Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Recently I was chatting with a friend about depression. He told me that he was concerned about some of his behaviours and wasn't sure how to go about changing them. Let's pretend that this guy is afraid of spiders; he avoids them whenever possible, he panics if he can't get away, and he won't tell his family why he doesn't like to go to the park with the kids or to the woods to camp. It is said that the first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem. So this guy has admitted that he has a problem that is interfering with his every day life. The next step is to determine if it's a real problem. Well, if he lived in a part of the world that had no spiders and there was no chance of him encountering one, then there's really no problem. But, he lives in a part of the world that has spiders so his problem is very real.

The next step is to determine if this guy's motivated to overcome his fear. He says he hates the anxiety he feels around spiders and he wants to take the kids to the park. Appearances indicate he's motivated.

The next step is action. This friend went to a doctor years ago to see if his fear could be helped with medication (he had heard that anti-anxiety meds might help) but at the time the side effects were more than he wanted to deal with and he didn't think his fear was interfering enough with his life to warrant medication. Now, however, his fear is starting to become more generalized, and it's not just spiders that cause anxiety, but any creepy crawly. My friend is now going to consult once again with a doctor about meds and cognitive behavioural therapy. In combination, it is thought those two treatments can be the most successful.

Anxiety disorders are closely tied to depression. I've heard it said that depression is fear turned inward. Anxiety is simply fear in a specific and sometimes not so specific situation. When we are afraid of and for ourselves, that anxiety is manifested as depression.

So how do you climb out of that well of depression or stop being afraid? Once a medical reason for the fear is eliminated, you can begin thinking different thoughts. I believe that if you approach your fear or depression in a logical, systematic way, you have a much better chance of overcoming it.

Want an even better chance at overcoming depression? Read a book by David Burns. It's called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. It was first published almost 30 years ago and every time I see a copy of it at a flea market or yard sale I buy it because I give it to people who talk to me about the subject. And this guy has a website. Check it out for yourself. I've never met the man and have no financial ties to him, but from my own experience, I can recommend the book.

I've also given the recommendation to my friend so with any luck he'll be outside playing with spiders in no time.


Picture from
I love Wiki.


Diane J Standiford said...

Why do people seem to suffer from depression more now than 100 years ago? Mary Lincoln--but her son died, who wouldn't be depressed? Could the fear of fear, of being seen as afraid, cause some of the anxiety? Artistic people seem, historically, to suffer...genes? Ah, the debate goes on. Perhaps the answer is unique to each person, as unique as a web?

Shauna said...

I suspect people didn't talk about it as much 100 years ago, like many things, but we know it existed. And though I can't list any studies or give you evidence, I believe there is a genetic component to some depressions.
The web is a good analogy, too, Diane. Wish I had thought of it...:)



I'll refrain from clinical thoughts about depression, but will say your analogy of arachnophobia and depression was nicely written. :)

(apologizing for my hiatus in blog reading...still trying to catch up!)

Linda D. in Seattle


Thanks Shauna, I'll have to check out that book (had never heard of it.) I've struggled and dealt with depression for years, sought medical help, and counseling (cognitive behavioral, talk therapy.) When you find a professional who is skilled, they can help you to identify the fears so that they do not turn-inward. I wish your friend well.

Shauna said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. I will keep you posted on my friend. He read the post, too, and told me he's gotten a referral to a local professional so he's moving forward.