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The Stigma of Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are commonThe lifetime incidence of depression in Australia is 45%. This means that nearly one out of two of us may experience a period of depression within our lifetime. In any given year, up to 1 million Australians will experience depression and two million will experience anxiety, according to Beyond Blue Australia. Despite this, the stigma of mental illness remains real for many. This stigma can lead to those suffering distressing symptoms to remain silent and in doing so increase their sense of isolation. This sense of being alone with one's pain can perpetuate the distress. 

The value of diagnosis

Years ago, when I was in the early days of studying psychology I asked a professor what the merit was of giving someone a label of depression. Wouldn't branding them with something make them feel worse about themselves? The answer was that a diagnosis informs the treatment path. If you know a diagnosis, it informs what you do about it. A diagnosis is merely a cluster of symptoms and not a label for life. 

As a clinician, understanding if a client qualifies for a diagnosis of depression or anxiety certainly does inform my treatment plan. However, I am aware that giving a diagnosis can increase a sense of feeling less than and can be disempowering. 

This is why, I always explain that a diagnosis is temporary, that we have pinpointed the problem and I communicate my plan to address the issue. I am hopeful that giving a name to the symptoms helps the individual make sense of it, and that having a plan to address it makes the individual feel empowered. 

Hope with effective treatment 

We are in living in an exciting for the treatment of common conditions such as depression and anxiety because treatments including CBT, ACT and behavioural activation can be highly effective. Additionally, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication can further assist. 

 It is my great privilege as a Psychologist to support people through vulnerable times and to empower them with the right tools to improve their wellbeing. Often times, after a course of treatment and the implementation of changes on a client's behalf the diagnosis is no longer 'active' or is reduced in severity. 

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression rest assured that with the right intervention from a qualified and empathetic professional that the diagnosis may be ameliorated or at least better managed. Know that there is hope with effective treatment. Most of all know that you are not your diagnosis and that it doesn't define you-even if it feels that way at times.  If you'd like to read more about depression and anxiety visit beyond blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts

Article written by Tena Davies, Psychologist. The aim of this article is to give you ideas on well being. Please note this article is not intended to replace therapy.

Tena Davies is a Psychologist based in inner city Melbourne. Tena has expertise in psychological counselling with adolescents and adults. She also works as a cyber expert providing cyber safety education to schools and professionals. As a Psychologist, Tena believes in helping clients to gain insight into their difficulties and teaching them new skills to grow and thrive. Please see www.tenadavies.com for more information.

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