Depression and anxiety each come with their own set of symptoms and challenges. But despite depression being associated with a low-energy state and anxiety with a high-energy state, both can co-occur and cause a vicious cause-and-effect cycle of ups and downs.
For example, have you ever experienced lingering feelings of hopelessness coupled with an overwhelming sense of worry with some irritability thrown into the mix? If so, it’s possible that you’re being affected by both mental health conditions at the same time. In fact, nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety and vice versa.
But how is it possible that two seemingly polar opposite mental health conditions are intrinsically linked? Let’s find out.
When there’s conflict in a relationship, an issue at work or an important test coming up, it’s common — and normal — to experience anxiety. However, diagnosable anxiety disorders involve more than a temporary fear or worry.
With an anxiety disorder, the fight-or-flight center in the brain becomes activated and can remain active for long periods. This happens whether a threat exists or not, and it can easily become worse over time to the point where it interferes with a person’s daily routine and life.
Anxiety can take several forms, including social anxiety, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder and others. The most common symptoms include:
- Excessive worry, usually about irrational things
- Inability to control one’s thoughts
- Restlessness and agitations
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Tense or aching muscles
- Difficulty concentrating
Depression is short for major depressive disorder (MDD). It’s a common and very serious mood disorder that negatively affects how an individual feels, thinks and acts. Depression types can range from situational depression to seasonal to bipolar disorder.
While all types of depression cause feelings of sadness, feeling sad is not the same as having depression. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness accompanied by a loss of interest in the things a person once enjoyed as well as the following symptoms:
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Having trouble focusing, making decisions and with memory
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling tired or exhausted throughout the day
- Changes in appetite that cause weight gain or loss
- Thoughts of death or suicide
When left untreated, depression can lead to a variety of physical and emotional problems. Eventually, it can also interfere with your ability to function at school, work or home.
What Causes Anxiety and Depression?
When we talk about the causes of anxiety and depression, most people expect a concrete clinical answer that comes with a medical cure. However, the answers aren’t as clear-cut and simple. Nor is the solution.
When it comes to anxiety disorders, you’re dealing with a vast group of causes and effects. Researchers still don’t know exactly what causes anxiety disorders, but they do know there is a combination of factors that come into play.
- Chemical imbalance: Long-lasting stress can alter the chemical balance within the brain that controls mood. Experiencing severe stress for a long time can lead to an anxiety disorder.
- Environmental factors: Experiencing certain traumas can trigger anxiety disorders, especially if an individual is already considered at “high risk” for a mood disorder due to family history.
- Heredity: Anxiety disorders often run in families and can easily be inherited from one or both parents.
As for depression, research suggests the cause is a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. It is also often triggered by an anxiety disorder left undiagnosed and treated.
Other factors for depression include:
- Brain chemistry: When there are abnormal levels of mood chemicals in the brain, it can lead to depression.
- Genetics: If you have a family history of depression, you may be predisposed to the mood disorder.
- Life events: Traumatic situations, the death of a loved one and ongoing severe stress can lead to depression, especially when left isolated without proper support.
- Medical conditions: Chronic pain and other illnesses can lead to depression, including conditions such as diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
- Medication: Certain medications list depression as a side effect and the recreational use of drugs and alcohol can also cause depression or worsen it.
- Personality type: People that become easily overwhelmed or have trouble coping with stressors and life events may be more prone to depression than others.
How Depression and Anxiety Influence One Another
The term comorbidity refers to when two mental health conditions occur simultaneously. This means having one disorder or condition will likely cause an individual to suffer from the other. Both anxiety and depression have a high comorbidity, which is why between 40 and 50 percent of people experiencing one tend to experience the other.
To put it simply, anxiety and depression can become a cycle. When a person experiences anxiety, they tend to have worrisome thoughts that become pervasive, interrupting their day. The result is feeling bad about those thoughts, which leads to depression.
When a person experiences depression, they tend to feel anxious and worried because cannot help the way they feel or understand it. Without support and proper treatment, the cycle continues and the conditions worsen.
The Importance of Treating Your Anxiety and Depression Simultaneously
Anxiety and depression occur in a cycle. If you treat one but not the other, you won’t effectively break the cycle, meaning one mental health disorder will remain, triggering the other.
Depression and anxiety can often be treated similarly, using specific modes of therapy tailored to an individual to reduce the symptoms of both disorders. Therapy usually coincides with medication use, which helps balance the brain’s chemistry. Therapy aims to help the individual replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with more realistic and healthy ones.
You Can Break the Cycle
You can’t manage your anxiety and depression on your own, which is okay. Here at Restore, we understand the challenges you face everyday as you struggle with your mental health. We also know that you can overcome these challenges with the right treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression or need an evaluation, get in touch online or call us at (877) 594-3566. Our medical and mental health professionals are here to help you break the cycle so you can live the happier and mentally healthier life you deserve.