adinaDepression is a pervasive mental illness that can occur for many reasons. The recent suicide of Robin Williams has catapulted discussions of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses back to the forefront of people’s minds. Of course, it is preferable that depression can be discussed without the unfortunate death of a notable figure prompting it; still, his death has given us an opportunity to take another look at depression and provide education to those who are less familiar with its effects.  

Depression can affect anyone of any social status

Many people were shocked by Robin William’s death, and one reason given is that he was rich and famous — doesn’t that mean he had it all?  Because he had money and was successful, many wonder why he could have been sad.

No one is immune to depression, and certainly not the wealthy.  Many people believe money is the answer and that the absence of  have financial woes will ensure happiness. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and study after study has found that unless you are living underneath the threshold for poverty, money doesn’t have any affect on one’s happiness or well-being.  

Rehabilitation and therapy may not work immediately

Therapy For DepressionSeeking therapy for depression is a great first step in addressing your problems. Understanding you have depression and need help with it is a massive undertaking that many people resist acknowledging. It is important to note that depression is a serious illness and not all types of therapy or antidepressants work. Some people need to explore different avenues before they find the treatment that works for them..

It is also important to note that depression isn’t something that goes away quickly. When working with a psychologist for depression and/or other related issues, it often takes time before symptom relief occurs. This can be discouraging to those who are suffering, but persistent, consistent effort in therapy can yield positive changes, it just may take longer than one would like.

Even if you believe that therapy is not for you and that talking about your problems won’t change anything, there are hormonal and biochemical benefits associated with therapy.  A meaningful therapeutic connection and a secure attachment reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as other markers in the body that are associated with depression and anxiety.

Support from others may not change depressed thoughts/feelings

dreamstime_12800527This fact can be tough to understand, but sometimes depressed people may attempt to take their own lives despite their popularity or open love from others.

Conditions like depression and anxiety can be so severe that the afflicted person may not consider how their actions can impact their loved ones, family or friends. Managing anxiety and depression can be quite difficult and the patient can feel hopeless or worthless if they can’t overcome those conditions on their own. They are impaired socially, occupationally, psychologically, and emotionally. In other words, they might not be thinking in their “right mind” at the time.

People who are experiencing such a severe amount of suffering can have difficulty believing that they will ever feel any better and may see death as the only way to put an end to their pain.  Often, its not that the individual doesn’t think about their loved ones, but instead believes that they are such a burden, that family and friends will truly be better off when they are gone.   

It is so important to acknowledge those who have been left behind by mental illness that ends in suicide.  It’s hard to understand and maybe even hard not to personalize, but know that people who commit suicide don’t do it to hurt the ones they love or to abandon them. They do it to escape pain and permanence and irreversibility aren’t part of a thought process clouded by suffering and extreme mental anguish.

Santa Barbara Therapist Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke

As a Santa Barbara therapist, I work with people who struggle with the above and assist them in identifying and understanding their conflicting feelings and their origins, while also emphasizing and facilitating how to change their relationship with those feelings.

If you feel sad, stressed or out of control, keep in mind that therapy for anxiety, depression, food addictions and any other problems you may have can greatly improve your life and the way you approach suffering and negativity.  Being a Santa Barbara psychologist — I provide counseling for anxiety and other issues, drawing from psychodynamic theory and the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  Utilizing these two theories in conjunction with one another targets the underlying, often unconscious issues that manifest as symptoms or problematic behavior, while also providing hands on, immediate tools to address distressing symptoms.

Pain is inevitable, but you can live a valuable life even in the presence of those feelings.

About If you are looking for a psychologist for depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concern consider making an appointment with Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke. The Santa Barbara Therapist also provides therapy for patients struggling with eating disorders, alcoholism, and other addiction related problems.  Her office is located at 1187 Coast Village Rd., Suite 10P in Santa Barbara.  Visit the website  at to download a complimentary PDF, the “Top 10 Ways to Cope With Depression and Anxiety.” “Like” the Facebook page to receive updates, tips, and information on sustaining good mental health. Appointments  may be made online or by calling 818-518-6775.


When Eating Becomes a Problem

An eating disorder might seem humorous. Have you ever joked that you could “eat everything on this table?” For some people, though, overeating is no laughing matter. Overeating and binge eating disorders are complex illnesses that can be life-threatening. As a Santa Barbara psychologist, I have seen how they can completely overwhelm patients’ lives and wreak havoc on their bodies.

Although both issues are generally labeled as eating disorders, there are some differences between insatiable hunger and binge eating disorder. With insatiable hunger, patients feel like they are always hungry, no matter how recently or how much food they have eaten. Although there may be some type of physical cause for this feeling, it can also stem from anxiety. It could be based on feelings of low self-esteem, or might represent insatiable needs which were not met by parents or significant others. Therapy for anxiety can often uncover these underlying causes and alleviate the feeling of continual hunger.

According to The Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders, a binge eating disorder usually involves periodic occasions where sufferers will go on an eating binge and consume a large quantity of food in a short period of time. They feel like they have no control over their actions. Sufferers continue taking in food until they are uncomfortably full, and do not take any voluntary steps to purge the food from their bodies. Binge eating may be used as a means of hiding from emotions, filling a void inside, or coping with stresses and problems. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), it can manifest with a sense of depression about the overall situation and loss of control. Depression counseling may be one step in understanding why these patients feel so sad that they look to unhealthy eating habits for comfort.

In either case, long-term afflictions with the disorder can lead to serious health issues. The patient will likely be overweight and may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases associated with overeating. For these sufferers, it is not as simple as going on a diet or working with a nutritionist to learn about healthy eating habits. They may need to see a psychologist for depression in order to work through their feelings of despair and to understand the unhealthy role food is playing in their lives.

Understanding Insatiable Hunger and Binge Eating Disorder

It can be difficult to accept the fact that you no longer have a healthy relationship with food. You may try to forget any episodes of unhealthy eating, and may attempt to hide any evidence. You may push away others who try to show concern or offer help. The first step in overcoming any type of disorder is realizing that you are acting in a way that is not healthy for your mind or your body. Some questions which might help determine if you or someone you love are dealing with insatiable hunger or a binge eating disorder include:

  • Do you recognize when you are full and are you capable of stopping eating?
  • Do you feel like you are always hungry, even after a physician has ruled out any possible medical causes?
  • Do you often eat more in comparison to others at the same meal?
  • Do you try to hide your eating, or evidence of how much you have eaten?
  • What are your eating habits like now compared to what they were a year or two ago?
  • How much food do you eat in a typical day?
  • Have your sleep patterns been interrupted by your eating habits?
  • How quickly do you eat?
  • How do you feel emotionally about the way you eat?
  • Have your eating habits affected your relationships with others?
  • To what extent is your life controlled by your eating?
  • Do you have secret “stashes” of food in various locations?

Your answers to these questions don’t necessarily indicate that you have an eating disorder, but they provide helpful guidelines. If you think there is cause for concern, it is always best to check with a medical doctor and a Santa Barbara therapist to confirm your suspicions. 

Overcoming an Insatiable Hunger or Binge Eating Disorder

The first thing to understand if you think you are dealing with an eating disorder is that you are not alone. There are many people in situations similar to yours, many people who can help you, and many people that love you. When you come to me for help with managing anxiety and/or your eating disorder I spend time getting to know you so we can explore the emotional roots of your condition together.

In addition to psychotherapy, I may recommend a consultation with your medical doctor to discuss antidepressants or other medication to help you deal with the emotional turmoil you are experiencing. It may also be helpful to seek alternative therapies to relieve stress and tension. The Deep Tissue Massage Center specializes in Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage which promotes full body stress relief, healthy function of muscle tissues, and speeds recovery. Points of Health Acupuncture helps you rejuvenate, relax, balance, and heal. Together we’ll help you regain control of your life.

If you feel you are being controlled by insatiable hunger or a binge eating disorder, contact my office immediately to set up a session, and let me help you find a path to a better life.

Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke
The Santa Barbara Therapist


About If you feel you need therapy for depression to help you overcome an insatiable hunger or binge


Why is Sugar so Addictive?

Why is Sugar so Addictive?

It seems so simple and unthreatening, doesn’t it? A spoonful of sugar on your morning breakfast cereal, a candy bar for an afternoon pick-me-up, or a soda for a little extra energy…they all seem harmless enough. But, when looked at as part of a total diet that includes processed sugar, natural sugar, and hidden sugar in foods we eat, many people are surprised to learn that they have a sugar addiction. As a Santa Barbara therapist I work with many patients who are trying to free themselves from the control sugar has over their lives.

In a landmark report that focused attention on our national sweet tooth, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the consumption of sugar calories hit a record high in 1999 – an astonishing 155 pounds per year! The food industry practice of using high-fructose corn syrup as a sweeter has resulted in sugar showing up in some of the most unlikely places such as hot dogs, pizza, boxed rice, soups, spaghetti sauce, lunch meat, flavored yogurts, ketchup, and mayonnaise. It can be difficult to control sugar intake, even for people who maintain a healthy diet. For people who have difficulty managing anxiety it can be downright impossible.

As a Santa Barbara psychologist, I often witness first-hand the connection between sugar addiction and mental health problems. The relationship between food and mental health becomes so intertwined that patients sometimes depend on food and sugar to help them get through the day. While a medical doctor can help manage the physical aspects of withdrawing from a sugar addiction, I provide counseling to help patients work through the mental and emotional reasons behind their sugar addiction.

Understanding Sugar Addiction

Research has shown that there is a fundamental connection between sugar and brain cells. While sugar does supply the fuel your brain needs to function, your brain can also come to see sugar as a reward.  Continued overuse of sugar results in the brain demanding more and more sugar. The feeling can be similar to the effects of drugs or alcohol, which provide an artificial “high.”

The “rush” we get from our mid-day sweet snack can be attributed to sugar. This turns into glucose in our bodies, and spikes our blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, blood sugar levels then drop quickly, which can leave you feeling lethargic and ultimately make you crave even more sugar. When combined with a stressful job situation, unhappy marriage, or traumatic life events, the sugar high can become an addictive way of making ourselves feel happy.

Some people don’t realize that highly refined, starchy, carbs,” can have the same effect. Things like pretzels, white bread, pasta, potatoes, and crackers raise and lower blood sugar levels quickly.


Signs of Sugar Addiction

It may be hard to realize that you have a sugar addiction. Think about your daily food habits and your relationship with food. Here are some questions that might help determine whether sugar is starting to exert an unhealthy influence in your life:

  • Does it feel like you are always “craving” something sweet?
  • Do you often think about eating sweets?
  • Do you lose control when eating sweet foods?
  • Is it difficult for you to say “no” to sweet foods?
  • When you try to cut back on sugar, do you feel intense cravings?
  • Do you experience mood swings that go up and down quickly after eating sugar?
  • Have you even eaten more than you planned, or more than you know is needed, because of a sweet taste?
  • Have you ever felt guilty or ashamed about the amount of sugar you have eaten?
  • Do you turn to sweet foods to help you deal with emotions such as depression, sadness, anger, or loneliness?
  • How often do you use sugar as a reward for yourself?
  • Do you associate sweet foods with any specific positive memories or emotions?

These questions don’t necessarily indicate that you have or don’t have a sugar addiction, but they can be helpful guidelines. If you think there is cause for concern it is always best to check with a medical doctor to rule out an  underlying medical condition and to consult a psychologist.

Overcoming a Sugar Addiction 

Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke




Why is Sugar So Addictive?




Santa Barbara Counseling: What to Expect

Santa Barbara Counseling: What to Expect

It used to be, long ago, that counseling or therapy, was relegated only to those referred to, by others, as “crazy”. Despite coming leaps and bounds from this antiquated school of thought, many are still deterred from seeking therapy, a barrier, that is largely, borne out of a stigma from the past.  Some fear being thought of as “messed up” or “weird”, while others fear being seen as “troubled” or “weak”.  There are a myriad of different deterrents, which is unfortunate, as therapy can be beneficial to anyone willing to commit themselves to the process.  I offer individuals of Ventura and Santa Barbara counseling that is, not only helpful in easing distress, but is also non-judgmental and sincere in practice.

In Santa Barbara counseling that I provide is dynamic, meaning that I attempt to understand how your symptoms, mental status, personality type, personal history, current circumstances, and stressors all come together and coalesce to make you, you. This type of Santa Barbara counseling is interpretive and artistic, while illuminating your individuality and temperament.
 Through my Santa Barbara counseling, you will have a chance to learn more about yourself and your relationships, why you are drawn to certain people, and why you repeat negative behaviors.  Therapy is like a microcosm of your larger world.  It will provide you a chance to study a relationship up close and in real time.  By exploring what happens between you and me in therapy, you will gain insight into your interactions with others and how you may be perceived as a person.

The specific type of Santa Barbara counseling that I practice is psychodynamic in nature.  In brief, the premise of this therapeutic orientation encompasses the study of an individual, whereby unconscious dynamics that make you unhappy with yourself and your relationships are made conscious. The awareness of these unconscious conflicts allows healing and growth to occur.  As treatment unfolds you will come to understand yourself and your relationships better, while experiencing more freedom to make choices about how you want to live your life.