Do you feel anxious?  Or perhaps depressed?  Do you find it hard to go out or that you are checking things repeatedly?  Or have you lost all motivation and just want to ‘give up’?  Maybe you have a phobia!


Anxiety and depression can feel frightening and leave you feeling isolated.  Below you will find information which you may find helpful – particularly how counselling can make a very positive difference.


What is depression?

Depression – A state of extreme dejection or morbidly excessive melancholy; a state of hopelessness and feeling of inadequacy, often with physical symptoms (Oxford Dictionary, 1990)

Depression is more than feeling sad or a little low. Some of the common feelings and experiences which someone who is depressed may have could include:

  • Losing interest in life and enjoyment of activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Feeling tired, exhausted and yet sometimes restless and agitated too
  • Finding it hard to concentrate and to make decisions
  • Having difficulty in getting to sleep or waking early or perhaps wanting to sleep too much
  • Feeling overwhelmed by things that were previously manageable
  • Losing appetite and weight or perhaps comfort eating and gaining weight
  • Feeling persistently sad or completely flat, emotionless
  • Losing confidence and self-esteem
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Thinking extreme thoughts such as “I’ve always been rubbish” or “You can’t trust anyone”, or “I might as well be dead”
  • Losing interest in sex

The causes of depression are often complex, involving more than one factor.  A traumatic life event may be a trigger, for example being attacked, the victim of past or present abuse, suffering a major loss, developing a long-term or life threatening illness or being the carer of someone who has.  Ones social situation may be a factor too – if you are struggling financially, are isolated or lonely.  Even a planned and hoped for event such as the birth of a baby can be a factor in becoming depressed.  Some medical conditions can be a factor as can the misuse of alcohol or drugs.

The impact of depression on your life and the lives of those closest to you can be significant.  It is important that if you are experiencing several of the feelings above that you consider getting help from your GP or from a counsellor or psychotherapist.

How can counselling help with depression?

Counselling addresses many of the different components of depression – feelings, behaviour, thought patterns, relationship patterns, current and past experiences.  It both acknowledges the present and seeks a way forward.  At times it may be very relevant to pay attention to past difficulties, trauma or loss and at others to turn firmly towards the future and focus on solutions and strategies which are manageable.


What is anxiety?

We can understand what we mean when we say to ourselves that we are worried about something – we may be worried about an upcoming exam or a visit to the doctor.  We can also understand fear and how it can protect us – fear can cause us to jump right out of the way of a car coming towards us or to step back from the edge of a cliff.

In contrast, anxiety can sometimes feel like a mystery, an un-nameable griping, persistent low grade fear, sometimes peaking into panic attacks.  Anxiety can feel very uncomfortable and limit life greatly.

Common symptoms of anxiety include both emotions, and sometimes frightening for some people, distressing physical feelings.  Alongside feeling ‘jittery’, anxious, worried all of the time, and finding it difficult to rest or concentrate, palpitations, trembling, fast, shallow breathing can be a part of what can make anxiety such a distressing and debilitating experience.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are an experience of intense anxiety or fear.  They can be so intense that some people fear that they may be dying or ‘going mad’.  Panic attacks can be particularly limiting because someone experiencing them can associate the place or activity and the panic attack and then feel unable to return to the place or take part in the activity again in case another attack is triggered.

Social Anxiety

Anxiety which particularly manifests in social situations can also be very debilitating.  The underlying fear is a fear of being judged or rejected by others and fears formulate around thoughts such as “I’ll make a fool of myself” or “People will see how stupid (inferior, worthless) I am”.  Other paralysing thoughts may be, “They’ll see me blushing (or trembling)” or “I won’t be able to put two sentences together”.


A phobia could be described as a fear of a situation or thing that is not dangerous and which most people do not find troublesome.  As with most anxieties and phobias, avoidance of the trigger becomes an integral part of behaviour.

How can counselling help with anxiety?

Anxiety, panic attacks and phobias often result in an attempt to control them by avoidance of ‘triggers’ – events, things and places which have had some connection to the feelings. This often causes the situation to worsen over time, with more and more complex rituals and precautions forming part of the behaviour designed to avoid the intense and frightening feelings.

A combination of understanding how anxiety ‘works’; the link between the mind and anxiety and its effects on the body together with learning techniques on how to deal with it, is the beginning of the change process. The level of ‘arousal’ in the body needs to be decreased so that an anxiety response is not triggered inappropriately.  It is almost like turning down the thermostat on the central heating system – making sure it doesn’t kick in at “too low a temperature”.  This is something that can be learned. Understanding underlying factors and how events in life may have contributed to the anxiety is also very helpful as are changes in lifestyle, for example limiting alcohol use.  Counselling brings all of these components together.

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