New Perspectives on Treating Anxiety Depression and PTSD
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
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.