Experiencing periods of sadness in life is quite normal. Sometimes life events such as redundancy, divorce, bereavement, or illness can make us feel very unhappy for a period of time. Even neutral or positive events such as house moves, retirement, or promotion can result in confusing periods of low mood.
All this is very normal and in most cases the low mood will lift on its own accord after a short period of time. Sometimes however, the low mood can get stuck. Persistent low mood drains energy, leads to social isolation, and is often accompanied by physical aches and pains. You may have trouble sleeping or find that you want to sleep too much and can’t face getting out of bed in the morning. Activities that you used to find enjoyable no longer seem to appeal, and talking to people and socialising can suddenly seem to be a great ordeal.
If you recognise any of these problems and feel that you just can’t seem to shake off sad feelings and low mood, then you may be affected by depression and may benefit from accessing talking therapy and medication under the advice of your GP.
Anxiety and Stress
Modern life is such that we have many things to worry about and it would be impossible to lead a life completely free of stress and anxiety at all times. Some stress is good – it enables sports people to motivate themselves to practice and excel, and it heightens responses and awareness of danger for those engaged in challenging and difficult jobs. However when stress becomes constant, it stops helping us perform and function and starts to prevent us from functioning normally. Unmanaged anxiety and worrying can eventually result in physical symptoms such as panic attacks and unpleasant physical symptoms; it can prevent you doing things that you would consider normal activities such as driving the car, going to the supermarket for some shopping or meeting friends in a busy pub or restaurant.
Anxiety can lead to panic attacks which cause a range of frightening physical symptoms such as racing heart, and breathing difficulties which can be very unpleasant for the sufferer as they may feel at the time life threatening. Experiencing these can lead the person to feel it is best to avoid all causes stress in case it happens again.
There are many ways in which you can learn to manage anxiety and stress and regain a sense of control over your worries. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can provide you with strategies to manage the physical effects and new ways of thinking to reduce the impact of anxiety on your life.
Loss and Grief
If you have experienced the death of a loved one or a significant change in circumstances brought about perhaps by divorce or redundancy, the feelings you experience may seem totally overwhelming. You may feel that the pain and grief you are feeling will never end. This is not unusual and intense grief is a natural reaction to losing something or someone that we have held special. These feelings in many cases will naturally ease over a few months and although the pain is still there, you may feel more able to function in the world. Sometimes, however the process of grieving can seem endless and we can feel stuck.
Grief can bring with it unexpected emotions such as guilt, and anger which in turn can leave us feeling vulnerable and confused.
Counselling can help by giving you a space to talk and explore the complex feelings you may have noticed as you have struggled to incorporate such a change into your life.
Low Self Esteem
Self esteem can be described as the way we see ourselves and how much we think we are worth when we compare ourselves to others. It is linked to problems with confidence and low mood, as someone with low self-esteem may struggle to take on challenges or activities where they perceive there is a risk of failure, and this may mean that they inadvertently set up a vicious cycle of negative thinking about their own abilities. As this persists, they might restrict their activities still further and therefore have little opportunity to challenge their negative thoughts and develop self belief and confidence.
If you find it hard to think of something nice to say about yourself, or find it difficult to accept praise or thanks for things you have done, you may be suffering from low self-esteem. Counselling can help by giving you time and space to look at events that may have affected your self-image and sense of self-worth and put them into perspective alongside the other qualities that you have. This can free you up to feel more able to engage in new experiences with more confidence and create a positive cycle.
Most of us will experience both our happiest and most distressing times in our lives as a result of our relationships with other people. Whether those people are our partners, our children, friends or even work colleagues or neighbours, our relationships with those around us are hugely influential on our sense of emotional wellbeing.
Coming to see a counsellor can be helpful for couples or families as it creates a neutral and managed space where each person can explore themselves, be heard, and also hear the feelings and thoughts of the other person. By doing this, it becomes possible to see where conflict is arising, and if appropriate and wanted by both parties, work towards better understanding of each other and a sense of a happier future. If parties agree to separate then counselling can help to manage the painful process of separation and enable each person to prepare for life independently.
Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many events can be described as traumatic and can leave a strong lasting impression on the person who witnessed them or experienced them. If someone experiences a sudden shocking event such as a car accident, an assault or natural disaster, they are likely to have a period following the event in which they feel more vulnerable and anxious. This is a normal reaction and over time, the anxiety and sense of extreme vulnerability usually diminishes.
Sometimes, however, the intense feelings of fear and shock which were experienced during the event begin to occur in flashbacks sometimes months and years after the event. You may suffer repeated distressing memories or dreams associated with the event and may feel extremely anxious if you are exposed to things that remind you of the event. Living with the anxiety of the recurring anxious emotions can lead to other problems such as social withdrawal, sleeping problems, anger, and emotional detachment from life.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be helpful in addressing trauma issues by providing a safe and secure base from which you can begin to understand your triggers and manage your responses to reminders of the traumatic event.
The word addiction is usually associated with the use of chemical substances such as drugs (prescription and non-prescription) alcohol, and nicotine etc. Where an ingested chemical is used, there will be significant effects on the physiology of the user which will mean that suddenly stopping using the chemical can cause unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side-effects. If you are using any form of chemical substances and feel that you need to stop it is vital that you speak as soon as possible to your GP as sudden withdrawal can cause medical problems; this is particularly important in the case of alcohol. For more information on that, please click here.
Counselling during recovery can be very helpful in understanding the emotional reasons behind the use of substances CBT has shown to be particularly effective in lessening the likelihood of relapse into using.
If you are a family member of someone who is suffering from an addiction it is likely to have a major impact on your overall well-being and mental health. It is important that you find as much support as you can for yourself at this time. adfam.org.uk is a national charity that can offer support to families affected by drug and alcohol addictions and they can put you in touch with local support groups as well as provide online support through their forum.
It is increasingly possible for people to experience so-called behavioural addictions. Many people find that they feel compelled to continue certain activities such as gambling, eating, playing video games, overusing social media and internet use even when they might wish to be doing something else and can see the damage that continuing is doing to their lives. These sort of behaviours are particularly prone to becoming addictions because they provide the opportunity for immediate reward via brain chemistry and so the mechanism of “addiction” still functions even though the chemical input is internal.
As with chemically induced addictions counselling and CBT can be very effective in understanding the driving forces of the behaviour and giving you the opportunity to take more control of the choices you are making.
Experiencing a panic attack can be a shocking experience. During an attack you may have rapid and severe physical changes such as sweating, feeling faint or nauseous, rapid heartbeat, trembling or weakness, breathing difficulty and chest pain. It can feel as though you are having a heart attack or that you are going to lose consciousness.
These symptoms are a physiological response to fear or stress, but in the case of a panic attack, the response becomes amplified and extreme. To the person having the panic attack it can seem that these symptoms are beyond control. Everyone who experiences panic attacks will have a different experience, but in general most people feel that their attacks happen suddenly and last from five to fifteen minutes. They can occur at night, interrupting sleep and causing problems with insomnia.
If you have experienced these symptoms and have had a physical cause ruled out by your doctor or hospital, talking therapy can help you cope with the anxiety that lies behind them which will reduce the likelihood of experiencing a panic attack. There are also techniques that can be used to reduce the duration and the severity of the symptoms.
Many people who have been diagnosed with a neuro-diverse condition such as dyslexia, ADHD, ASD or Dyspraxia may find that they sometimes suffer from periods of anxiety and depression. Surviving and thriving in a world that is largely designed for the neurotypical brain can place an enormous strain on day to day life which means that you can feel your energy levels are drained much faster than those of your friends and family who may seem to lack understanding and sympathy for your struggles.
If you have found yourself wondering why you have struggled with things other people seem to find easy, or if you have been diagnosed with a neurodiversity in the past counselling can help. Talking therapy and cognitive behavioural approaches can help you understand yourself, better manage your environment and improve your communication and personal relationships.