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-A designation of the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors

Depression, Anxiety, & Addiction:

A Growing Epidemic

What's going on and why?

The research is pretty clear: rates of depression, anxiety, and addiction are growing exponentially... and this trend is likely to  continue.  This isn't just a Nanaimo thing, an Island thing, or a BC thing:  it is happening across nearly all socioeconomic, cultural, and gender demographics in the Western world.  Why? ​

There are a lot of theories and models that attempt to make sense of this.  My view, supported by tons of recent research is that a storm of social, economic, and political conditions have combined in such a way as to leave individuals feeling: ​

  • out of place, disconnected, & lonely

  • without purpose or direction, faith or hope

  • ungrounded, restless, panicky or consistently worried

To make matters worse, when any of those kinds of feelings come along, they tend to also be accompanied by other, very real, problems such as: ​

  • difficulty sleeping

  • unable to concentrate

  • feeling too-out-of-sorts to leave home

  • problems at work or school

  • struggles in relationships

depression counselling session

This is an awfully uncomfortable way of living long-term.  In an attempt to deal with those feelings and realities, people often (usually) turn to something in hopes it will numb/distract/escape from that pain.   This is usually where addiction comes in.  From this perspective,  addiction is understood as arising as a means of actively self-medicating pain (which can be physical pain or emotional pain or deeply psychospiritual pain, and in my experience is usually the latter). It usually starts innocently enough... 

anxiety symptoms

Unfortunately... while the numbing/distracting/escaping behaviour may be very effective in accomplishing the goal of dealing with the symptoms of emotional pain  in the short term, these addictive "coping" behaviours also bring with them a whole new set of problems.  Once people are hooked, their personal torment is often far worse than they imagined it would be, and now, breaking free would require that they face not only the pre-existing pain, but also the new pain caused by withdrawal symptoms and the effects of damage done to finances, relationships, health, etc. 

So addiction isn't just about substance use? 

No.  A mountain of recent research indicates that the processes involved are very much the same whether the addiction is to substances or not.   Also, just because a form of addiction is not related to substances does not mean that it is any less harmful.  It can be argued that it is the level to which the thing has control that determines its degree of harmfulness.   

Here are some examples of the non-substance forms of addictions and compulsions I've come across in my career: workaholism (work addiction), internet addiction, porn addiction, screen addiction, social media addictions, food/eating addictions, news addiction, gambling addiction, shopping addiction, cutting addiction, tattoo addiction, fantasy addiction, etc.

Dealing with depression

The economic cost of this epidemic is already huge!: looking only at days of missed work for employees, the cost is in the hundreds of millions. Add to that the healthcare costs, costs to the judicial/corrections systems, and losses accrued by the addictions themselves (especially in the cases of gambling).  It's a massively expensive epidemic.  

More important to us all, however, is the cost to individuals and families.  Emotional pain and the slavery of addiction steal from us our joy and our freedom.  And they steal from those we love as well:  they steal US away from each other 

hope for addiction

Counselling: benefits and effectiveness

There is ample research about the effectiveness of seeing a therapist for cognitive and emotional problems.  Likewise, counselling is shown to be the most effective treatment for addiction.  We can't and won't promise that you will ever feel completely free. (And anyone who does promise that should probably be avoided.)  But we can promise that we will walk with you as a highly trained professional in your journey toward balance and peace.

But do I really need counselling?

Maybe and maybe not.  Maybe it’s all under control and you are successfully keeping emotions at bay.  But are you alive?  Are you wishing for more?  In numbing depression or anxiety are you also numbing your capacity for peace, joy, and love?  You and your loved ones already know the answer. 

healthy family

“It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive.  We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”

–Wendell Berry. The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays