For generations depression and anxiety disorders have been shrouded in secrecy. It was a dirty little secret much like an “affair” or “pre-marriage pregnancy”. If you suffered you were abandoned to suffer alone if only in a metaphoric way.
I’ve been having an ongoing argument in my own head (!!) about what came first, the chicken or the egg. Do my thoughts cause my depression or does my depression cause my thoughts. And, what about anxiety? What causes an anxiety attack?
Since I can remember, I’ve been told by family and friends, that I just need to think happy thoughts and I’ll feel better. This well-meaning advice underpinned a philosophy or perhaps ignorant opinion that we can control how we feel by just thinking differently.
For hundred’s of years “female hysteria” was a common diagnosis for anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses. Its treatment at times meant stimulating the patient to orgasm!
(Frankly, if I could be cured by a good f**K, I’d have been cured years ago!!!)
Modern psychiatry however, has its beginnings attributed to Sigmund Freud’s discovery and examination of ego. His discovery and subsequent therapy focused heavily on “talk therapy” in an attempt to help patients.
Carl Yung, first a follower of Freud and later deeply critical of him, developed analytical psychology. It focused on conscious and subconscious (among other things) and added another layer to this burgeoning area of medicine. In fact the Myer-Briggs personality inventories developed in the 40’s are based on Jungs’s work.
Even as late as the 1980’s and 90’s Freud and Yung’s work was being used in the development of psychiatry and how it applied across humanity.
However, it’s now largely agreed that Freud (the father of modern psychiatry) was wrong. Yep, WRONG! And while Yung still holds some credibility, it’s largely agreed that his focus on spirituality and dreams, was a bit, well, freaky!
But what does all this have to do with anxiety and depression?
Well, since the introduction of MRI’s and chemical diagnostic techniques, science has been able to get a much deeper look at how the brain works. Once guided by posthumous organ donations and the feedback of patients, science now has the ability to look at how the brain is stimulated and the psychosomatic outcomes it creates. (And you don’t have to be dead!!)
As discoveries are made and verified, pharmacology develops treatments that if, they cannot cure the illness, can at least treat the symptoms. And that’s my point.
In a simple discussion with a friend recently I stated that before I know my foot is cold, my foot it cold! It’s the stimulation of the correct area of my brain via “chemical” activity that alerts me to my foot’s degree of comfort! Without my body’s ability to send the correct messages to my brain I would likely develop frostbite or similar malady that could impair my living.
For so long, I’ve been convinced that if I just thought good thoughts I wouldn’t be depressed. I wouldn’t be anxious. It was only in the revelation of my cold foot that I was able to fully understand it was possible for my body act independently of my thoughts. (Something I should have realized years ago!!)
If my brain either cannot or will not process my natural “feel good” chemicals; or, if it can detect a fight of flight chemical produced in an event that took place decades ago; or has a propensity to idle pessimistically rather than positively; it is not as a result of my thoughts.
Now if I’d only realised that 20 years ago!!
Interestingly from Freud: “The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.”
Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety. To contact Deb click here.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor. If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Disclaimer: This article is based entirely on the opinion of the author who is not qualified in the area of psychiatry.