Fighting Anxiety and Depression In The Digital Age

A look at modern living, the role technology plays in it, and how effective psychology can help overcome the emotional hurdles that are placed in your way.

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Marc J. Shulman, Psy.D

Long Island, NY - July 14, 2017 - As just about anyone these days can attest, life can certainly be quite stressful at times.

However, modern living – in addition to the usual sources of stress and anxiety that previous generations have had to deal with – is growing infamous for throwing a myriad array of new and difficult emotional hurdles in the paths of many people, and when it all begins to be a bit much for you to deal with, the services of a reputable psychologist can help to ease the burden and get you back on your emotional feet.

Marc Shulman has been a licensed and practicing psychologist for the past 15 years, with offices located in Garden City and Lawrence; he has a great deal of experience with anxiety disorders, depression, couples therapy, and combating substance abuse issues, among other sundry maladies that can get in the way of one’s emotional well-being.

Being a psychologist has offered him a varied and rewarding career, Shulman said; one that allows him to use his abilities, education, and experience to help others.

“Psychology has offered me the opportunity to be in a field that I find extremely stimulating,” he said. “It's fascinating to understand how the human mind works, and at the same time be able to contribute to people's lives and help overcome the obstacles that have gotten in their way to healthy functioning.”

Shulman noted that need for his services – as well as those of other psychologists – have increased in recent years, as anxiety and depression have been steadily on the rise amongst the general population compared to years past. That downtick in the emotional wellness of the average person can be attributed to several new factors that have firmly taken root in the very concept of modern living, he said- mainly, the rise of the importance of technology in everyday life.

“The factors that stand out to me the most are social media and technology. They've been a mixed bag because on one hand, they're able to connect us to the world in ways that we've never had before, but on the other hand, they're introducing a lot of complications into the relationships that people have, including an unrealistic glimpse into what looks like the happiness of other people, which leads to a lot of unhealthy social comparisons.”

But social media isn't just complicating your interactions with your Facebook friends, Shulman said; how you may deal with and perceive your nearest and dearest can also be affected by this phenomena. Infidelity in committed relationships has become much more of an issue because it's often uncovered through technology, and in some ways that's a good thing...but it also causes a lot of complications.

Another issue with social media, Shulman noted, is the fact that it essentially makes escaping from your past virtually impossible; anyone looking to possibly make a change in their lives may suddenly find themselves weighed down by the digital baggage they find themselves dragging about, thanks to the plethora of online information available on just about anyone these days.

“This problem applies both to teens and adults...I was just talking to a teen the other day, and he was talking about how much pressure he was under,” he said. “He said that when older generations were in a new social situation, they could come in with a blank slate, but thanks to social media, every time you encounter a new social situation, there's already a lot of information that's already out there…there's already a lot of preconceived notions that people have about them, and I thought that was a really interesting point.”

But it's just not technology and the internet that's got people down so much these days; there have been some very distinct changes to lives in the physical world as well. More than ever, Shulman said, people are finding themselves working harder and more often at their jobs, and it's that lack of work-life balance that is raising the ire – and stress levels – of many individuals.

“People have lost touch with a lot of the things that really make them happy in their life. People are spending more and more of their waking hours working and not engaging in activities that they find gratifying and fulfilling,” he said. “Another aspect is engaging in activities that are meaningful...something that really goes beyond the self, something that engages you in a deeper way, be it spirituality, religion, or getting involved in a charity. One therapeutic technique that may be helpful towards achieving these goals is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).”

There are numerous other psychological techniques that can be employed to help people develop the coping mechanisms needed to make a positive change in their lives. Among those techniques is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which targets solving current problems and changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

First, however, Shulman said that he spends a significant amount of time getting to know the patient and his or her individual issues – a session known as an intake – so that he can formulate a comprehensive diagnosis and, in turn, an effective treatment plan. In many situations, he said, CBT ends up being a very good technique to utilize to combat today’s unique stress factors.

"Be it anxiety, depression, family issues, or even substance abuse, CBT treatment can be very effective,” he said. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will focus mostly on the problems at hand by helping the patient understand the various negative or maladaptive thoughts they are having, and how that relates ultimately to the symptoms that they are experiencing. It's about developing healthier thought patterns.”

“The focus is more on exposure…the idea is putting the person into situations that are either feared or are anxiety provoking - having the person face the fear head-on - and by learning to apply healthy and more adaptive thoughts about the situation, the person trains their brain to function more effectively,” Schulman continued. “For example, let's say the person has social anxiety or fear of public by gradually exposing the person to different social situations in a hierarchical kind of way, they gradually learn how to handle those situations more effectively.”

However, these approaches to therapy merely represents the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to an effective psychological program, Shulman noted. Psychology involves building a real rapport with your therapist and exploring many avenues on the road to recovery. However, in the end, the result will be the ability to deal with life's many hurdles on the way to a meaningful and fulfilling life.

“A lot of times treatment needs to be very broad…naturally, the therapist needs to be very focused on what will work and what will be expedient in terms of helping the patient deal with their stress,” he said. “But very often, therapy is not as neat and clean cut…you really have to help the patient focus on the things that are most important to them, and on working very hard towards prioritizing those critical needs that they have.”

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