By Candace Schoner
Anxiety and depression are serious mental health conditions that affect the lives of millions of Americans. While they are uniquely different conditions, they can occur together.
The main symptom of depression is generally a lingering low, sad, or hopeless feeling. On the other hand, anxiety mainly involves an overwhelming sense of worry, nervousness, and fear.
Feeling down or having the blues on occasion is normal, however so is feeling anxious in a stressful situation. When the feelings become severe or chronic they can indicate an underlying mental health disorder.
Many people who have anxiety and depression know their worrying is irrational, but they still cannot stop the self-doubt and negative thoughts.
Signs of depression and anxiety frequently show up differently from person to person making it difficult to diagnose the problem. Some of the overlapping symptoms, including, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep; restless, unsatisfying sleep)
Other signs that a person may suffer from both anxiety disorder and depression include:
- Constant, irrational fear and worry
- Physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, headaches, hot flashes, sweating, abdominal pain, and/or difficulty breathing
- Changes in eating habits, either too much or too little
- Persistent feelings of sadness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Inability to relax
- Panic attacks
“It’s a cycle,” says Sally R. Connolly, LCSW and therapist. “When you get anxious, you tend to have this pervasive thinking about some worry or some problem. You feel bad about it. Then you feel like you’ve failed. You move to depression.” (heartgrovehospital.com)
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), some experts estimate that 60 percent of people with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression.
Since anxiety and depression tend to worsen when existing together, mental health professionals recommend treating both conditions at the same time.
The first step in treating any mental health issue is a diagnosis. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5),” the diagnosis for:
Depression is experiencing at least 5 of the 9 main symptoms of depression most days, for at least 2 weeks.
Anxiety is experiencing excessive, uncontrollable worry, along with 3 additional anxiety symptoms most days, for at least 6 months.
Therapy for Anxiety and Depression
In many cases, psychotherapy can be tailored to treat the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, including:
- Interpersonal therapy
- Psychotherapy or Talk therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Problem-solving therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive therapy (MBCT)
It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another.
If a person is not sure about which type of therapy is best for their individual situation, they should consult with their doctor or healthcare provider.
Medications for Anxiety and Depression
There is no single medication to treat anxiety or depression, usually there are multiple medications working in conjunction with each other to address all of the symptoms. In most cases a medication regimen is usually started at a low dose, to minimize side-effects, and slowly increased until the ideal dose is found. The ideal dose is one that provides the greatest benefit with minimum side-effects.
Some of the most commonly prescription drugs used to treat depression include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine HRI (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Selective serotonin & norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), such as desvenlafaxine (Khedezla), desvenlafaxine succinate (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), levomilnacipran (Fetzima), and venlafaxine (Effexor).
When treating anxiety disorders, antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs and some SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), have been shown to be effective.
Other anti-anxiety drugs include benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), buspirone (Buspar), and lorazepam (Ativan). These drugs do carry a risk of addiction or tolerance. Other possible side effects include drowsiness, poor concentration, and irritability. (Source: webmd.com)
Always consult your physician prior to adding any medication (prescription or over-the-counter) as there could be a negative reaction mixed with existing medications or diets.