Anxiety and depression are often diagnosed together as co-occurring disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, half of the people diagnosed with either anxiety or depression also have the other disorder.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at a common question we hear from people – what are the symptoms of anxiety and depression?
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression?
Recovery may seem more challenging for some. As one condition improves, the other may feel as if it is getting worse. Treating both at the same time can be done, however.
Because it is normal to experience both depression and anxiety on occasion, like when a loved one dies or right before taking an exam. It’s when symptoms appear and continue for no apparent reason that you should seek medical advice.
Doctors will use the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to determine if you meet the criteria for anxiety, depression, or both. Keep reading to learn more about each.
So, what are the symptoms of anxiety and depression?
There are multiple anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, separation anxiety, and selective mutism.
Anxiety disorders affect one in five Americans. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type, affecting more than 7 million people.
Someone with generalized anxiety
- Has symptoms for six months or longer
- worry about and fear most aspects of life
- has worry that is out of proportion or excessive
- thinks only of the worst-case scenarios or adverse outcomes
- has trouble making decisions
- can’t stay focused
- feels restless or on edge
- can’t relax.
Despite being restless, someone with anxiety may also complain of fatigue and trouble sleeping. Muscle tension, irritability, digestive problems, and being easily startled are additional symptoms.
Depressive disorders consist of major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression, premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, situational depression, atypical depression, and treatment-resistant depression.
The most common disorder is major depression, affecting over 17 million Americans.
When diagnosing major depression, doctors look for five or more symptoms that have occurred for at least two weeks. Symptoms maybe
- depressed mood for most of the day
- decrease in interest in activities
- changes in weight
- inability to concentrate
- slowed movements
- feeling worthless
- thoughts of suicide or death.
What Causes Depression and Anxiety?
Some of the same factors that cause anxiety also cause depression, like an imbalance in the brain’s chemical structure. That is just one factor, however. Many areas of the brain are associated with depression, including the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and neurotransmitters.
Serotonin, glutamate, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA play a part in your mood.
External factors, or risk factors, make someone more likely to have depression, like genetics. There are specific genes linked to depression that can be passed down in your family. Having the gene does not mean you will definitely have a diagnosis of depression, however.
Other risk factors, combined with genetics, increase the likelihood of developing the disorder. Risk factors to be aware of include drug and alcohol misuse, early losses, past traumas, injuries, relationships with peers and family, lifestyle, underlying medical issues, medication side effects, and environment.
The good news is that both anxiety and depression are treatable disorders. A multi-layered treatment approach uses different forms of treatment to ease symptoms and teach you how to cope with anxiety and depression.
Treatment for Anxiety and Depression
Treatment for anxiety and depression should happen simultaneously with the help of a specialist in co-occurring or dual diagnosis disorders. Creating a treatment plan with a licensed mental health therapist will introduce you to the many options for treatment, some of which are discussed below.
For many, treatment must include medication. One of the most common is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications manipulate how serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical in the brain, is used. They block the chemical from being absorbed by nerve cells, leaving more of it behind. The theory is that the more serotonin available, the better your mood will be.
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are also used to treat both anxiety and depression. This medication stops the reabsorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine, leaving more behind to improve mood.
Whether you take medication or not, working with a mental health therapist is crucial to overcoming symptoms of anxiety and depression. Disorder-specific treatments may include exposure therapy, trauma-based cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement and desensitization, and reprocessing for anxiety.
You may find attending group therapy lead by a mental health therapist gives you a balance of peer support and professional guidance. In both individual and group therapies, you can expect to benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a version of talk therapy. Your therapist will help you change your thought process that will, in turn, change behavior patterns. The theory behind this treatment is that what you think leads to how you feel and behave. If you can change negative thoughts to positive ones, you will feel and act positively.
CBT has proven to be a very successful technique. There are sub-treatments of CBT that extend learning to cope with mental health conditions. Treatments like acceptance and commitment therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps you explore non-traditional methods of treatment, like practicing mindfulness and emotional regulation.
Alternative Treatments for Anxiety and Depression
Research shows there is a connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Mental health is affected by physical health and vice versa.
Including methods to treat the whole body can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Practicing self-care and being mindful of your body’s needs, and meeting those needs is crucial for mental and physical health.
Examples of alternative treatments for anxiety and depression include:
- Stress management
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Equine therapy
There are numerous other alternative treatments. You can explore all of them with your mental health therapist. Together, you can create a plan of action that gives you multiple tools to cope with your symptoms of anxiety and depression. You can even start today by calling or reaching out online. We are here for you.