Anxiety and depression are often lumped together in therapeutic jargon. Why is it that these two conditions are frequently connected to one another? There is a relationship between anxiety and depression and having both is a real and common reality for many people. You're not alone.
Is Depression a Side Effect of Anxiety?
When we think of anxiety, we imagine someone who is constantly worrying, possibly experiencing panic attacks, or maybe they’re high energy. Contrastingly, we may think someone with depression might be lethargic, low energy, and even apathetic about life. The reality is that these images of depression and anxiety aren’t exactly correct and the two often correlate.
In the U.S. Alone, when an anxiety disorder already exists, nearly half of those experiencing it will develop major depressive symptoms. So in some ways, talking about one without the other is only acknowledging half of an individual’s mental health experience.
“When you feel anxious, you may worry about a problem and constantly think about it or have persistent fears. This can lead to you feeling guilty, unaccomplished, or like a failure. These thoughts can move anyone into a depressive state.” says Dr. Kane, CMHC and therapist.
Anxiety and depression can sometimes trigger one another. Someone who feels anxious and worried can feel depressed, or people who feel depressed may begin to feel anxious about their challenges, circumstances, not being good enough, or the way they’re perceived by others.
“It’s two voices inside of you, both with totally different opinions. It’s anxiety screaming you have to get up and do stuff or you’ll fail in life, and then depression on the other side telling you it all doesn’t matter anyway and you should stay in bed all day. It’s being super stressed out about everything all the time but also not really caring about anything at all. It’s two totally opposites pulling your mind apart, and that’s really exhausting.” — Amy H. from The Mighty
Indicators that Depression and Anxiety Are Present
We all worry and feel sad or irritable from time to time. Anxiety is a normal part of life, especially if we’re experiencing a problem at work, meeting strict deadlines, figuring out our personal relationships, preparing for an upcoming test at school, or making a major decision. Having an anxiety disorder, however, means the fears and worries aren’t temporary. They persist—meaning they don’t go away, and possibly even worsen over time.
This parallel is true for depression as well. We’ll all have bad days where we feel low-energy, sad, or even angry. Depression shows up as persistent hopelessness, despair, anger, and low-energy. Depression can leave us feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks and impede our relationships with others.
You may be experiencing depression and/or anxiety if you have:
Persistent fears and worries that won’t go away (irrational fears)
Difficulties eating too much or not enough
Fatigue, headaches, rapid heartbeat, labored breathing, abdominal pain
A hard time falling and/or staying asleep
Feelings of constantly being tired, despite getting enough sleep
Inability to focus or make decisions
Feelings of sadness or worthlessness
A loss in your normal hobbies and interests
A hard time relaxing and living in the moment
Treating Coexisting Conditions with Therapy
Counseling can drastically improve the effects of anxiety and depression in a person’s life. Therapists can help you to make lifestyle changes that will help you treat your conditions such as improving sleep habits, increasing physical activity, spending more time in nature, developing social support, using stress-reduction techniques, and setting realistic goals. It is advisable to avoid alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs if you are diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression as these substances often interfere with treatment or worsen symptoms.
When Do I Try Medications?
There is often hesitation around using medications to treat anxiety and depression, but more and more research is connecting the dots between genetics and people with anxiety. Being a worrier is commonly inherited and so there may be genetic imbalances in the brain that can be dramatically helped with medications. Medications, such as antidepressants, may also help in your situation. Talk to your therapist or doctor to see if they're worth trying. Medications aren’t for everyone, and so it’s important to decide what is right for you.
How Do I Know for Sure if I Have Anxiety and/or Depression?
Just like when you have a small bruise or cut and you hop onto WebMD only to self-diagnose yourself with flesh-eating bacteria or some extraordinary and incorrect false diagnosis, we caution strongly against self-diagnosis. When you self-diagnose mental health symptoms, it’s possible to miss medical diseases or factors which could be contributing to your experiences. You also run the risk of being completely wrong about the illness you have, especially if the symptoms you’re experiencing are common.
There are cases of people who have had altered personalities, depression, or even psychosis due to brain tumors. Supposed panic disorders have been brought on by heart and thyroid issues. Headaches may be related simply to dehydration.
You may even miss out on part of a diagnosis that could help you to know and address your symptoms. For example, you might feel crippled by anxiety, leading you to think you have an anxiety disorder, when in all reality your anxiety is masking a major depressive disorder.
The internet is set up to direct you to the most serious ailments first, because of keywords and algorithms these ailments get the most interest and traffic. For example: if you start researching headaches, you’re going to find a lot more about “brain tumors” than “caffeine withdrawals” and which do you think is more common?
Bottom line: When you’re seeking answers, take your health seriously and while there are a lot of great resources online, avoid self-diagnosing because there is also a lot of misleading information.
At Dr. Christy Kane LLC we treat anxiety and/or depression with comprehensive care for adults and teenagers. Our therapists work together to bring balance and healing into the lives of our clients so that you can feel like yourself again. Call us today to schedule an appointment and talk with one of our professionals.