Depression And Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex emotional response that is like fear. Both anxiety and fear originate from the same part of the brain that is designed to help all animals to deal with danger. The difference between fear and anxiety lies in the fact that one can pinpoint the cause of fear, such as, being in the middle of a hurricane. Whereas, anxiety is experienced without apparent danger at the moment.

Anxiety is a normal human response and at its best, it can help us to stay alert and focused to reach our goals. At its worst, it can shrink our world and paralyze us to the point of inaction. Anxiety is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the United States affecting 40 million American adults.

Despite the disabling effects of anxiety, getting rid of it altogether is not only unrealistic and impossible, but also unnecessary. In neurologically informed therapy for anxiety, the goal is to use strategies to change the brain in desired ways. This involves teaching the brain to be more resistant to anxiety by creating new, and improved brain circuitry. And how is this accomplished? With complimentary therapies incorporating:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Effective sleep strategies, regular exercises
  • Graded exposure to get rid of avoidance behaviors
  • Questioning unrealistic beliefs
  • Practicing mindfulness, yoga, and breathwork

Medication may be necessary to reduce symptoms but it does not take away the anxiety.

Helpful Resources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America -

Mental Health Among Asian Americans by Koko Nishi, MA -

Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook - Published by The Wellness Society

April 9, 2020, US News & World Report: Mental Health Must Be Part of COVID-19 Response

April 3, 2020, The New York Times: An Ecotherapeutic Meditation In Ten Steps



When anxiety is chronic, which is the case with many anxiety disorders, depression may be a cooccurring factor and so both need to be treated. While the causes of depression are unknown, a predisposition for it runs in families and it can be triggered by trauma and adverse life circumstances. Depression is diagnosed more frequently in women and tends to display differently in women than in men.

People with depression commonly have difficulty concentrating on tasks and conversations. Some people abuse alcohol and drugs or overeat as a way of coping, causing them to develop other medical problems. Depressed people are also at increased risk for self-harm. Some common symptoms of depression are: apathy, sadness, guilt, exhaustion, and irritability.

Both in anxiety and depression, the same areas of the brain are affected – the cortex and the amygdala. In addition, in depression, the area of the brain that creates memory and retrieves them is also affected. A deprived person is more inclined to retrieve negative memories because they tend to focus on the negative.

Recognizing this tendency to focus on the negative in depressed persons, addressing focus in interventions for depression is critical. The good news is, plasticity of the brain makes it possible to change this with a variety of strategies.

Helpful Resources - web resources by Donald Meichenbaum, Ph.D. from his book, Roadmap to Resilience available for FREE to help individuals cope with ongoing adversities and losses during this world-wide pandemic.

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