Dr Sophie Newman Worcestershire Psychologist

Making Sense of the PASTMaking Changes in the PRESENTMaking the Most of your FUTURE

Help With Depression & Anxiety

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the leading treatment approaches for anxiety and depression

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety can be very distressing and make everyday life situations stressful.  Problems with anxiety are however very common and it is a normal response to stress or danger.  You may also find it useful to know that anxiety is not damaging to our physical or mental health.  In fact, moderate amounts of anxiety can help us improve our performance at difficult times e.g. preparing for an exam.  However, if we find ourselves feeling anxious too much of the time or at times when it seems un-necessary, then it can be time to seek support from someone such as a Clinical Psychologist.

Human beings have had an anxiety or fear response dating way back in our history.  So, the part of our brains that responds to fear has been around a long time.  Anxiety is the trigger for changes to happen in our bodies and minds which help us to cope with danger.  The changes which occurred in our ancestors bodies which prepared them for fighting off threats to their safety, such as a wild animal are still with us today.  When we are in a stressful situation our bodies respond with this same ‘fight or flight response’. This automatic response releases hormones into our blood stream to help us deal with the threat or run away from it.  Our bodies then respond in a number of ways:

Our heart beats faster which means blood flows to our main muscles in order for us to run or fight.  We also sweat more to keep us cool under pressure.  Linked to the changes in heart rate we also breathe faster and because blood has been directed away from our stomachs we may experience butterflies in our tummies.  Also, as muscles prepare for action we can experience muscle tension and tightness in our chests.  All of these changes are very useful in the short-term because our bodies are prepared for physical action and our minds become focused on the immediate problem.  Remember, these physiological responses evolved as an immediate response to stress which was subsequently switched off as soon as the danger passed.

The important point here is that when these reactions are not switched off we can be left with un-comfortable physical symptoms of anxiety including muscular pains, churning stomach and difficulties with our breathing.  Our thinking also becomes very much predominated with an anxious thinking style, for example always fearing the worst and thinking negatively.  Our behaviour is also likely to be affected when a vicious cycle of anxiety is set up.  This may result in changes to our sleep, eating habits and avoidance behaviours are also very likely to come into play.

As a Clinical Psychologist, I am trained to help people overcome anxiety difficulties which may present in different ways including panic, social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder.  Therapy can offer you an opportunity to see how anxiety can affect both the mind and body and help you to learn how to manage un-pleasant symptoms which can arise.

You may be reading this and wondering whether there is any hope of overcoming anxiety.  The good news is that therapy can help you to overcome un-pleasant symptoms of anxiety.  Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be particularly helpful as it helps to break vicious cycles of anxiety which can develop.


Overcoming Depression

We hear the word depression a lot these days, however, what we are talking about here differs from the everyday ups and downs of everyday life.  If you are struggling with depression, you are likely to have been feeling low or depressed for more than two weeks.  If you are severely depressed you may notice that your mood does not improve at all in the day, even if something pleasant or positive occurs.

Like anxiety, depression is very common and has been called the ‘common cold of psychiatry’.  In fact, 1 in 4 people will have an episode of depression which will require treatment at some stage in their life. If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression you may find it helpful to read more about it here and seek the help of a Clinical Psychologist.

We know that depression is not caused by one thing, but as a combination of factors interacting with one another.  More specifically, we know that biological and psychological factors are involved in depression.  Depression often runs in families, however, this does not mean that if you have a relative who has suffered that you will inherit the vulnerability.   If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, this can result in a depressive episode.  The experience of loss can also arise as a result of a relationship breakdown, loss of a job etc.  Stress can also result in depression taking hold.  Stressful events may include situations such as financial worries, physical illness or significant changes in life circumstances.  Negative thinking patterns are also associated with depression and Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown by research to be particularly useful as a therapy to tackle such patterns.  If you are depressed you are likely to recognise the following key symptoms of depression

  • depressed mood most of the day
  • markedly diminished interest/pleasure in activities
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • loss of energy
  • difficulties with concentration

We now know that there are 2 key processes going on when depression sets in.  These are:  an increase in negative emotions e.g. guilt and a reduction in positive emotions.

Many people experiencing the symptoms of depression wonder why they can’t just ‘pull themselves together’.  Finding your way out of a depressive episode can be extremely challenging. If you have been struggling with similar symptoms for some time, please get in touch or speak with your GP.

Depression can affect anyone and at any stage in life.  It doesn’t matter if you seem to have it all, you can still become depressed.  Depression can take away your energy, your interests and leave you isolated from family and friends.  Clients often come to therapy as they are concerned about changes in their personal relationships.  Depression can result in people feeling lonely and isolated yet un-willing to reach out to those who could help.  In addition, depressed individuals are likely to stop doing things that once gave them a sense of pleasure or achievement.

Please do not think you are alone in your struggle with depression.  As a Clinical Psychologist, I am here to listen to how depression is affecting you and to work on overcoming the problem together.


Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to how we view and think about ourselves.  It is also about the value that we place on ourselves as a person.  Problems with low self-esteem can arise when we hold a generally negative overall opinion of ourselves and judge ourselves in a negative way.

People with low self-esteem usually have a longstanding negative belief about themselves as a person.  Do you believe that you are not good enough, worthless, un-lovable or a failure?  If you think about yourself in this way then you may benefit from working with a Clinical Psychologist like me to find a way of overcoming this harsh way of viewing yourself.

The truth is that although you may have held a very negative belief about yourself for many years, beliefs are just that. They are not facts.

Difficulties with low self-esteem are not uncommon.  It is also important to remember that you are not alone and that you can get help to tackle this distressing problem.  You may also wonder why this problem may have arisen in the first place.  We know that people may suffer from low self-esteem as a problem in its own right or it may have arisen as part of another difficulty you are struggling with – such as depression or a chronic illness.  The good news is that you can get help to develop healthy self-esteem, which will have a positive impact on many other areas of your life.

How do I know if I have Low Self-Esteem?

Have a look at these questions and see how often you answer ‘Yes, Definitely’ to them:

– I have a good opinion of myself.

– I am kind and encouraging towards myself, rather than self-critical.

– I believe I am entitled to the good things in life.

– I like myself.

– I treat myself well and look after myself properly.

– My experience in life has taught me to value and appreciate myself.

– I feel I am entitled to other people’s time and attention.

If you struggle to answer these questions positively then you may well benefit from some psychological input to help you improve your self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can affect people in a number of ways.  You may frequently criticise yourself, put yourself down or blame yourself when things go wrong.

You may struggle to accept compliments given to you or discount them in some way ‘anyone could have done that’.  If you struggle with low self-esteem it is likely that your work will suffer also.  You may avoid challenges and opportunities as you fear you will not be good enough.  You may also feel compelled to work many hours on top of what is expected of you owing to your fear of not being good enough or ‘being found out’.

Relationship problems can also arise linked to difficulties with low self-esteem.  For example, you may have difficulty saying no to others or even avoid social contact.  You may avoid activities where you feel you may be judged in some way such as engaging in sporting activities.  You may also believe that you do not deserve rewards or to relax and enjoy yourself.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is an excellent treatment for anyone suffering from low self-esteem.  It provides clients with the opportunity to explore how the problem developed and what factors are involved in keeping the problem going.  Therapy is then focused on developing a healthier belief about yourself, so that you can value yourself for who you are.