from us it came and back to us it will return. the damage begins
    when we relinguish our understanding of depressions function. which is to rattle our mental and emotional balance. it is our responsibility to say enough is enough. Medication of any sort is only a partime relief of your discomfort and not depressions function. so it is here to stay why? it is part of our human existance. thank you mr joey bennett.you may contact me at joey.bennett76Yahoo.com

  14. joey bennett Says:

    we need to listen more carefully to those who come to us misinformed about whatever issue seems to be bothersome in regards to their mental and emotional equlibrium. We think we are helping a person when we administer medication to assist them in their quest for help. perhaps we are not aware of the second addiction we assist them in acquiring. The medication becomes physically and mentally addictive. Talk is the best and i mean the best medicine a person can get who is infected and out of controll of the enviornment they are in let alone from.Learn how to spoon feed genuine talk to all of them loveable beings my a alike. joey bye bye.

  15. Shawn Says:

    Hey I think this is a great blog. I have been studying buddhism and a little bit of quantum physics thinking and it really does help to think positively, although it is extremely hard at times when you suffer from anxiety and depression. It is something that we are predispositioned to have, and overcoming it is quite a task. But the only way to do so is by changing our state of mind and surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel happy, useful and wanted.

  16. Aaliyah Wood Says:

    Anxiety and depression is one hell of a nasty disease. even if you have everything but if you have clinical depression, you are still nothing.`”~

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