IT’S A RECOGNISED FACT that a person suffering from anxiety often develops depression to some degree, and vice versa. It’s because the thinking styles of anxiety and depression are really very similar. Lots of negative thinking and rumination; i.e. endlessly chewing over the same thoughts in much the same way as a cow chews the same piece of grass for ages.
A persistent low mood without hope for the future. Loss of interest in usual activities, and a diminished ability to experience pleasure.
Anxiety eventually creates so many unsolvable problems – what ifs – that it all becomes too difficult to cope with. When everything appears hopeless and a person feels they have no control, the natural human response is to withdraw from life; to withdraw into depression.
Anxiety / Depression Sequence
In ancient times when life was more physical, this behaviour served a purpose; a survival tactic. When life became physically and mentally overwhelming, to withdraw from it and conserve resources until things improved was a sensible option.
The trouble today is that a person often becomes overwhelmed by the thoughts in their head. Whereas Ugg the Caveman could withdraw from his more external problems, modern day man withdraws, taking his internal thoughts with him. This isn’t at all helpful.
Guilt is another emotion that closely follows anxiety. It also leads to depression because guilt often cannot be immediately resolved; only dwelt upon.
A strong feeling of unhappiness when a person realises (or believes) they have violated a moral standard, and bear sole responsibility for that violation.
An anxious person often feels guilty about things they feel they ‘should’ be doing but can’t due to their anxiety. Sometimes they feel guilty for the effects they believe their condition has on friends and family, or that they’re being a burden.
Guilt is a very unhelpful emotion to have; in fact it’s like the indigestion of emotions. It just sits there making you feel awful, but doesn’t really achieve anything!
Always remember... true friends never think of you in that way. So remind yourself; how you would treat a friend who was going through something similar.
Sleep and dreaming
Probably the most significant piece of the anxiety/depression puzzle is sleep and dreaming.
You know that if you fail to recharge your laptop, it soon grinds to a halt. Well, your mind and body require a similar period of rejuvenation, and that’s why quality sleep is essential. Without it, a person finds it hard to cope with daily life, and very soon falls into depression.
The thinking styles of both anxiety and depression, as I said earlier, involve a lot of ruminating but very little action, and that’s the key. All those unresolved thoughts need to be resolved before the mind can switch of and rest.
Anxiety can create so many unanswered thoughts that as soon as a person’s head hits the pillow, their mind starts racing, making it impossible to sleep. Others find they fall asleep but dream excessively.
Dreaming is your mind replaying the day’s unresolved thoughts in order to resolve them. Dream sleep, however, isn’t the kind of restful sleep your mind and body needs. In fact it’s very tiring, with the mind working as hard on the problems as you were during that day. That’s why so many anxiety sufferers wake up feeling as if they haven’t slept a wink.
This lack of sleep can cause no end of physical and emotional problems, including an increase in stress levels and an inability to cope. This leads to more problems, more ruminating, and more feelings of hopelessness the next day, and the whole cycle continues.
Rumination / Sleep Cycle
Breaking the cycle
Looking again at the steps that can lead from anxiety to depression – feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and poor sleep – one common denominator emerges; constant worrying, or rumination. That also happens to be the one part of the cycle that is within your control. The other two are inevitable consequences.
Having more realistic thoughts about a situation makes it easier to find realistic solutions. Anxious thoughts tend to spiral round in the mind, inhibiting your problem solving ability, and the best way to make some kind of sense of them is to get them out of your mind.
Here are some ideas:
- Talk to a friend – Putting your thoughts into actual words helps you clarify them, and the other person can often add a new perspective.
- Write it down – This serves the same purpose; forcing you to organise your thoughts.
- Have a break – Have you heard the phrase ‘Can’t see for looking’? Taking a break from your problems allows you to return to them refreshed; often seeing possibilities you couldn’t see before.
- More tips – How to control your worrying.
Another thing that many people find helps reduce their worrying and ruminating is self hypnosis, and one of these downloads might help to lessen yours:
Worrying eventually becomes a habitual way of thinking, and both habits and hypnosis utilise the subconscious part of the mind. So working at the same level – the subconscious level – hypnosis helps you feel more comfortable about the things that were causing you worry and stress. This in turn makes it easier to find possibilities and solutions that eluded you when you were feeling so flustered.
Picture a cloud...
Close your eyes (after you’ve read this!) and imagine your worrisome thoughts to be a heavy black cloud, casting a long dark shadow over your day. It’s hard to see the blue sky beyond because it’s so massive that it obscures everything.
You notice a soft breeze gently caressing your skin, and as it does so, it catches the big black cloud, which starts to drift away. As it recedes, it seems to get smaller, and as it gets smaller it seems to also get lighter; no longer black, but a wispy shade of grey.
The calm breeze continues to blow, and the cloud becomes even smaller and even lighter. Now it’s just a fluffy little white cloud, floating serenely in a bright blue sky, and you feel lighter too; like a huge weight has lifted from your shoulders, and you almost feel yourself rising up slightly.
Look to the horizon...
The cloud has gone...
In its place is a golden sun.
All you see is the bright blue sky, and you hear birds twittering merrily in leafy trees, and feel the gentle warmth of glittering sunbeams on your skin.
Today is a good day!
Go and do something more important...
Something more enjoyable...
What do you want to do now
Don’t trouble trouble
till trouble troubles you!
CD & DVD Library
Pass Through Panic
Dr Claire Weekes
Free yourself from anxiety and fear.
In this eight-part radio series originally broadcast in 1967, Dr Claire Weekes – bestselling author of Self Help for Your Nerves – speaks intimately and compassionately about how to overcome panic disorders, anxiety, phobias, agoraphobia, and depression. She coaches you on how to ‘pass through panic’ to reach a place of strength and optimism.
Her revolutionary approach is remarkably simple and effective, and continues to be recommended by medical and psychological communities throughout the world.
Original radio broadcast: 2 hours on 2 CDs.