What lurks underneath it can actually be causing it!

Anxiety and depression are the two most common symptoms people who come to psychotherapy say they are coming to treat. Anxiety can take many forms including muscle tightness; heart palpitations; and shallow, rapid breathing. It can affect balance, thinking, and memory. It can exacerbate physical health conditions such as migraines, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea.

ISTDP, intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy, is a dramatically effective treatment for depression and anxiety.

From an ISTDP perspective, I look at anxiety as I would a large rock in the forest. You can walk over a rock in the forest and see just what is on the surface—a rock. But if you lift the rock up, there is life teaming in the soil underneath it. The same is true of anxiety. If you lift anxiety up, and take a look underneath, there are often other primary emotions such as anger and grief. These primary emotions are covered by the presenting symptom of anxiety like a rock in the forest covers the life underneath it.

As adults, we live in anxious, defensive states rather than experience our anger and grief. Somewhere along the way, we learned it wasn’t always safe to express these feelings toward primary caretakers and others who may have broken trust bonds with us when we were children.

Anxiety and associated defense mechanisms, which were adaptive in childhood, can prove to be maladaptive in adulthood. As adults, we can live anxiously and defensively, instead of feeling our primary, mixed emotions towards those who are close to us. We avoid conflict; however, conflict is inherent in all loving, close relationships. Although we crave the closeness of connecting with others, we also fear it.

Through ISTDP, we learn to experience the feelings underneath the rock of anxiety, and thereby throw the rock of anxiety off us to live freely.

CBT, cognitive-behavioral therapy, can also be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.


Please note that this blog is based largely on my experience and the training I have received over the thirty years I have practiced psychotherapy as a post-master’s degree Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and not based on my own scientific studies. ISTDP is an evidenced-based approach backed up by the scientific studies of others, including but not limited to psychiatrist Dr. Allan Abbass. For more information on ISTDP, see the website ISTDP.CA.

Also please note that a blog is not a substitute for direct treatment of mental or physical health issues. It is merely an offer of suggestions which may prompt you to attend to symptoms with a licensed mental or physical health professional.

This blog about psychology is general information shared for educational purposes and it is the opinion of the author. It is not psychological therapy and it is not directed toward any individual person. For links to evidence-based research on some of the different modalities mentioned in these blogs, click here…