Friday, August 19, 2011

The sting of anxiety

My latest news is that I am back working part time as a Social Worker, yeah, not thrilled, but it's a means to an end for now & I'm trying to make the most of it.

Yesterday I attended an awesome Professional Development day to become an accredited facilitator of a group work program to assist children to manage their experience of fears, anxiety and depression. The program's been developed by a bunch of psychologists and is impressively evidence-based, which means that they've done their research.

Some of the research stunned me, for example, apparently adults who have mental health issues have signs and symptoms by the age of 12 years old. I thought of a few people I know, including myself, yes indeed I had signs of anxiety by 12. That anxiety goes untreated in most people until adulthood when their anxiety becomes debilitating, usually as the result of a stressful event or experience.

Research and anecdotal evidence from the therapist running the training indicates that depression often stems from anxiety. The theory is that we all tend to have fears and anxiety is a pretty common experience, it's part of being human. However if anxiety is ongoing and occurs regularly, we become exhausted, as a result we tend to become depressed. It's like we can no longer function with the high levels of arousal in our body, so we shut down and our affect becomes flat, our body movements and thinking slow down, it's a form of shutting down. This isn't to say we don't continue to experience anxiety, the two usually go hand in hand; but depression seems to be our body's response to ongoing anxiety. That's how most people end up with the double whammy- depression and anxiety.

Why is it that I'm writing about this today? Because it's personally significant and I felt like the learnings I got out of the PD yesterday created lightbulb moments. It's helpful to understand that because I didn't know about anxiety or learn how to manage it as a child, I am now having to do so in adulthood. Current stats say that 1 in 5 adults will be diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression atleast once in their life. This stat reminds me how normal it is, though I think we'll see an increase in the stats in future years, as currently many people go undiagnosed..struggling. I reckon more like 99% of people in the western world will experience anxiety and or depression in their lifetime (diagnosed..or not). For many of us it's a recurring experience; each time we understand a little more, we know more about how to manage the symptoms and will recognise what's happening more quickly so as we can get help more immediately.

I believe that anxiety and depression can help us to see what needs to change in our lives, I don't think it's just about how we think, that's kinda bullshit to me. It's in part how we think, but usually it's our external and interpersonal circumstances that can tend to get us down or into a worried state of mind. If those circumstances or relationships continue then often so does our inner experience of stress and worry. We can't always change our situation immediately, what we can do is reach out, get the help we need and soften, become more gentle with ourselves and try to find opportunities for positive experiences wherever possible.

What do you think about all this? Any lightbulb moments or stories to share?

Thanks to Cath at Precocious Lotus a number of Mental Health related blogs are now linked up, so if you want to read more, you can, please do add yours if you've blogged on a MH related topic!


  1. I would agree with the statistics that say most adults had signs of depression and anxiety as children. It's great that research is being done in this area. Perhaps if treated early some adults will not be as effected or be able to manage it better.

    Personally when I suffer from depression I shut down completely and want to sleep all the time.

  2. Stress, anxiety and depression are common in our society and this is really need to be researched about. The most important of all is that about 15% of the people avoid to consult a professional due to reason that he would suggest antidepressant. That's really annoying. probably some diet and exercise may help it out. some sort of therapy or support works too. anxiety therapist irvine
    but not in my case as i do feel sleepy due to depression and often listen music which keeps me calm and relax my mind

  3. So interesting the facts of anxiety as a child and the prognosis if not addressed. It highlights the importance of early intervention and education doesnt it. Totally agree with your perspectives in this post. Thank you so much for linking up xxx

  4. Hi Sarah, thankyou for a very interesting post! Funnily enough, I had this exact same 'lightbulb' moment just last month...I took my 12yr old daughter for a counselling session (just a one-off),sat there for moral support, and walked out of there feeling stunned, and so wishing that I had of received this help when I was 12yr! It could have halted the following 20yr + (I'm 32yr) of anxiety, depression and eating disorders...I would certainly agree with the research mentioned, and definitely think if you can 'nip it in the bud' whilst people are young enough to easily change, before these habits become 'entrenched', then there would be far less adults needing help, or 'breaking down'...Thankyou for sharing a very important issue! Now following your blog :o)


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