Most consider anxiety and depression to be forms of mental illness–some might even use the term disease. What we call something is very important. Words shape the way we think and feel. Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” To me, mental illness is not almost the right word, it’s the wrong word! When I think of an illness or a disease, I think of something you catch, a sickness that infiltrates your body leaving you its victim. You catch a cold or the flu, if you step on a rusty nail you contract tetanus. In my opinion, you don’t catch or contract anxiety or depression. You generate it!
Why is this important? Because with a cold, flu or tetanus, you’re nothing more than a passive victim of some outside nefarious biological agent. And by definition, a victim is someone who is helpless–powerless. If you think of anxiety and depression as an illness, than you can’t help but feel victimized!
So, let’s change the language. Rather than an illness or a disease, I’m going to suggest the rather heretical notion that anxiety and depression be seen as habits. Habits that you generate (Please understand, in no way am I minimizing the seriousness of a clinical depression. From a Self-Coaching perspective, I’m only trying to empower you to take a more active role in your liberation from your suffering). Some of you may be wondering, “Doesn’t anxiety and depression run in families?” “How can it be a habit if, in fact, there are genetic roots?” I’m not saying that your genetic history is irrelevant; all I’m saying is that a genetic disposition is NOT a life sentence. It’s a tendency toward anxiety or a tendency toward depression. What you inherit is a lower threshold of susceptibility. Whether you’re predisposed to anxiety or depression is not the issue. Like any other habit, what matters is whether or not you feed or starve this tendency. That’s the issue!
If anxiety and depression are habits, why is medication beneficial? How is it that our biology is affected by habits? The answer is rather straight forward: it’s all about stress. When insecurity drives habits such as worrying, ruminating, avoiding, compulsivity, etc., we begin to generate emotional stress. And make no mistake, emotional stress is both a psychological as well as emotional reality. Ongoing, chronic stress will deplete you biologically as well as emotionally. This depletion can create physiological imbalances that respond to medication. From a Self-Coaching perspective, stop the stress motor (i.e., insecurity-driven thinking) and you begin to allow your body to reclaim its balance naturally. Medication has its place, especially with more severe anxiety or depressions, in which case medication can be viewed as a necessary, therapy facilitator. Bottom line remains: stopping the motor of insecurity-driven thinking is what will eventually set you free.