Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression are the most common reasons that people consult with psychologists and enroll in counseling. Anxiety and depression are the 2 most common mental health conditions the general population experiences and both are treatable.


Depression is a painful condition that can sap energy physically and emotionally. It can get in the way of enjoyment of life, relationships, and job functioning. The severity can range from mild (feeling life is dreary) to severe (hardly being able to get out of bed).

What causes depression?
Sometimes the causes for depression are apparent, such as the break-up of a relationship, financial difficulties, or being fired from a job. Other times the causes are hidden, such as chronic low self-esteem or unresolved feelings about things that happened in childhood. There are also biological causes for depression like family history, physical conditions, medications, and chemical imbalances.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities

  • Change in sleeping habits

  • Change in appetite

  • Loss of energy physically, mentally or emotionally

  • Low mood most of the day, nearly every day

  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Thoughts of dying

How can a psychologist help?
The psychologist will meet with the client for an initial interview to get a better understanding of the problem, its causes, current life stressors, family history, job situation, and any relevant medical conditions. When all the information is collected, often at the end of the first interview, the psychologist will provide information and feedback from their assessment and discuss a treatment plan with the client which may or may not include medication. They can also provide handouts about your condition and recommend appropriate reading material.

The psychologist is a helpful resource for information and can be in contact with your primary medical doctor if you like. The majority of medical conditions are shaped and influenced by our emotions and reactions to stress. So therefore, your psychologist can provide useful information to any of your medical doctors if you like (e.g., gynecologist, oncologist, endocrinologists, family physician, pediatrician) or to your teachers and school counselors. This is always an option for you.

Depression can make a person feel like life is not worth living. With help from a psychologist, there is hope. Psychologists have extensive training and experience in helping people with depression.


Anxiety is a nervous feeling that is very uncomfortable. It can range from a general feeling of fearfulness to panic attacks. It can interfere with enjoyment of daily activities and prevent people from doing things they need or want to do.

How can we distinguish between normal fearfulness and anxiety?
It is normal to be fearful of actual dangerous situations. This normal fear protects us from potential harm. But in an anxious person, the fear expands to the point where the person is fearful even without real danger. The anxiety is more persistent, it just does not seem to go away.

What are the causes of anxiety?
Sometimes the causes are identifiable, such as traumatic events, bad experiences, and accidents. Sometimes, though, there seems to be no reason at all. There can also be physical origins for the problem, such as a more sensitive nervous system, family history, medical conditions and side effects from medications.

Are there different kinds of anxiety?
Yes. Some people experience panic attacks. This is a period of intense fear and can include shaking, racing heart, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and other disturbing symptoms.

There are specific phobias in which a person is afraid of such things as enclosed spaces, standing in lines, going grocery shopping, riding on elevators or other types of transportation (busses and planes), driving on the highway, heights, or just being out in public. This leads to avoidance of the feared situation and sometimes even social withdrawal and isolation. Unfortunately, the fear often persists and intensifies so that the person's range of daily activities becomes more limited.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder which follows exposure to a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, experiencing or witnessing a crime, being the victim of a physical or sexual assault or rape. In "PTSD" the person continuously re-experiences the event in dreams and flashbacks. They are unable to stop these intrusive images. There is intense fear, anxiety and dread. They feel they are spiraling out of control. This can be a very frightening, lonely and isolating experience because helpful other people often do not know how to help.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where the person is afraid of social situations and generally avoids group type interactions. They can experience a great feeling of discomfort in social situations and generally try to avoid such settings.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where the person has intrusive unwanted thoughts or ideas which they have a hard time controlling. It can feel like a broken record in their head. They feel compelled to perform certain behaviors (e.g, counting, handwashing, excessive organizing and cleaning) and often are unable to stop the thoughts or behaviors.

How can the psychologist help?
As with depression, the psychologist will meet with the client and complete an evaluation including taking a history of the problem, family history, and other relevant factors. Then a treatment plan will be developed and discussed with the client. It may or may not include medication. You and your psychologist may discuss the course and likely length of your counseling and what goals you hope to achieve. During the interview and during therapy, the psychologist is there to help you get better. In the process they can answer any questions you might have and can also be a useful resource.

Anxiety prevents a person from enjoying life. Activities can become restricted in order to avoid the anxious feelings. With therapy, anxiety can be controlled or eliminated. Although it is a very troubling problem, psychologists have a great deal of experience and expertise working with clients who have anxiety. The good news is anxiety is treatable.