When To Get Help For Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety is a normal reaction to the stress and worry that is part of modern-day life. One can feel “stressed out,” nervous, or fearful, at times, given the demands of everyday life. If, however, it lasts for a long time or if it becomes severe, it could be suggestive of an underlying mental illness. Depression, on the other hand, can appear as sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in life. Some surveys show that 50% of those with anxiety also have depression, and a slightly greater number of those with depression have clinical symptoms of anxiety. The distinguishing attribute of these conditions is that they can last a long time and are likely to get worse if not treated.
Causes of Anxiety And Depression
Some people are more at risk of getting anxiety attacks, as well as depression. A history of either of the conditions in the family can predispose you to also be affected. Sometimes, anxiety is triggered by an event outside the control of the affected person. A terminal illness or death of a close friend or relative can cause a high level of anxiety and later, depression. Other situations like a serious illness, an accident, divorce, separation or drug abuse can also lead someone to experience anxiety and depression.
Clinical depression can be expressed in anxiety attacks. Continuous anxiety can also lead to depression. This has led some psychiatrists to view the two conditions as different sides of the same coin. With anxiety, one will live in fear of bad occurrences happening in the future; whether in an hour or year to come. Depression, in some cases, can manifest itself as a feeling of giving up because you do not think you can cope. This can sometimes lead to self-destructive behavior whose consequence could turn out tragic as in the case of suicide.
What Is Comorbidity?
Comorbidity refers to a situation where a person has both anxiety and depression. An example is persons suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) whose anxiety attacks could develop into depression.
Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression
- Unrelenting, irrational fear and worry
- Erratic eating habits that could include bingeing and self-starvation
- Memory difficulties, erratic decision-making, difficulties with attention
- Feeling tense
- Panic attacks
- Constant fatigue and irritability
- Loss of interest in social activity and hobbies
- Sadness and feeling of loss of worth
- Physical symptoms include headaches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, abdominal pain, and labored breathing
Because depression and anxiety are related conditions, the two conditions require a treatment regimen that addresses both. A suggested treatment often entails a combination of medication, exercise, therapy, relaxation techniques, and support groups.
A good number of people who come to see me have already tried a number of the non-medication alternatives and have not received enough relief from symptoms. Medication can be used to manage the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Often, the same drugs are used for both conditions. The main effect of the medication is to help you to relax and not feel so sad or anxious.
An experienced psychiatrist will prescribe the best pharmacological treatment in addition to the lifestyle changes recommended. Ruling out biological causes of the presentation, such as thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, or inflammation should be part of an initial evaluation so they can be addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment. The pharmacological treatment requires frequent visits at least initially to determine what are the best options since there are different classes of agents that can be used in addressing anxiety and depressive symptoms. Some of the medications used to treat anxiety could be addictive and need consistent monitoring to detect early signs of developing tolerance. In that case, the psychiatrist will discuss further options for treatment.
Medication for both depression and anxiety symptoms include SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor). Your psychiatrist can review with you the advantages and possible side effects of various medications to come up with a treatment that is best for you.
Therapy For Anxiety And Depression
There are a number of treatments for these conditions. Interpersonal therapy improves your ability to relate to other people through developing your communication and other social skills. Problem-solving aims to give you the skills needed to handle your symptoms. Exposure therapy aims to have a person confront their fears by being exposed to the situations or people that trigger their anxiety attacks. This is done gradually so that you can develop coping mechanisms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves the therapist helping you to change your thoughts and actions. By taking charge of your emotions, you are empowered to control your fears and anxieties since you learn to identify what causes them. The CBT approach is one of the best treatment options if performed well and in accordance with a set of procedures. People who get treated using this method are also less likely to relapse because of the sense of responsibility it develops.
It is well known that exercise leads to a change in your mood. It can also bolster your self-esteem and confidence, which in turn can have a positive impact on how you relate to others. Endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain can be released by exercise. For this reason, mild to moderate depression can be impacted by the use of workouts. The best approach is to have a regular high energy exercise program. Joining a group or friends for exercise can also be beneficial in offering support and motivation.
Meditation is a good way to cope with anxiety attacks. Learning yoga and deep breathing can help one keep anxiety under control. Meditation can also help you to replace the images that cause your anxiety with more calming and self-soothing alternatives. Other people find repeating mantras (usually any repeated word or phrase) helpful in gaining more control of their response to anxiety. Mantras are sacred statements, sounds or group of words in Sanskrit that practitioners believe to bear spiritual and psychological powers.
Diet And Mental Illness
A healthy diet and a regular meal plan are important for your physical and mental health. Anxiety or depression can manifest in seeking comfort from eating. Eating any foods you like can activate the release of endorphins in the brain, and can lead to compulsive eating so it is important to be on a regular schedule and maintain a healthy diet. The other extreme is where depression makes you think that you look overweight and unattractive. If you have feelings of worthlessness, shame, and sadness directly coming before or after binges you may want to seek help and be evaluated for an eating disorder.
Family and friends can be helpful in facing the challenges stemming from anxiety or depression. It can sometimes help to inform them of your condition if you feel they can offer support and encouragement. Some people also opt for support from the community, such as church groups, clubs. If your depression is linked to drug or alcohol addiction, groups such as the Alcoholics Anonymous can also provide support.
What You Can Do
Other than the assistance you receive from professionals, you can also carry out some activities to lessen your depression or anxiety. These could include:
- De-cluttering your life and physical surroundings. This will help keep the feeling of being overwhelmed to a minimum.
- Get involved in a purposeful activity. A purpose helps you focus your energies and can remove the hopelessness.
- Set new achievable goals to keep your mind away from thoughts of failure. Create a plan that can be broken down into achievable steps.
- Creative activity such as painting, writing, crafts, or even reading is also constructive and can improve your self-worth.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above we recommend you speak to your primary care doctor to rule out a medical condition and get a referral to a trained mental health professional. If you live in the Houston area and need any assistance, feel free to contact us at 713-426-3100.