Take, for example, a common mindset most college students have is this; go to college, study hard, make good grades, land a good-paying job, find love, get married and live happily ever after. The problem with this scenario is that life is unpredictable and diverse and seldom do things go according to plan.
Conforming to any script can set us up for misery and disenchantment with the natural flow of own unique lives.
The most common mental issues I treat are anxiety and depression. Depression can also take the form of anger towards one’s self or others. When people struggle with chronic fear, a sense of impending doom, or feelings of hopelessness, in some cases, it may be simply because things are not going according to their expectations.
People who struggle with chronic anxiety are usually very astute. They struggle with a conflicted mind. While they strongly believe that things in their lives should go in a specific order, they are also very aware that with the exception of death, nothing in our lives is guaranteed. A good job is not guaranteed, love is not guaranteed, health is not guaranteed.
People who struggle with anxiety seem to be stuck in a situation analogous to the Catholic description of purgatory. They enjoy the idea of structured and predictable life, however, they are aware that such a life is not entirely realistic because it is dependent on changing variables beyond their control. They recognize that in order to seek fulfillment that they must take risks, but they are terrified of the consequences associated with failing, hence, they remain stuck.
Depression is not an all or nothing type of diagnosis. It happens on a continuum and ranges from mild, temporary episodes of dysphoria to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the most severe form of depression. It is not the same as what we feel after a death or the loss of a job. If you would like to read more about the signs and symptoms of clinical depression you can do so here.
What I see in my office
I find that many of my clients are struggling with depression and anxiety express a disappointment in how their lives have unfolded. They are concerned that things are not in accordance with their idealized script.
Instead of reevaluating their beliefs and actions, they reach the conclusion that they are not doing things well enough. They develop a deep resentment of self (anger turned inwards). They will usually report that they have lost interest in activities they have previously enjoyed doing in the past. When their goals are not materialized, they naturally lose interest in the activity. At its worst, people struggling with depression have given up on themselves, and are considering suicide.
I also see in my office depression masking as anger. Often these people blame others for things not going their way. They have come to believe things in their lives are not going as planned due to the poor choices of others. They are quick to lash out verbally and sometimes physically.
Once they get past the anger, what’s left is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. These people have come to see themselves as weak and worthless. They have lost their sense of agency in their lives.
A note about adolescents
Adolescents are at risk to develop depression. Many parents attribute their child’s struggle as a typical adolescent angst, but sometimes it’s more. In youth, an irritable mood (consistently, not once in a while or for obvious reasons) often co-occurs with depression. Consistent irritable mood without depression is rare. A longitudinal study found only 5.7% of the youth reported irritability but no depression. 35.6 percent of depressed youth in the study also had irritability.
If your child or adolescent is always irritable, make an effort to find out why. They may benefit from talking to a professional.
Treatment is available
It does not matter where you are on the spectrum of depression. Treatment is available and can help mild depression and discontentment to the most serious depression. If you are struggling, you do not have to go through it alone. Reach out for help.
I’m here to help
Ugo Uche LPC is a psychotherapist and life coaching service in Tuscon Arizona. If you would like to learn more you are welcome to call me or fill out the contact form and click Send. If you are outside the Tuscon area or cannot make it to my office, you can also receive sessions via online therapy.