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Anxiety And Depression: Symptoms, Self-help, Medication and Treatment

Anxiety And Depression

Anxiety and depression are common mental illnesses that affect millions of people every year. They are two of the most common diseases that affect the young and old alike. They are not gender specific and the victims are from all types of social statuses, geographical locations, and cultures. Separately these diseases are problematic enough, but together they can virtually incapacitate their victims.

Anxiety and Depression Symptoms

intersection of anxiety and depression

Anxiety and Depression Symptoms Separately

Do you worry a lot?
Feel anxious, or nervous?
Are you unable to control your anxiety?
Do you feel wound up, tense, restless?
Are your muscles achy and sore?
Are you irritable?
Is your sleep disturbed?
Has worrying affected your life?
Is it difficult to relax, calm down, or cope?

Those who suffer from “Anxiety” are beset with a vast array of symptoms and problems. Anxiousness is the most common burden, causing difficulty in breathing, rapid heart rates, fear and feelings of impending doom, lightheadedness, headaches, and a host of other discomforts.

Individuals who are diagnosed with this condition share a few common traits such as those mentioned above, however, no two people are the same when it pertains to the severity of their symptoms or with the triggers that cause the attacks. Consequently, those afflicted are usually always nervous, worry over every little detail, and have trouble sleeping.

  Read more here about → Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Do you feel sad a lot of the time?
Are you grumpier than you used to be?
Do you feel hopeless, helpless, empty?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Are you tired all the time?
Do you feel worthless or guilty?
Have you gained or lost weight?
Is it hard to concentrate?
Have you lost interest in fun activities?

Those who suffer from “Depression” are usually more lethargic, and not able to get enough energy or motivation to do even the simplest task or chore. Their thoughts are consumed with feelings of failure and disinterest. Nothing seems to spark any concern for life, family, or even entertainment when the inflicted is suffering from it.

Thoughts of suicide, that the world and the ones they love will be better off without them, consume them during the roughest bouts. Many victims of depression sleep for the better part of the day; they have no desire to get out of bed and face another day of feeling hopeless and worthless.

    Read more  → Depression: What It Is, Causes, Signs, Relief and Self Help, Treatment

Anxiety and Depression Symptoms Combined

Trying to cope with one of these illnesses is difficult enough, but when the two are combined they seriously complicate matters. Imagine feeling so anxious and jittery that you can not sit still for a single minute while your heart feels like it is going to pound out of your chest and you’re having difficulty breathing. This series of events usually causes people to hyperventilate because they feel that they are not getting enough air when in actuality they are taking in too much oxygen. Too much oxygen will produce light-headedness and dizziness, adding to the anxious feelings and physical discomforts.

Now, add these physical and mental reactions to those that accompany a depressed personality. Not only is this person feeling antsy and uncomfortable, but they are also being beset with contradicting physical difficulties such as not having any incentive to accomplish anything or to participate in life, yet their body is reacting the opposite. It is like two opposing forces pulling against each other, tearing the individual apart with conflicting feelings, emotions, and physical reactions.

Those who suffer from anxiety disorders are constantly worrying about everything, whether or not those fears are realistic or imagined. They are consumed with concerns over their health, money issues, job production (if they can work) if their children will make it home safe from work, if a plane will crash on top of their house, and so on. These fears, although seeming outlandish to others who do not understand this illness, are real to the inflicted and cause both mental and physical responses and distress.

The persons suffering from anxiety and depression, however, are not in a constant state of worry, but instead feel like they do not belong in society, that they are a burden to family and friends, and that they do not have any self or societal worth. It is a constant struggle for them to get out of bed every day and to complete even the most mundane tasks. They wish only to sleep and escape the disappointments of life yet the anxiousness and contradictory bodily reactions war within them.

Are Depression and Anxiety Related

To be sure, depression and anxiety are related. This is because the number of people with depression who also experience symptoms of anxiety is nearly 85 percent. Roughly 50% of people diagnosed with depression will also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Many experts consider ‘mixed anxiety and depressive disorder’ (MADD) as a separate category.

Depression Is Anxiety

Also, some maintain that “depression is anxiety.” They feel that “all people with depression have anxiety, but not everyone with anxiety has depression.”

For instance, David Hanscom, MD, writes in Psychology Today [Ref. Depression Is Anxiety] that “Anxiety and depression are the same entity.” He goes on to say, “Depression describes the constellation of symptoms created by relentless anxiety.” Hanscom thinks anxiety “is a descriptive term and should not be considered a diagnosis.” Rather, he feels “[anxiety] is a term that describes a heightened neurochemical state,” because anxiety is merely “the feeling generated by elevated stress hormones and the autonomic nervous system”.

Hanscom says that the root cause of depression is relentless anxiety. He gives the following reasons by considering the following symptoms of depression:
  • Waking up in the morning and not being able to fall back asleep – this is usually from racing thoughts and it relates to anxiety.
  • Then you can’t fall asleep – from your body being full of stress chemicals, which puts you on high alert, which isn’t conducive to falling asleep.
  • Eventually, you have trouble concentrating – this is a combination of racing thoughts and insomnia.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss – Adrenaline decreases the blood supply to the GI tract.
  • Lack of energy – being full of these chemicals keeps your body on high alert, which wears you down.
  • Multiple, diffuse physical symptoms – a direct effect of your body’s hormones on the different organ systems.
  • Social isolation – anxiety blocks people from reaching out to others.
  • Suicidal ideation, an action plan, and beginning to implement it – anxious distress makes people feel tense, restless, and have trouble concentrating because they worry so much, leading to suicidality.
Hence, Hanscom maintains that “what we are calling depression is really a set of symptoms created by sustained levels of stress chemicals (anxiety).”

Depression and Anxiety are Related but Different

But not all agree. Kathleen Smith, PhD, LPC, writing for [Ref. Anxiety vs. Depression], says, “If you compare the two lists of symptoms [of depression and generalized anxiety disorder], you can see that there is some overlap… There are, however, some distinguishing features.” Sleep problems, trouble concentrating, and fatigue are common to both anxiety and depression. Irritability may also be present in forms of anxiety or depression (in place of low mood).

Kathleen notes that in depression people move slowly, and exhibit flattened or dull reactions. Those with anxiety are more keyed up, given their racing thoughts. Another distinguishing feature is that people with anxiety have fear about the future. Depressed people do not worry about the future since they believe that things will continue to be bad.

So it’s a complex picture. Depression and anxiety have some features that overlap and some that don’t. Do the above two differences between depression and anxiety suffice to consider them as two different entities? To complicate things further, it’s possible for someone to experience depression and anxiety at the same time.

DSM-5 lists Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as two different diagnostic entities. So, clinicians will continue to distinguish them.

Does It Really Matter?

So, are depression and anxiety related? Or is there a clear-cut relation between depression and anxiety? But it may not matter that much to differentiate the two. Treatment approaches are similar in both. In both conditions, psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, is effective. And in both, we use antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In some, they try both psychotherapy and medication.

Lifestyle modifications are helpful in both. They include sleep hygiene, seeking social support, practicing stress-reduction techniques, and exercising regularly. It helps to avoid smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs. They worsen both conditions and interfere with treatment.

So, don’t worry so much about the labels. Seek prompt treatment from a psychiatrist when you have symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Treatment for Anxiety and Depression

Although anxiety and depression seem so contrary in their mental and physical characteristics, amazingly enough, a lot of the medications prescribed are relative to both conditions. Mental illnesses are a result, many a time, of an imbalance of chemicals within the brain. These hormones and chemicals need to be stable for the brain to function correctly. Having too much or too little of these can cause adverse effects.

  Read also:
    2. How to Deal With Anxiety: Basics and Beyond

Anxiety and Depression Serotonin

Anxiety and Depression Serotonin is one of the essential chemicals in the brain that affects anxiety and depression disorders. It is responsible for balancing emotions and thought processes related to emotional feelings. If the Serotonin levels are too low, the individual’s emotional state is upset. They can either experience too much fear and anxiety, worry and stress, or they can feel worthless and of no use to society, not even having enough energy to care about their lives or others around them.

Anxiety and Depression Medication

The medications that doctors and specialists prescribe to sufferers of anxiety and depression are sometimes the exact brands. For example, Zoloft (Sertraline) is a common anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication that is taken daily to help stabilize the Serotonin levels within the brain. It does not work immediately, but throughout  a couple of weeks, this medication’s purpose is to steadily increase the chemical levels to a more natural balance.

As with most daily medications, once a regimen is started it is not a good idea to stop taking the prescription. Many times individuals who have been taking their prescriptions start to feel better and become convinced that they are cured and do not need the medication any longer. However, once they stop taking the medication, their chemical levels can plummet sending them into a more severe state than they were before.

Xanax (alprazolam) is another medication that is often prescribed, especially for those suffering from anxiousness and uncontrollable fears.

How Does Xanax (alprazolam) Help Anxiety and Depression?

This medication is not necessarily used daily, instead, it is to treat and even forestall attacks. Most anxiety and depression sufferers know at least some of their triggers, events, places, or even people who will set off an attack. Taking Xanax before attending a social event or doing any activity that is known to cause a reaction, will help to settle the nerves and make it easier to cope with the activity or situation. Attacks happen without reason as well; therefore Xanax is also used to treat the symptoms that plague a person during these encounters.

Anxiety and Depression Therapy

Psychotherapy (or, simply "Therapy") is an effective and proven treatment for anxiety and depression. According to APA,

Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression because it can help people to:
  • Identify and manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Understand and cope with the underlying causes of anxiety and depression
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms
  • Improve communication and interpersonal skills
  • Increase self-esteem and self-confidence
There are a variety of different types of psychotherapy, and the approach that a therapist takes will vary depending on the individual’s needs. Some common approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to your symptoms. Find here → a detailed article on Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on your relationships with others. It can help you to identify and understand the patterns in your relationships that may be contributing to your anxiety and depression. It can help you to identify and change patterns of interaction with others that may be triggering or worsening your symptoms and develop skills for communicating effectively with others.

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on exploring the unconscious mind. This type of therapy can help people with anxiety and depression by helping them understand the root cause (e.g., early experiences) of their symptoms.

Therapy can help people with anxiety and depression to understand their condition and to develop effective coping strategies. It can also provide much-needed support and encouragement.

For many people, therapy is an important part of the journey to recovery from anxiety and depression. It can help to provide clarity, understanding, and hope.

Anxiety And Depression Self-help

Unless it is medically contraindicated, physical exercise is a natural way to ramp up energy levels and reconnect with the body. Sufferers have found relief from the following activities - but it’s an individual preference - whatever makes you feel good, feel alive, and feel that life is worth living:
  • YOGA
Getting outside is very helpful, as sunlight strongly affects our moods. Bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, creeks, waterfalls, and the ocean also provide a calming ambiance that restores the body’s equilibrium.

In our society, we often treat our bodies the way we do our cars - by running them into the ground without regular maintenance and proper fuel. To put it bluntly, if you eat crap, you will feel rather crappy. Too many people “run their bodies on empty,” and then wonder why they have “suddenly” run out of gas.

Eating healthy foods is an important way to practice self-care. See these articles for detailed discussions:

Proper sleep is also vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Practice good sleep hygiene by relaxing your mind. These articles will help you do just that:

People who are depressed and anxious tend to feel different from others and so they compound the issue by self-isolating. This becomes a downward spiral into feeling even more alone and more estranged. Sufferers have found their way to improved health by reaching out to others for support and a reason to get up in the morning.

A great way to do this is by joining a support group of some kind. That could be a 12-step Program, a therapist-led process group, volunteering at a school, a nursing home, a community garden, a nature center, an animal shelter, or anything that gets you out of the house and engaged with others. Pets are also a great comfort; walking the dog is a healthy option for both the dog as well as the dog owner. Read here → How Dogs and Other Pets Can Help With Depression.

We’ve looked at body chemistry, physical activity, getting outdoors for fresh air, and sunlight, oneness with nature, and reaching out to others, including pets...

Here is the most important treatment option of all - Mindfulness.

Are you aware of your internal dialogue? This is where the trouble originates, perseveres, and will persist until the messages are re-programmed. What good are anti-depressants, jogging in the park, joining a garden club, and helping at the horse rescue, if all the while you’re berating yourself? “That was so stupid. Why did I say that?” or “I look really bad today,” or “Nobody likes me. Why bother?”

These messages are so ingrained and so much a part of one’s identity that it’s difficult to even be aware of their existence. Following are some ways to check in and identify this self-talk, this automatic PA system blaring through your mind 24/7. Learning to feel and to be cognizant of the constant flow of one’s fleeting emotions is a mental challenge that’s well worth the effort.


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