Depression and Anxiety

This brief article spells out my general thinking about treating Depression and Anxiety.  Treating them is more than using medication.  


Lots of research information has become available in past decades, much of it sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, and therefore very open to bias.  There's obviously lots of money to be made designing and marketing medication to fix these problems.


Depression and anxiety are not the same thing, but more and more are considered being in the same family of maladies, with some personalities tending more to one or the other.  That’s why I’m talking about them here together. 


I also consider each of them to exist within a spectrum of intensity, ranging from clinical to situational.  


The most severe level is clinical depression or anxiety - where the level of suffering and disability runs deep.  This is where modern pharmaceuticals can be a godsend, often just to keep a person alive and functioning.  Here we need more really good psychiatrist/pharmacologists, who can help guide a patient through the maze of available medication to find just the right one or combination to relieve the suffering.  A combination of this “chemotherapy” plus good “talk therapy” (my field) seems to yield the best results.


At the other end of the intensity spectrum is what I call the situational level of depression and anxiety - where they are more a reaction or result of life situations.  These can include life disruptions such as loss, crisis, illness, aging or even just boredom.  My theory of operation is that in the middle and toward this end of the spectrum, anxiety and depression can have an actual purpose for the personality, a purpose that seeks the maturing of the individual. 


Some persons are more depressive and/or anxious than others by nature.  There are many ‘born with’ aspects of our personalities - rendering the childhood perception of “fairness” a moot point.  But our task of life is to take what we have and wrestle out an authentic life from it.  Another way of saying this is that our primary task in life is to discern and live out our life purpose.  This is why, when I have a realistic option, I’ll prefer to stay away from medication use.    


In the same vein, many marriage and/or sexual problems in relationships carry the purpose and promise of maturing the marriage.  It’s said that marriage itself is what prepares us for marriage.  It is life itself (including experiences of depression and anxiety) that prepares us for life.  This is why I don’t burn out in my work.  I continually see a maturing process emerge from people working with me.  And my work with clients’ depression and anxiety are a part of this larger process. 


Bill McDonald

August 11, 2008