Depression and Anxiety
What is Depression and Anxiety?
Experiencing moments of sadness and anxiousness as a response to difficulties in life is something very common for everyone. Suffering from the “blues” or feeling down is completely normal. Some people, however, suffer more frequently and for longer periods of time.
Anxiety is persistent worry and avoidance of stressful things or situations, whether real or fantastical. It can affect regular functioning. Constant worry and avoidance can effectively trigger and train the brain to be fearful and anxious.
Depression, on the other hand, experiences less worry and more despair and excessive sadness. Anxiety and depression do not have one chemical cause and can be a combination of physiological and social factors causing extreme mental distress.1https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.20030305
Depression and anxiety are often co-occurring mental health disorders. Statistically, 45 percent of people who suffer from one disorder also suffer from the other. Depression and anxiety frequently fit together as co-mingling mental health illnesses. You can be depressed about your anxiety or anxious about your depression.
There are many factors that can contribute to developing depression, anxiety, or both, comorbidly. Things like genetics, significant life changes, illnesses, or excessive use of drugs and alcohol are most common when looking for an underlying cause for both mental illnesses.
There are different classifications of depression and anxiety:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – worrying about things or events.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – occurs after someone experiences a traumatic event, like war, abuse, assault, or an accident.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – constantly dealing with intrusive thoughts and worries that cause anxiety.
- Panic Disorder – can cause panic attacks, shortness of breath.
- Major Depressive Disorder – feeling depressed most of the time, weight loss or gain, loss of interest in various activities, or feeling worthless or guilty.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder – can last for two years or more and consists of mood and sleep changes, feelings of hopelessness, trouble concentrating, and low self-esteem.
- Bipolar Disorder – Can also be referred to as “manic depression,” that can manifest as a rollercoaster of moods with very high “ups” and very low “downs.”
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – major depression that often happens in the colder, winter months when the days are shorter and the nights are longer.
- Psychotic Depression – Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions.
Depression and anxiety are serious mental health illnesses that should be treated as soon as they are recognized. Feeling sad or anxious can be normal, but if you notice your symptoms are getting worse, you should speak to a certified professional, doctor, or clinician.
What does Depression and Anxiety feel like?
Depression and anxiety, while different mental health disorders, often have overlapping and co-occurring symptoms. Hypersensitivity, hypervigilance, and hyperawareness can all be attributed to both depression and anxiety, mostly when they are co-occurring.
According to Matthew Idle, Lead Therapist at award winning Villa Paradiso Spain, anxiety can cause your body to be hypersensitive and hyperaware, feeling as though it is in critical danger which triggers the “fight or flight” response. Anxiety can also manifest in other ways, causing you to feel tense, restless, or nervous. Anxiety does not always have emotional symptoms. Having high anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as digestive or gastrointestinal problems, hyperventilation, or trembling.
Having depression can cause a decrease in interest in formerly enjoyable activities, lack of interest in intimacy or decreased libido, or a decrease or absence of appetite. It can also cause lingering feelings of hopelessness.2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2292431/
Not everyone experiences the same symptoms of depression and anxiety, nor do they experience them in the same way. You may experience thoughts of anxiousness, social isolation, or lack of concentration. Some other symptoms for depression are:
- Constant overthinking
- Change in appetite, either loss of appetite or overeating
- Change in sleep patterns, getting too much or not enough sleep
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation
While there are some symptoms of anxiety that overlap with depression, these are the more common symptoms:
- Constant worrying
- Fatigue or change in sleep patterns, getting too much or not enough sleep
- Feeling agitated or irritable
- Panic attacks
- Social avoidance
- Irrational fears
If you have experienced any of those symptoms, reach out to a clinician or certified professional to seek help and advice on managing your symptoms and other treatments.
Do I have Depression and Anxiety?
If you are unsure if you are suffering from depression and anxiety, there are some things to look for. Slight changes in mood, appetite, or other life changes may not signify severe depression or anxiety, and can be completely normal.
- Trouble sleeping – too much or too little sleep
- Drastic emotional or mood changes
- Loss of interest in things you used to love doing
- Feelings of overwhelming hopelessness or sadness
Take our online questionnaires to help you with a self-diagnosis. Getting more information about your symptoms and explanations for what is going on is helpful, but does not replace getting a diagnosis from a trained professional such as a psychiatrist. If your symptoms worsen or change, reach out for assistance from a professional.
What treatment is available for Depression and Anxiety?
There are many ways to treat your symptoms of depression and anxiety. Managing your symptoms is an important tool to have whether you decide to seek clinical treatment or not. Some ways to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety are:
- Engage in care tasks – By doing things you can control like making your bed, washing the dishes, or brushing your teeth, you can ease some of the out-of-control symptoms of depression and anxiety, and focus on smaller manageable things.
- Sleep – Poor sleep or the lack of good sleep can contribute in a significant way to exacerbating your symptoms. Talk to a therapist, counselor, or general physician about your sleep habits, and try tracking your sleep patterns.
- Give yourself a break – Mentally and physically, having depression and anxiety can be exhausting, especially when you are trying to take care of yourself. Let yourself off the hook, tell yourself frequently that you are doing the best you can, and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Your feelings are valid.
- Get moving – If you’re up for it, get moving, exercise, go for a short walk. Getting your body moving and active can release endorphins in your body which can stimulate good feelings.
- Find calming activities – Engaging in calming activities like yoga and meditation can allow you to keep your thoughts in control and focus on breathing, stretching, and physical activity.
- Create a routine – Finding small things to control and focus like creating a routine, can sometimes help ease your symptoms. Creating a routine helps give a sense of structure and control, and can help you manage your feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Eat healthy – Trying to eat something healthy or nutritious at least once a day is another small thing you can control. Sometimes depression and anxiety can cause a desire for comfort food, but too much bad food can negatively affect your physical health.
- Do something relaxing – Finding things to do that you enjoy and bring you comfort can be a great way to manage your symptoms. Read a book or magazine, watch a funny movie, or pamper yourself.
- Reach out – Reach out to a friend or therapist or someone else you are comfortable talking to about what you are feeling. Just by talking, you can relieve some of the emotional stress you are holding onto.
Managing your symptoms on your own is just one part of the treatment for depression and anxiety. Clinical professionals may give you other options to consider. Depression and anxiety have similar treatments and can be treated together, or separately. Symptoms can improve with psychological intervention.
If you are experiencing symptoms more than several days out of the week or month then you should consider reaching out for treatment. Some treatments that are available through your doctor or certified professional are:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – adjusting thoughts and behaviors3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6702282/
- Talk therapy, group therapy, counseling, interpersonal therapy, problem-solving therapy
- Medication – mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medication, antidepressants – can help reduce symptoms and stabilize depression and anxiety
There is also a number of alternative therapy treatments available, like hypnotherapy, but you should speak to your clinician before starting any therapy treatments.
Depression and anxiety are serious mental health illnesses that can have lingering effects on your life, behavior and thoughts. Experiencing sadness or feeling down or blue is normal, but excessive intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, or feelings of hopelessness or anxiousness could indicate that your normal feelings may be becoming more severe. Although some people believe depression and anxiety are a choice, they are classified as mental health illnesses and often co-exist and are co-occurring.
Johann Hari discusses Depression and Anxiety
References: Depression and Anxiety
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