Wellness Treatment Center - Behavioral Activation

Break the Vicious Cycle with Behavioral Activation

Did your mom ever say, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our circumstances and negative feelings that it becomes overwhelming and we can’t see a way out. And depression and anxiety only make everything feel harder.

So, as we work to manage our difficult feelings, we may find ourselves engaging in more avoidant activities—such as sleeping past noon each day or binge eating—to temporarily numb, suppress or avoid the distress. Indeed, it does make us feel better but only for a moment. The short term relief ultimately does not outweigh the long term consequences.

The more we engage in avoidant patterns, the worse we feel. It creates a vicious cycle that is hard to break. You might find yourself saying that you will change your behavior when you feel better or are more motivated like, “Tomorrow I will get up early and go work out.” But then the next morning you find you feel the same way so you engage in the same pattern of staying in bed.

Individuals struggling with depression and anxiety know this cycle all too well. You may refuse a chance to hang out with friends and stay home and watch TV because you worry you don’t fit in. The isolation, then, can make you feel worse about yourself and can make it feel even harder to go out with friends the next time. Thus, the pattern continues.

The depression loop is a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to break. The feelings that feed the detrimental choices are reinforced by the negative outcome of those choices. But don’t worry, there is a way out of this loop, but it can seem counterproductive at first.

The Solution

Behavioral Activation is a model taught in one of the groups offered at Wellness Treatment Center, Englewood, CO. We can help you see the forest and not just the trees. This therapy begins with becoming aware of the cycle you are stuck in. What do you feel and what do you do in response to that feeling in hopes of making it go away? And is it working? This awareness creates space for change. Identifying new, positive behaviors that you can do regardless of how you feel, will ultimately improve your mood.

This can feel very difficult at first, because the avoidant patterns become so familiar. But you can become unstuck by taking action today. Starting to practice the behaviors that bring you closer to your goals of feeling healthier and happier—despite how you feel now—will change your life. This is not a “quick fix” approach, but it does lead to a long term sustainable change.

Here’s the trick: set up a reward system for yourself to give you something tangible to work towards. Just “becoming healthier” is a great goal but very hard to measure in the short term. However, “buying new gym shoes” is a tangible goal that you can see and touch that can be used to motivate yourself. And remember to commend your progress – there are no big or small steps. Every time you do something different (getting up an hour earlier, setting a timer to clean your house, or pay one bill) you are making tremendous progress toward breaking out of the cycle.

The Support

An action plan is needed to conquer these negative behaviors. This can work best with someone helping you. If you have a support person to talk to, you will have a better chance of breaking free of this vicious cycle that is ultimately fueling and reinforcing depression and anxiety.

This is where Wellness Treatment Center comes in. With the support of the groups, psychiatrist, wellness elements such as: supplements, exercise and stress management, you can start to create goals that you can stick to. With support and accountability, you can break out of the vicious cycle of depression and anxiety.