The Negativity Bias

The Negativity Bias

My day started off great! I woke up on time (without my alarm), my mood was light, I had my favorite espresso, kids were off to their respective places, the first few client sessions were meaningful, and then one negative hiccup….. Sure enough, before I knew it, my glowing, upbeat mood had soured and the rest of the day had a shade of gloom cast over it. What happened?⁠ ⁠

As humans, we are hard wired for survival and with that comes a built in negativity bias. If 12 good things happen to us in a day and 1 negative thing happens, we are more likely to reflect, stew, and perseverate over the negative one. It is an evolutionary adaptation designed to keep us alive. Our brains don’t have to try to remember to learn from negative experiences, they are firmly rooted in our minds, Unfortunately, this bias extends to even the smallest of negative insults, so if someone is rude to you, this too will become fodder to replay and dwell over.⁠ ⁠

The good news is we can combat this bias by being intentional about taking in the good things, especially the small ones. If a positive experience isn’t overwhelmingly joyous, it is likely to be a blip on our radar. Thus, we don’t learn from it, nor does it have the chance to influence our mood and attitude. ⁠ ⁠

Rick Hanson, PhD talks more in depth about this subject if you would like to learn more, but, in the meantime, spend at least 15 seconds on each positive thing, so that you can experience the positive high from this natural brain boost.⁠

#anxietytherapist, #mindfulness

Recognize the Signs of Depression and Anxiety during the Holiday Season

Recognize the Signs of Depression and Anxiety during the Holiday Season

Dear Friends,

We’d like to take a moment to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you have a wonderful holiday season. It’s been another great year for, and we are so grateful for the response that we’ve had as of late.

Even though the holidays are said to be filled with “good cheer”, this isn’t the case for many.  Putting on a celebratory air for those suffering from anxiety and/or depression is difficult and the added pressure of the holidays can exacerbate one’s symptoms.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, it can be isolating to see others celebrating and enjoying themselves.  During the holiday season it is important to take a moment and remember what you are grateful for.  Even if you don’t feel like participating and engaging, muster the resolve to try, because not doing so will only increase your distress.

If you need a bit of extra help during this holiday season, you may want to consider therapy for anxiety or depression from a Santa Barbara psychologist.  If therapy for depression or anxiety is something that you’ve never entertained, it may be overwhelming to even contemplate entering treatment.  However, if you experience any of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety listed below, get help so that you can make the most out of your holiday season.

Recognize the Signs of Depression and Anxiety during the Holiday Season

Increased or Decreased Appetite

A common symptom of both depression and anxiety is change in appetite.  Of course, it is normal during the holidays to indulge more than usual, but if you find that you are consistently overeating or have no appetite at all, then this may be a sign of depression or anxiety.  One of the objectives of depression counseling with a Santa Barbara therapist is to help people return to a place where they are eating in a more mindful, healthy manner.  

Lack of Desire to Go To Social Holiday Functions

Though holiday parties can be a lot of work to get ready for, most people enjoy partaking in the festivities.  It’s a chance to see co-workers outside of work, catch up with family, and to socialize with some of your closest friends. People with anxiety or depression may experience a lack of passion, motivation, and desire to attend any events. Or the desire and motivation might be present, but the person’s anxiety is so overwhelming and paralyzing that it prevents them from showing up.

Depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. If you believe that your mental health has compromised your functioning, counselingforanxiety may be helpful.

Look For Signs in Others

In addition to looking at yourself during this holiday season, recognize warning signs in others. It can be difficult to ascertain how someone is feeling just by observing them, so be sure to ask questions if you suspect someone close to you is suffering.  You might just turn someone’s holiday season around and this Thanksgiving, they’ll be thankful that you took notice!

santa barbara therapy

Q & A Hot Sheet

Q: Can’t I fight depression and anxiety on my own?

A: You can deal with depression and anxiety on your own, however, if your symptoms persist, it may be time to seek out a psychologist for depression or anxiety. Working with a psychologist will allow you to access the underlying, often unconscious issues that may be feeding your depression or anxiety.

Q: Are there side effects for antidepressants and other medications for anxiety and depression?

A: As with any medication, there are some side effects associated with antidepressants and anxiolytics. This is why it’s best if you have a psychologist for anxiety, as they can work closely with the doctor who prescribed your medication.

Q: Is anxiety and depression hereditary?

A: Studies have found that there is a genetic predisposition for mental illness, however having a family member with depression or anxiety doesn’t mean that you will inherit it.  There are many factors that contribute to the development of the latter.

Recognize the Signs of Depression and Anxiety during the Holiday Season

Local Events

If you are looking for activities and experiences this winter to help take your mind off things, consider these local Santa Barbara events.

Thanksgiving 4 Miler:  Thanksgiving Day, November 27. Team up with family and friends and get your holidays off to a great start. Run Santa Barbara presents Santa Barbara’s flattest and fastest four-miler. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. in the Thunderbird Open Space, pocket park on Walnut. First three hundred on-line registrations get a free event shirt. Race begins at 9:00 a.m. on Hollister near the Magnolia Shopping Center. Prizes and gifts available. You’ll work up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Day Pumpkin Smash: Thanksgiving Day, November 27. Have a smashing good time at the Santa Barbara Zoo’s annual Thanksgiving Day Pumpkin Smash from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Elephants, gorillas, and other animals will get tasty pumpkins to play with and eat on Thanksgiving Day. Cost is free with Zoo admission.

Blush Restaurant + Lounge:  Thanksgiving Day, November 27. Let Blush do all the cooking for Thanksgiving this year.  They will be open Thanksgiving Day from noon until 10:00 p.m. Chef Brandon Worrell and his staff will create an amazing combination of California cuisine and traditional favorites for your holiday dining pleasure.

Art To Zoo Exhibit: November 26th – Take your family to the Art To Zoo exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum Of Art. This is something your entire family can enjoy and is both entertaining and educational!

ZeeBlu Thanksgiving 5K & Family Fun Run  – Thursday, November 27, 2014 09:00 AM – The inaugural event last year had a turnout of 300 runners and this year is expected to bring over 500 participants.


therapist in santa barbara

Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke earned her psychology degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2000 and her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2003. After receiving her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, Dr. McGarr-Knabke has been dedicated to helping patients find solutions to their emotional questions.  Known as The Santa Barbara Therapist, Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke is a licensed clinical psychologist.  She provides treatment for eating disordersanxiety disordersaddictiondepression and self-injurious behaviors, as well as counseling for stress from her office located at 1187 Coast Village Rd., Suite 10P in Santa Barbara. Visit the website and Facebook page or call (818) 518-6775 for more information. 


Membership and Affiliations:

International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP)

Santa Barbara County Psychological Association

Pain Is Inevitable; Suffering Is Optional: When it comes to how we respond to physical and emotional pain, we have a choice (Psychology Today – Dan Mager, MSW)

Pain Is Inevitable; Suffering Is Optional: When it comes to how we respond to physical and emotional pain, we have a choice (Psychology Today – Dan Mager, MSW)

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Frankl wrote about the psychological impacts of life as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. His mother, father, brother, and pregnant wife were all killed in the camps. Dr. Frankl describes in chilling detail how his captors took from him virtually everything of personal value and basic human dignity. The only thing that the Nazis were unable to take away was his choice as to how to respond to the deprivation, degradation, and trauma to which he was subjected. He made a conscious decision to focus his energies on “owning” that small but all-important space between the stimulus (whatever was said or done to him) and his response to it. His ability to retain that degree of psycho-spiritual autonomy in the most horrific circumstances imaginable provides a remarkable example of intrapersonal strength, grace under extreme duress, the power of personal choice, and the Serenity Prayer in action.

Physical pain has distinct biological and psychological components that effectively represent stimulus and response. The biology of pain is the signal transmitted through the central nervous system that “something is wrong.” The psychology of pain is the interpretation or meaning we give to that pain signal—the internal self-talk and beliefs about it which then drive our emotional reactions. Suffering results from mental and emotional responses to pain. The biological and psychological facets of chronic pain combine to become like a smoke detector that goes on and stays on, continuously sounding a harrowing alarm at high volume. Recovery from chronic pain distinguishes between the actual pain and the suffering it causes, and focuses on achieving relief from that suffering. Pain is unavoidable; suffering is not. It occurs in response to thoughts such as: “Why me?!” “It isn’t fair!” “This is horrible!” “I can’t stand it!”

Suffering in general, as well as specific to chronic pain, is a function of imbalances in physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual functioning. Because whatever affects the mind or the body will inevitably affect the other, regardless of which side of the fence an issue originates, imbalances in thinking can create imbalances in physical, emotional, and spiritual functioning. Recovery—from any significant condition or life challenge—is a gradual, progressive, and ongoing process of restoring balance in these areas.

Suffering is both a cause and an effect of the catastrophic cognitions and distressing emotions associated with chronic pain: anxiety, irritability, anger, fear, depression, frustration, guilt, shame, loneliness, hopelessness, and helplessness. Negative thinking only makes situations we believe to be “bad,” worse. Many people, including those who do not suffer from chronic pain, can ruminate on something by continuously and unproductively replaying it in their minds or magnify the negative aspects of it. Our thoughts have the capacity to make us miserable, and negative thinking can be especially insidious, feeding on itself, with the potential to become a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophesy.

For people with chronic pain, there is a direct correlation between negative thinking and the level of pain they experience. It’s a vicious circle wherein pain triggers negative thoughts and self-talk which translate to feelings that coincide with suffering, and increases muscle tension and stress, which in turn, amplify the pain signals, triggering more of them. The progression is essentially as follows: pain leads to negative thoughts/self-talk/beliefs lead to feelings of frustration/anger/anxiety/fear/sadness/depression /hopelessness lead to suffering leads to muscle tension and stress lead to more pain leads to increased negative thoughts/self-talk/beliefs lead to increased frustration/anger/anxiety/fear/sadness/depression/hopelessness leads to greater suffering, and so on. The longer such a cycle continues, the more out of balance a person becomes.

Suffering can be modified when people become consciously aware of this chain reaction and learn how to respond differently to their pain. The process of pain recovery includes dramatically changing the negative progression starting with regaining cognitive and emotional balance through the application of acceptance strategies and mindfulness-based practices. Reestablishing balance counteracts the above deviation-amplifying dynamics: conscious awareness of negative thinking/self-talk and how it sets off the cascade of events that fuels suffering leads to mindful acceptance and detached observation of negative thinking/self-talk lead to tamping down/minimizing of suffering leads to decreased feelings of frustration/anger/anxiety/fear/sadness/depression/hopelessness lead to lower stress and muscle tension leads to less pain.

Is this easy? Of course not. However, it is absolutely possible. By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.

Source: Psychology Today – Dan Mager, MSW Published on January 13, 2014

Santa Barbara Counseling Center

Santa Barbara Counseling Center

Sometimes, one of the hardest things individuals encounter when looking for a therapist is finding the right therapist for you.  A Santa Barbara Counseling Center is one option to consider when looking for a therapist.  A Santa Barbara Counseling Center generally has a number of different therapists, some may have Master’s degrees, while others may hold a Doctoral degree.  Many of these centers also have interns working for them, as a certain number of supervised hours are necessary when one is trying to obtain licensure as a therapist.  This is a great advantage for anyone experiencing financial hardship, as an intern will not command the same fee for service as someone who is licensed.  A Santa Barbara Counseling Center will also usually offer group and family therapy, as well as individual and couples therapy.

A possible drawback in going through a Santa Barbara Counseling Center is that you may not have a choice in which therapist will be assigned to you.  If this is a concern , it might serve you well to seek a therapist in private practice.  You can ask people that you are comfortable with if they know anyone who specializes in your particular issue or problem.  If the idea of telling someone that you are entering therapy is terrifying, the Internet is a great option.  Many therapists now have websites, which can be a wealth of information about themselves, their practice, and their particular style of therapy.  Also, you can search directly for someone who specializes in the area that is right for you.  Psychology Today is a wonderful resource, as it has a directory of therapists and a profile for each therapist listed.

This is just one of the choices to consider before you even begin therapy.  If a Santa Barbara Counseling Center sounds like it would fit your needs, you may want to consider The Family Therapy Institute, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Full Spectrum Recovery and Hope Counseling Center, just to name a few.  If you would like a little bit more choice in who you choose to be your therapist, then do a little bit of research by asking trusted friends and family or searching by specialty on the Internet.

Santa Barbara Therapist

Individuals seek a Santa Barbara therapist for many different reasons.  Often they are in distress, experiencing a crisis, or devoid of feeling altogether.  Some just want to learn more about themselves and improve their well being, while others find themselves sitting with a therapist at the urging of a loved one.  The reasons may be the same or they may be different, but the constant that any therapist can expect is that each individual brings with them their own unique personalities and life circumstances.  This is important to remember because not every therapist is right for every client.

As a Santa Barbara therapist, I am one of many other therapists in this community.  The fact that there are a number of Santa Barbara therapists to choose from is advantageous to individuals looking to enter therapy, as you may not connect with the first or even second therapist that you encounter.  For this reason, I make a concerted effort to provide appropriate information about myself and the type of therapy that I practice.  My hope is to let you know in advance, what you can expect from me and what I may expect from you. 

My orientation, as a Santa Barbara therapist is psychodynamic and therefore works on addressing the underlying, often unconscious, issues that are manifesting as symptoms or problematic behavior. Specifically, I utilize an object relations approach to therapy, which helps clients gain insight into their internal world, their patterns of relating and attaching, and their use of psychological defense mechanisms. This type of therapy rests on the principles that our personalities are the result of many different developmental stages.  What happens when we are infants, children, adolescents, and young adults shapes the way we see the world, the kind of relationships that we have, the way we feel about ourselves in relations to others, and the needs we seek to have fulfilled.

Through the process of therapy, you will be encouraged to get in touch with the past in order to re-examine and process the formative and sometimes painful experiences unique to you.  As treatment unfolds and progresses, you will have a greater understanding and awareness of your internal world, your unconscious motivations, and your choice in relationships.  As rigid and maladaptive schemas are abandoned, you will experience more fulfillment and freedom in important areas.