depression and anxiety

Depression and Anxiety: What is the Connection?

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses. Anxiety affects over 40 million Americans while depression affects 17 million.

We consider depression and anxiety two different conditions, but are often seen together. Almost half of those with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Having the blues or feeling anxious occasionally is normal, especially with stressful situations. However, severe and ongoing anxiety and depression symptoms require treatment. This treatment can help avoid long-term issues.

What is the connection between depression and anxiety? Read this article to find out more details and some helpful tips to cope with both.

depression and anxiety - man feel anxious

Types of Anxiety

There are five major types of anxiety. It’s important to identify which one you are experiencing to know the treatment to use.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Chronic anxiety is a telling sign of generalized anxiety disorder. A person with GAD feels excessively worried and tense, even when there is little or no reason to feel this way.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is another common anxiety disorder. In this case, a person feels recurring unwanted obsessive thoughts and/or compulsions. These are repetitive behaviors.

Examples of compulsions include handwashing or cleaning more often than necessary. A person with OCD does this in an attempt to make obsessive thoughts go away. However, performing these repetitive behaviors only provides temporary relief. Trying to ignore the obsessions would further increase distress and anxiety.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder manifests as unexpected, repeated short periods of intense fear. Someone with this disorder often experiences panic attacks. One may experience chest pain, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after exposure to a serious, potentially life-threatening event. For example, people who served in the military are at increased risk of developing PTSD.

Social Phobia

Someone with a social phobia feels excessive, overwhelming anxiety in day-to-day social situations. Sometimes the phobia is limited to one aspect of social life. For example, public speaking or speaking in informal situations may cause anxiety.

In other cases, people may feel extremely worried about drinking or eating in front of others. In severe cases, people with social anxiety experience symptoms when around people.

depression and anxiety - woman in bed feeling depressed

Clinical Depression

Someone with depression feels sad, empty, and hopeless. Although, some may express depression with excess irritability or frustration. Normal hobbies are no longer interesting or offer pleasure. Many people feel fatigued and lack energy.

There are also changes in appetite, either decreased or increased, leading to weight changes. Sleep becomes disturbed and feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and self-blame are common.
Feeling anxious, agitated, or restless are also symptoms of depression. Some people feel the opposite as they move and speak slower and have trouble making decisions.

Severe cases of depression present suicidal thoughts or attempts. An anxiety disorder, such as GAD or panic disorder, may trigger depression.

depression and anxiety - doctor and patient looking at scan image

Depression and Anxiety Connection

Like anxiety disorders, depression is a mood disorder. Both conditions affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They can cause significant distress that interferes with day-to-day activities, relationships, and social life. Sleep problems and energy level changes are also present with both conditions. With anxiety and depression, life is no longer enjoyable.
Both anxiety and depression are associated with certain neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine deficiencies cause depression. However, anxiety and depression correlate with GABA deficiency.

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs aim to correct these neurotransmitter imbalances. However, based on research studies, all these brain chemicals work together. An imbalance in serotonin levels can affect GABA levels, leading to depression. Hense, depression and anxiety can both be present. Although, one condition may predominate over the other.

Recent studies suggest the key underlying problem with anxiety and depression is inflammation in the brain. This inflammation is responsible for neurotransmitter imbalances and other cellular changes. Studies have connected this inflammation to other mental illnesses too.

depression and anxiety - woman talking to therapist on couch

Tips to Cope with Depression and Anxiety

If you experience depression and anxiety, seek treatment from your doctor. You can also do some things yourself to reduce symptoms.

Make a plan for when you feel depressed or anxious. Plan to do things that calm you down or make you feel happy. It’s easy to neglect when you’re in your emotions, but it’s important to stick to it.

Attending psychotherapy sessions is also important. However, since they are only once or twice a week, practice other forms of mind care. Include mindfulness meditation, yoga, and physical exercise in your daily routine. Even six minutes of daily meditation can improve anxiety.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, even at just seven minutes long, boost your mood.

Take care of your body as well as your mind. Make sure to get plenty of sleep and eat nutritious foods. Avoid processed foods with high fat and sugar.

One of the best gifts you could give your mind is limiting the amount of news and social media you consume. These outlets are full of negativity and fear.

Psychologists reveal that reading the news online can cause “headline stress disorder.” Stay informed about serious events like the pandemic through authoritative health websites. Don’t consume medical news from online newspapers as they are often bias and incite fear.

Conclusion

While depression and anxiety may occur at just one time, some people experience them both. There is a connection, which is inflammation in the brain and imbalance of chemicals.

When you seek treatment and discover coping mechanisms, you can manage these conditions.

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