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Daniel L. Depression and anxiety

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Doris, Dec 14, 2014.

  1. Doris

    Doris Newcomer

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    I have a 17 year old son who suffers from depression and social anxiety, he is currently receiving CBT therapy and is on antidepressants with no improvements. I have read Dr. Sarnos book and it has helped me with my shoulder pain but I am desperate to help him. How can I help him? should I find a different therapist?
  2. Daniel G Lyman LCSW

    Daniel G Lyman LCSW TMS Therapist

    Great question. Let’s briefly break down TMS to help us understand what’s going on here.

    First, the whole point of TMS pain is to distract you. Your pain wants you to be preoccupied by it so that you’re not paying attention to what else is going on – emotionally.

    Let me explain: I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve seen that have told me about their horrific pain and about how horrible their body has felt since January of 2011 (or whenever) and they tell me that there was no reason at that time for their pain to start, but it just so happens that in December of 2010 they got a divorce, their Dad died, they got evicted, etc. Instead of feeling the intense sadness (or anger) that comes with those situations, they then feel pain. Why do people do this, you ask?

    Another great question.

    As kids, how we feel our feelings is modeled to us by our parents (or another influential person in our lives at that time), and if they do not allow themselves to feel their feelings, and instead feel pain (or sleepiness, or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, or have an eating disorder, etc.) then we learn that FEELINGS ARE BAD. Anger, sadness, and even happiness are terrible things, and must be avoided at all costs!

    Now here’s where it gets just slightly more complicated.

    Anxiety & Depression? Those are the same things as pain (we call them TMS equivalents). Well not quite exactly the same thing, but they serve the same purpose: distraction. It’s not a surprise that your son learned to unconsciously avoid his own feelings – you’ve been doing the same thing (hence why you had pain). I say that not to make you feel bad (it’s not your fault – you learned it from YOUR parents; blaming our parents for our problems is a favorite American pastime, so enjoy it), but to demonstrate exactly what I wrote above - we learn how to deal with feelings from our parents!

    Anxiety and depression are not actually feelings at all, but instead a mask for your feelings. Think of those two things literally as masks for your feelings. And the more you avoid the feelings, the thicker the mask gets.

    CBT can help break down through those masks for sure, but a lot of other things can as well. The important thing through this process is to have patience as your son goes through therapy – he won’t be rid of his anxiety and depression overnight.

    Patience and an empathetic ear. Listen to him. Share your feelings with him and encourage him to do the same (which I know is hard with a 17-year-old, so again, patience is key). Ask him how he feels without any judgment of what he should/shouldn’t say (he may even be angry with YOU. That’s okay. Anger is not the end of the world). You want to be there for him no matter how he’s feeling, because feelings are what remind us we’re alive. Without feelings we’d be robots, and definitely not the fun kind of robots.

    Stay confident. Your question here on the wiki is already demonstrative of your care for him. Make sure he knows and experiences that care. And remind yourself that you’re doing great as a Mom – it’s not an easy job.

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

  3. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Doris. I have three teenagers myself so I truly empathize with what you are going through. My 14 year old daughter does not handle stress very well and is such a perfectionist that I can see the tension throughout her body when things don't go the way she feels they should. Its difficult to even get her attention when she is in that state. I have worked with a number of therapists over the years. I did try CBT for about a year. I don't know how long your son has been seeing his therapist and how he feels about him/her. I do believe finding the right fit with a therapist can make a huge difference. I have had my greatest success with a somatic experiencing therapist. She recently moved away and I just had my first appointment with another somatic experiencing therapist yesterday. Its interesting because both of the Somatic Experiencing therapists I have seen have said that they have some vague knowledge of Dr Sarno and TMS. When questioned specifically, neither therapist buys into TMS theory in the way we have learned to think of it(Pain/anxiety/depression as a distraction from our feelings)
    and yet practically speaking somatic experiencing fits in very well with TMS work because the very nature of it is training you to physically experience what you are feeling in the moment. I live very much in my head and anxiety and depression is also very much driven by our thoughts. The CBT therapist that I worked with tried to get me to become aware of my thought processes and to try and replace some of my more negative thoughts with more positive affirmations. For instance, she had me wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time I had a negative thought. She had me repeat lists of positive affirmations each day. In our talk therapy she continuously showed me how my anxious thought processes and worst case scenario preparations were not serving me well. After about a year I moved onto something else because I was not achieving any tangible change in my anxiety. I was working really hard at it but the tap of negative and anxious thoughts continued to flow. And yet I have known people in which CBT therapy changed there lives. It is a very individual thing finding what works. Your son is very fortunate to have your love, support and attention. Even though it is natural to be very concerned for him and it is important to give him attention and support, I would also try to have confidence that he can and will work through this.
    Ellen and mike2014 like this.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Teenagers today are under such stress from many things happening in their young lives during anxious times for everyone.
    The best thing to give them is love, support, and nonjudgmental attention.

    A good therapist can help, but maybe even better would be a dog. If your son had a puppy to care for, he might pour all his
    anger or fear into love for the dog. This might sound stupid or crazy, but a dog has helped a lot of young people under stress
    and also returned servicemen and women with post traumatic stress. I know my dogs have helped through some real tough times.
  5. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Can you explain a little further what you mean by anxiety/depression being masks for feelings? When you feel anxiety (terror in some cases), are you saying that THAT feeling of panic is masking another feeling? I'm confused. If you get the chance, please expand on that part of your answer. Thank you!
  6. Daniel G Lyman LCSW

    Daniel G Lyman LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi honey badger.

    Don't worry too much about that. General anxiety is a mask for our feelings. If you're feeling terror (and not because you're being chased by a zombie), then that is a sign that your anxious brain has taken over. There is no reason to feel terror about TMS symptoms. If we are feeling anxiety (or terror), then we have trained our brain to move further away from a regular function of feelings, and instead have habituated our brain to only feeling anxiety. But as I said, don't worry too much about that. As you reduce anxiety and fear in your life, feelings will begin to arise naturally.
  7. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Thank you for explaining this further. I am happy to say that I no longer feel that terror, but I did feel it during a very intense episode of anxiety in my life. I was actually numb for about 3 days, and once I took myself out of the situation I was in (for which I'm very proud!), it left terror or panic as a go-to feeling. So, as you say, the pathway must have been made and it became a regular internal reaction, that of panic in my core, every time something remotely similar occurred or was to occur. Like a good perfectionist would, I went into action trying to solve this new problem, and nothing worked, nothing, until I started doing the opposite of what I wanted to have done: that is, I made time to sit with my terror every day and was mindful of it, accepted it as best as I could, and I observed it in my body. This helped tremendously, but it did not go away. What finally did it was reading Claire Weekes Hope and Help for Your Nerves. She explains doing something similar to what we do with pain and TMS, noticing it, accepting it (really accepting that it's there in whatever way it presents itself), and then going about our lives without minding it too much. Part of her technique of acceptance is to relax completely (she calls it "floating) when you have a panic/anxiety feeling, and this helps you reset a new physical reaction, that of no resistance, no tension. This was ultimately what worked for me.

    I have been fascinated by how much anxiety or fear seems to be in my life. As I understand TMS more and more, I am coming to terms with that being a significant player in my life, and not just anger/rage. Thank you again for clarifying and for reinforcing that I not worry too much about digging too deeply into understanding the mask of anxiety. I'm always trying too hard! Thank you.
    Penny2007 likes this.

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