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  • Lisa Atkins, LCSW & Deborah Scarborough, LCMHCS

The Vicious Cycle: How Your Thoughts Can Fuel Depression and Anxiety

Welcome, friends! We're thrilled you've discovered us and are ready to take charge of your thoughts, conquer anxiety, and bid farewell to depression. If you've been feeling hurt or upset lately due to something said by someone you love, we’re here to guide you as we unravel the intricate connection between our thoughts and feelings and embrace the best treatment for anxiety and depression.

As counselors at A Helping Hand of Wilmington, we understand that Depression weaves a tapestry of negative thoughts, self-criticism, and self-doubt in our client’s minds. We know that Anxiety can strain relationships and interactions with others. Constant worry, fear, and the need for reassurance may lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. We believe that if we can guide you by imparting invaluable coping skills and demonstrating to you the best treatment for anxiety and depression you will find your own way towards a brighter future.

Unraveling the Cycle of Hurt:

The revelation dawns upon us that we often hurt ourselves through our thoughts. When we are depressed, our brain naturally fabricates feelings of hurt and victimhood by assuming negative interpretations. When we are anxious our brain naturally fabricates feelings of worry in an effort to assess threats to our emotional and physical security.

Breaking the Cycle with Positive Thoughts:

Let’s explore the incredible power of our thoughts in shaping our emotions. The Think, Feel, Act cycle, teaches us that thoughts always precede our feelings and actions. Through intentional thought control, we can redirect our interpretations and avoid succumbing to hurt and anger. By reframing situations and adopting alternative perspectives, we can forge stronger, more positive relationships with others.

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In the Think, Feel, Act Cycle, or Cognitive Model, after a situation, thoughts always come first. So, whatever someone says to you- be it your parent, or kid for example- they say it or do it, and then you THINK a thought. After you think the thought, then you feel. Next, you act.

Let’s look at a scenario involving a teenager.

You ask for chores to get done. So, the teen, is going to gripe, she is going to say “Why do I have to? And I did my homework that is enough!” She is for real in a talk-back moment.

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So, I have a lot of ways to interpret this.

  • Situation: Teenager refuses to do chores and says, “Why do I have to?”

  • Thought: I can think- “This is not acceptable.”

  • Feeling (emotion): This probably makes me go, “I am angry!”

  • Action (behavior or result): Anxiety or depression increases.


  • Situation: Teenager refuses to do chores and says, “Why do I have to?”

  • Thought: I can also think, “She is doing this on purpose to ME!”

  • Feeling (emotion): And then I feel hurt.

  • Action (behavior or result): Anxiety or depression increases.

But, if I can change my thoughts to a range of more neutral ones, I can probably avoid hurt altogether, and be less, if not at all, angered.

  • Situation: Teenager refuses to do chores and says, “Why do I have to?”

  • Thought: I can think “This is the stage and age, she is doing what teens do,” or “She has had a long day, she may feel tired or irritated too,”

  • Feeling (emotion): Those thoughts help me avoid hurt and anger, and help me feel, maybe mildly irritated, or often I just feel a bit resigned- like these are how the next few years will go until she realizes, griping doesn’t work because we don’t bend.

  • Action (behavior or result): Symptoms of anxiety and depression are not increased.

But either way, can you see how new THINKING helps avoid hurt and anger?

Do you see how if you have a thought like, “This is always going to be this way” you might feel defeated and your depression deepens? Or you might respond with “This is always going to be this way, and I can’t take it” and your anxiety increases worrying about how you will manage over time.

Choosing Positive Thoughts for Healthy Relationships

Many people tell us they are most hurt by their own parents’ “disapproval.” Remember, it’s all in how you THINK about what is going on.

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  • Situation: You want your parents’ approval, but they say things like, “You should have done xyz.”

  • Thought: “I am not good enough. They don’t approve of me.”

  • Feeling (emotion): You feel hurt or anger.

  • Action (behavior or result): Symptoms of depression or anxiety increase

or you can choose other thoughts, a helpful one may be,

  • Situation: You want your parents’ approval, but they say things like, “You should have done xyz.”

  • Thought: “In their generation that is what they would have done. Just because we disagree on this thing, does not mean they do not approve of me.”

  • Feeling (emotion): Understanding

  • Action(behavior or result): Symptoms of depression or anxiety do not increase

What if you were talking with a close friend and the same situation unfolded? Watch how different thoughts create different outcomes.

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  • Situation: Your close friend says, “You should have done xyz.”

  • Thought: “I wonder if there is something to what she is saying. Maybe I should consider that.”

  • Feeling (emotion): Curiosity

  • Action (behavior or result): Symptoms of depression or anxiety do NOT increase.

The difference here is the MEANING you assigned to what was said. With your parent, you interpreted that statement as disapproval. With your friend, you got curious and were open to what they said and did NOT make it mean something negative about you.

The contradiction here is what you are making the words MEAN. Because remember, in our scene, the words are the SAME it’s the PERSON saying them that is different- so why create this contradiction for yourself?

Why not think the same, less hurtful interpretations? We would have so much more peace if we did this!

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There is no right or wrong when we interpret what someone else says- only what we THINK. We can hurt our own feelings with our own thoughts. we have the power to shift our thoughts, therefore, we have the power to shift how we feel.

Unlocking Peace and Hope

Remember, the state of mind you want is available to you at any time- it’s all how you think about it. That is the sense of peace and hope we want to leave you with today. Peace and hope from knowing you control what you think about any situation. You can stop feeling hurt, now.

Now that you are equipped with the tools of Thought Work, you will be free to embrace resilience and feel empowered to navigate life’s challenges with confidence. You now realize that the relationships you desire are within your reach at any given moment.

By exercising control over your thoughts, you will experience diminished hurt and anger. You can embrace peace and a new outlook on life, free from the shackles of anxiety and depression.

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Schedule Your Session Now

If you are ready to take this thought work to a deeper place and need someone to walk alongside you on this journey of overcoming anxiety and depression, click the "Schedule Your Session Now" to book an appointment with one of our experienced counselors and feel better today!


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