Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vicious Circles in Anxiety and Depression

I think one of the most insidiously cruel aspects of depression is the way it uses feedback loops to defend itself against my recovery. A very simple example is panic attacks, like what often happens when having blood drawn or other medical procedures:
1. Feel anxious.
2. Hold breath.
3. Lack of oxygen causes dizziness
4. Dizziness causes anxiety
5. Hold breath more
6. Etc until I feel so dizzy I'm sure I'm going to die.

Here's how it attacks my social life:
1. Someone's annoyed with me.
2. Refuse to interact so I don't say anything to make it worse.
3. They get frustrated that I'm not responding.
4. I get more anxious from their frustration and hide more.
5. Etc until we're both angry for no reason.

1. Forget to call friend.
2. Too embarrassed to call and apologize.
3. Friend must be really angry now.
4. Ignore friend until they get over me and we're no longer friends

Home life:
1. Leave the dishes undone a couple of days, even though it doesn't take long and I know I feel better when the house is clean.
2. Jerkbrain says, "Why bother cleaning the dishes, they'll just get dirty again and you'll still live in a crappy house and there will still be spiders in the windowsill."
3. Feel hopeless, leave the dishes undone longer.
4. Jerkbrain says, "What kind of miserable pathetic failure are you that you can't even spend ten minutes to keep the kitchen clean? Clearly you should stop trying at everything."

Right now I'm having problems at work because I'm anxious about how to respond to situations, so nothing. Then I'm embarrassed, then depressed, then anxious again, and still doing nothing, and then I get anxious about my job status...

And it's just so heavy, and seems to take so much energy to just Get Up and Do A Thing that the idea of actually accomplishing significant things seems impossible. And it's easier to give up and do nothing, but that makes it worse, making me feel worse.

I need a way to short-circuit these cycles. I've figured out how to handle conflicts with Spouse by saying "I'm not ignoring you, I'm just having trouble talking" and that helps us both be patient. The thing is if I can get past the panic, I can address whatever needs addressing. But I really need a better way to handle it at work.

Any thoughts?


  1. Can you send an email that says something like "I recognize that this situation needs my attention, and I am addressing it. I will endeavour to have it taken care of by ____date."

  2. Also maybe privately letting your boss know that you have anxiety?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This is tricky. Your boss may respond to this as though you are seeking accommodation for a medical issue, and may involve HR. Of course you can't be fired for that reason, but it may kick off an uncomfortable process and every little thing that happens may start to be documented. I would actually avoid this unless you really feel like your job is in jeopardy because of your anxiety.

  4. Can you send an email that says something like "I recognize that this situation needs my attention, and I am addressing it. I will endeavour to have it taken care of by ____date."

  5. Do you have a trusted friend at work? You may ask for their impression of the situation. Maybe the things that you are worried about are actually nbd and you're doing just fine.
    Relieve tension with the people who are expecting something from you by going out of your way to greet them, smile, and ask how they're doing or make whatever small talk unrelated to the subject you're anxious about. They'll probably do the same and then you both go about your day. It's unlikely that they'll begin to badger you about that thing you should be doing. If they do, that actually might give you an in for my last suggestion.
    Ask to sit down with the person that's expecting something from you. Let them know you're struggling with how to address it, and ask them for some coaching/suggestions. If it's not your boss, and that sort of conversation isn't appropriate, then ask your boss to sit down with you and give you some coaching.