Are you experiencing anxiety or depression? Or perhaps you’re experiencing both? Either way, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization, one in four of us will be affected by mental health issues at some point in our lives. Though experts set very specific criteria to diagnose mental health conditions, many of these disorders overlap, making it difficult for you to be sure what exactly you’re facing. Let’s take a closer look at the two most common conditions—depression and anxiety—and see how you can recognize them and free yourself from their grip.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized by a sense of apprehension about the future or general situations combined with a strong belief that things will go wrong. People who wrestle with anxiety are focused on the future and are afraid that this future will somehow be bad. They experience panic and fear in situations that may not typically cause anxiety.
The most common symptoms of anxiety include…
- A strong desire to run away or avoid situations that cause anxiety,
- Feeling vulnerable about the future,
- Feeling “on edge,”
- Restlessness, and
- A sense of dread.
What is Depression?
We all feel sad or fed up from time to time—a friend letting us down, a bad day at work, or a melancholy film can all trigger these feelings. But depression is different. The feelings don’t just go away; they end up tainting every day, making life impossibly difficult to deal with.
If you experience depression, you’ll likely be coping with some of the following symptoms:
- Lethargy/loss of energy
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of apathy (“What’s the point?”)
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Changes in appetite—either under- or overeating
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical aches and pains
The Difference Between Depression and Anxiety
While depression and anxiety are interconnected, sometimes called the fraternal twins of mood disorders, there are some well-defined differences between the two. If you suffer with anxiety, you fear something bad will happen and worry about it incessantly. If you suffer with depression, you “know” something bad will happen and expect the worst while feeling powerless to prevent it. Which of these resonates with you the most? Your answer will give you a clue to which condition you are facing. If you feel you might be experiencing both, this is called “comorbidity.” But don’t worry, whether you have depression, anxiety, or both, there are treatments available that will help you get back to a place of calm and peace.
Anxiety or Depression or Both—The Connection
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. Both disorders are caused by a complex interaction of a variety of factors:
- Health problems
- Difficulties in relationships
- The birth of a child
- Problems at work
- Financial issues
- Social isolation
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Personality also plays a role. People who have low self-esteem and a tendency to be self-critical and who are pessimistic, easily stressed, overly sensitive or perfectionistic will be more prone to developing depression and anxiety.
Both disorders cause changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brain—specifically, serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine—and therefore share certain symptoms. This is why they are often confused. The question of whether anxiety causes depression or the other way around is a bit like the chicken and egg question. It is common for people struggling with anxiety to feel depressed as a result of how their anxiety affects their lives. In the same vein, people struggling with depression may often develop anxiety.
Fortunately, the other thing these two conditions have in common is their treatability.
You don’t have to just put up with your depression and/or anxiety. There are many strategies that will help you to overcome these conditions and get back to living a happy, peaceful life. One thing to remember is that both disorders are likely to make you feel that there is no hope and no solution to your situation—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s take a look at some of the available treatments.
- Medication—In cases in which your depression or anxiety is chronic and so severe that it impairs your ability to enjoy a full life, your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications. While these aren’t a long-term solution, they may help you to get back to a place of calm from which you can move on to talking therapies or other natural methods.
- Talking therapy—Counselling or psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to understand the causes of your condition and find strategies to overcome it.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most commonly prescribed treatment for mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. It’s a very effective way of managing symptoms as it helps you to replace old, negative patterns and beliefs with more useful ones.
- Exercise—Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects exercise can have on your mood. Moving your body releases serotonin, the brain’s “happy” chemical, boosting feelings of wellbeing. And it doesn’t have to be a grueling session at the gym either; in fact, simply going for regular walks has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Diet—If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression—or both—you’re likely experiencing some changes in appetite. Either you’re not eating enough, or you’re reaching for comfort foods to soothe your mood. But just like exercise, certain foods can boost your levels of serotonin. Choose foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin. Tryptophan can be found in high-protein foods like beans, eggs, meat and fish. Supplementing B vitamins and folic acid has also been shown to improve the symptoms of depression. Poor blood sugar balance due to a diet high in refined carbohydrates and processed food is also directly linked to unbalanced mood. Keeping your blood-sugar levels stable by eating little and often and focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean dairy and pulses can dramatically improve your overall mood.
- Want more tips? Why not check out our effective strategies for quick anxiety relief?
You Can Free Yourself from Depression and Anxiety
Whether you’re facing depression, anxiety or both, there are many natural treatments available to help you combat the symptoms and get back to living a calm, happy, joyful life. Why not give some of these a go, and see how quickly you can begin to feel better?
Do you experience depression or anxiety? We’d love to hear about your experiences and any strategies you use to relieve your symptoms. Please share your tips in the comments section. If you have any questions, don’t be shy; drop us a line! Do you know anyone who would benefit from reading this article? Feel free to share via Facebook and Twitter.