Bob Van Oosterhout

List of Hypotheses
About Bob (...What about Bob?)
Anger and Impulse Control
Anxiety, Depression, PTSD
Behavioral Health Integration with Primary Care
Bring Truth to Fear: We CAN Work Together
Hard Times Cafe Model of Empowerment
Links to Videos for Online Stress Management at LCC
Managing Chronic Pain and Headaches
Mental Health
Moral Philosophy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Practical Psychology: What Works and Makes Sense
Problem Solving - Responding Effectively to Problems
Slow Down and Lighten Up
Spiritual Writing
Stress Management
What Works
Resume/Curriculum Vitae
Comments, Suggestions, Discussion

New Perspectives on Treating Anxiety Depression and PTSD

Bob Van Oosterhout



Recovery from symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD is a natural process when obstacles are removed.


People who have fully recovered from symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD demonstrate an increased depth of understanding and appreciation of life and relationships along with increased clarity of perceptions, values and priorities.


The primary obstacles to recovery from anxiety, depression, and PTSD are 1) Physical, mental and emotional tension. 2) Conditions where symptoms provide secondary gain; and 3) Losing heart where the client perceives being stuck in a situation that blocks growth and fulfillment.

(Tension involves resistance. Physical tension is a continuous contraction of groups of muscles that tends to form patterns outside of normal awareness. Mental tension results from patterns of thinking and perceiving that create narrow, inflexible and distorted perceptions and mental habits that create physical tension. Emotional tension results from attempting to restrict the experience of emotion through muscle contraction and breath holding. There tends to be consistent patterns of physical tension that are associated with resistance to specific emotions.)


Physical tension limits perceptual flexibility, receptivity, and the capacity to experience emotion while limiting awareness and the capacity for reflective thought. It creates non-productive negative thinking which builds additional physical tension contributing to a self-escalating process. When tension builds, it creates an imbalance in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) where the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which stimulates muscle effort is over-activated while the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which stimulates health maintenance and recovery is suppressed. The build-up of tension triggers the release of stress hormones which, in turn, increase tension levels while limiting the ability to recover, creating another self-escalating process. Patterns of tension form habits of posture and movement which build additional tension on an ongoing basis.


All of the physical symptoms of anxiety can be explained by the build-up of excessive muscle tension and increasing levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream. Cognitive symptoms of anxiety involve mental tension which then contributes to the build-up of physical tension.


Depression is caused by a build up of emotional tension which results from resisting emotion through physical tension and breath holding. This creates patterns of mental tension which further compound the problem. The build-up of tension over time depletes energy and motivation as it diminishes hope and clarity of self-perception. Depression is resolved by learning to fully accept emotion without resistance and breaking habitual patterns that build physical and mental tension. Being able to consistently cry without tensing or breath holding is evidence of the resolution of depression.


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is caused by deep emotional tension resulting from the perception of trauma. Fear is the predominant emotion in PTSD. The Amygdala, which is activated during times of intense fear and can stimulate reactions which bypass the areas of the brain involved in logical thought, becomes hypersensitive in PTSD. Recovery from PTSD involves resolving emotional tension by learning to experience emotion without tensing and breath holding in an atmosphere of safety and control while restoring normal sensitivity to the Amygdala. Resolution of physical and mental patterns of tension contributes to this process.


Full recovery from built-up tension requires restoration of balance to the Autonomic Nervous System as well as the ability to accept emotions without resistance, shift and reframe perceptions and redirect and clarify negative thoughts.


The resolution and prevention of relapse for symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD involves 1) Understanding the nature of the disorder, causes of symptoms, and the process of recovery; 2) Restoring and maintaining balance of the Autonomic Nervous System; 3) Development of awareness of when tension starts to build and the ability to intervene to prevent it; 4) The ability to accept and fully experience emotion and crying without tensing or breath-holding. 5) Development of awareness of when perceptions begin to narrow and the ability to reframe them; and, 6) The ability to recognize negative thoughts that build tension and to clarify and redirect them.


The clinician’s role in the recovery process involves: 1) Creating an atmosphere where the client feels understood, that their symptoms make sense, and their emotions are a normal response to their perceptions of their experiences. 2) Identifying obstacles to recovery including stress, relationship and/or health issues, addictions, problems and conflicts while assisting in the process of removing them; 3) Timing interventions to match the readiness of the client to understand and act upon them.

This requires 1) Balance, defined as the absence of tension, a state of relaxed receptivity and perceptual flexibility; 2) Emotional openness indicated by an ability to experience and let go of emotions experienced by the client without resistance or tension; 3) Receptivity to the perceptions and emotions, and experience of the client that is not blocked by ego, attachment, judgment, or preconceptions.