Coping with Anxiety and Depression
What are anxiety and depression and how can we learn to cope with these conditions? Anxiety is defined as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. These feelings can become strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. Depression can be categorized as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, bipolar II, or post-partum. It is a group of conditions associated with the elevation or lowering of a person’s mood which is commonly seen in either clinical depression or bipolar disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem among U.S. adults, affecting 18.1 percent of the population each year. And mood disorders are the leading cause of disability.
Depression and anxiety are different conditions, but they commonly occur together. They also have similar treatments. Feeling down or having the blues now and then is normal. And everyone feels anxious from time to time — it’s a normal response to stressful situations. But severe or ongoing feelings of depression and anxiety can be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder.
Anxiety may occur as a symptom of clinical (major) depression. It’s also common to have depression that’s triggered by an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or separation anxiety disorder. Many people have a diagnosis of both an anxiety disorder and clinical depression.
What are possible links?
Although clearly not identical emotional states, mental health research suggests that depression and anxiety often coexist because they can be caused by the same or similar factors:
· Genetic Factors: Genetic factors contribute to 40 percent of the predisposition to depressive and anxious symptoms, with 60 percent being attributed to environmental, noninherited factors
· Environmental Factors: Also referred to as social factors, these include experiences like trauma or neglect in early childhood, and current stressors such as relationship difficulties, unemployment, social isolation, and physical illness. People who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder, are particularly likely to also develop depression
· Pain: Chronic pain, and particularly disabling pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), low back pain, headaches, and nerve pain, are closely linked to psychological distress, including both anxiety and depression. In fact, they say, research suggests that “pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.”
What are the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression:
· Being easily fatigued
· Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
· Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; restless, unsatisfying sleep)
· Constant irrational fear and worry
· Physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, headaches, hot flashes, sweating, and/or difficulty breathing
· Changes in eating, either too much or too little
· Persistent feelings of sadness or worthlessness
· Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
· Inability to relax
· Panic Attacks
Symptoms of both conditions usually improve with:
· Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)-it’s often used to treat people with both disorders. Fears, anxieties and tendencies toward depression are managed by seeking out their root causes. Once uncovered, patients learn how to take control of their emotions and life. Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)-it focuses on the connection between onset of symptoms and current interpersonal problems, such as unresolved grief, relationship disputes, and social isolation or withdrawal.
· Medications, such as anti-depressants often combined with CBT, these may be prescribed in treating both disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are new antidepressant drugs that produce fewer side effects than their predecessors.
· A combination of medications and psychotherapy
· Lifestyle changes
o Improving sleep habits
o Increasing social support
o Using stress-reduction techniques: This typically involves meditation or mindfulness, which is a way of training your mind to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body by sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing. These techniques can often help to remedy both disorders and improve quality of life.
o Getting regular exercise: This can be very helpful for both disorders. Physical activity causes feel-good chemicals to be released in the body. This aids in relaxation and feeling of well-being. Exercising may also distract you from your worries, fears, and other negative thoughts. Walking for as little as 10 minutes a day may alleviate symptoms.
Can anxiety and depression be treated together?
Yes. No one has to suffer from anxiety disorder or depression, and certainly not both. People with anxiety disorder should speak with a psychiatrist, therapist or other healthcare professional about their symptoms and start treatment as soon as possible. If there is suspicion of both anxiety and depression, getting a thorough exam from a psychiatrist is recommended as the first step towards treatment.
In summary, depression and anxiety of all types have a biological component, a psychological component, and a social component. But, the more we learn about the biology of anxiety and depression, the more we discover the power of human relationships to either increase or decrease one’s vulnerability to both.
Remember no medications can teach you more eﬀective coping skills, more realistic thinking styles, healthier relationship styles, appropriate problem-solving skills, more eﬀective decision-making strategies, how to build and maintain a support network, how to transcend an adverse personal history, and how to build a realistic and motivating future. You can get these things by working with a good therapist.
Are you ready to begin working with a good therapist? At Delray Beach Psychiatry, we have caring and compassionate anxiety and depression therapists. We have a licensed psychologist, licensed clinical social workers and licensed mental health counselors on staff who have the training and experience to help you recover from your anxiety and depression. Contact us today.