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. Life is unpredictable and diverse, and seldom do things go according to any plan in one’s life. Conforming to any script is a set up for misery, and an attitude of intolerance towards others.
The most common mental issues I treat are anxiety and depression, with depression being either anger expressed towards one’s self or towards others. When people struggle with either chronic fear of impending doom or a chronic sense of hopelessness, it’s simply because things are not going their way, or more specifically, 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 very aware that besides death, nothing is 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 a 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 in a box they know is not a box.
Depression happens primarily as a result of things not going a person’s way. Depression can be very complex because some times people have very good reasons to be depressed and poor reasons to be depressed.
There are three types of depression I treat, the first is depression as a result of anxiety. Basically this is a result of becoming depressed about experiencing chronic anxiety. These people want to experience happiness, but have become addicted to their fears of things going terribly wrong and they now find themselves in a chronic state of misery.
The second type of depression is clinical depression. People who struggle with clinical depression have bought into an ideology about how their lives should unfold based on their actions. Their depression results when their lives unfold differently than they anticipated. Instead of reevaluating their beliefs and actions, they reach the conclusion that they are not doing things well enough. Hence they develop a subconscious 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. This makes a lot sense, given that they most likely engaged in these events not necessarily for the sheer satisfaction of doing so, but as a stepping stone to achieve a goal. When their goals are not materialized, they naturally lose interest in the activity. At its worst, people struggling with clinical depression have given up on themselves, and are considering suicide.
The third type of depression is rage. A more common definition for this type of depression is poor anger management. People who struggle with poor anger management, blame others for things not going their way. They have come to genuinely believe that 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 at others. These people have also subscribed to the belief that happiness can only be achieved at the expense of others. In the presence of these people once you get past the anger, what’s left is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. These people have come to see themselves as weak and worthless. This is because they believe that since others are having their ways with them and that they must be weak and worthless.
In reality most clients I treat for anxiety and depression, are on a spectrum. That is they have a significant degree of anxiety and each type of depression I just mentioned. However, treatment is geared towards the type of illness they present the most with.
I am going to do a part two of this post, where I write about how anxiety and depression can be cured. That’s right, cured.
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Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching service.