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                                                      Depression and Anxiety

         If you have been struggling with depression or anxiety or both for long time, or just recently, my heart goes out to you. Welcome to what can be the most difficult aspect about being human.  And so over- coming emotional struggle has long been a favorite topic of mine, and I would like the chance to help. I am increasingly excited about advances in the field of psychology which have produced some very powerful strategies for understanding where negative emotions really come from and very effective tools for overcoming them.  


      There are two major approaches. The first is the brain chemistry approach. This, of course, is the approach that is heavily marketed by the pharmaceutical/psychiatry/stock market complex. There is huge money driving this approach. Indeed, not everyone’s brain is the same and the right medication in many cases can make a world of difference in mood.

       The second approach is the psychological model. From this perspective most people's anxiety or depression is not caused by a fundamental brain chemistry imbalance—the hard drive is rarely the problem, it’s the programing. From this approach you are not bad and wrong if you have some negative emotions sometimes. Negative emotions, after all, have evolved across the past several hundred thousand years in humans for darn good reasons. They are signaling systems. Some fear and anxiety is very important in life for letting us know what alleys to not walk down, when to hit the brakes, when to make job applications, when to see doctors, etc. Likewise, depression is how we become aware when we’re not getting our needs met in life and need to look at making some changes.

      What we don't want is excessive or disproportionate negative emotions. Here is where psychology has made great strides. You might ask, if mere brain chemistry isn’t really my problem, what then is causing my anxiety and/or depression? Most people tend to think that their moods are caused by difficult life events such as breakups, illnesses, money shortfalls, etc. but that’s not it either. Otherwise we wouldn’t get completely disparate emotions in different individuals facing the exact same situation. Simple example: a company with a new dress code causes some employees to be very upset and some to be very happy. That’s because, you guessed it, they each have a different point of view about the situation. There is the million-dollar secret in psychology. For the most part our moods are not caused by brain chemistry imbalances or external events, but rather the spin we put on the situations of our lives. Our learned explanatory style. Our interpretations and judgments. In short, it is our beliefs that cause emotion.

     Equally important, it isn’t any old beliefs that cause serious negative emotions. Excessive negative emotions are invariably caused by irrational beliefs loaded with cognitive distortions that we don’t recognize at first. The reason most people never learn of this is because compared to the medical model there really isn’t any money behind it—no tangible product to sell, no investors. Yet all the leading psychologists in the last 60 years agree with this principle. They all also agree that the best way out of negative moods depends on one’s ability to successfully identify and dispute their own illogical, irrational cognitive distortions.

          In general, there are two broad categories of erroneous beliefs. There are our interpretations of day-to-day challenges like money shortfalls, plans that must be changed, what other people say, rained-out weekends, etc. There are also deeply held irrational beliefs generally operating just under the radar of conscious awareness. These core beliefs, or negative schema, have to do with early learned perceptions about who we are in this world in relation to everyone else. These core beliefs operate in the background and tend to push emotional overage throughout our lives.

What I offer:

       There are now great tools developed for overcoming unnecessary worry, anxiety, fear, anguish, despair, anger, and the darkest of moods. These strategies are easy to learn with just a little practice. I start with learning all I can about your history, your situations, and your feelings (which are always real and deserve validation). Beyond that I become something of a coach and reinforce the truth that you really are made of all the right stuff and can build the skills that will impower you to overcome excessive negative mood and become a happy and resilient person across all the dimensions of your life.


Dr. Portman

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