How Anxiety and Depression Affect Your Daily Life

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 out of every 6 adults in the United States will have depression in their lifetime. Depression affects about 16 million American adults every year.

Anxiety disorders often go hand-in-hand with depression. People who have anxiety disorders struggle with intense and uncontrollable feelings of fear, worry and/or panic. Depression and anxiety are different conditions, but they commonly occur together. They also have similar treatments.

What is Depression?

Depression, also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Depression affects how you feel, think and behave, and it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness</span
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems such as back pain or headaches

Different Types of Depression

Your doctor may diagnose you with depression that is mild, moderate or severe depending on your symptoms. You may also be diagnosed with a specific type of depression, such as:

  • Dysthymia: mild depression that lasts for several years
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern
  • Postnatal Depression: depression that many parents experience after having a baby. Some people experience antenatal depression during pregnancy

For many people with depression, symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in daily activities or relationships with others.

In many cases, anxiety occurs along with other mood disorders, especially depression.

What is Anxiety?

Excessive, ongoing worry that is difficult to control and interferes with daily activities may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD has symptoms that are similar to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety. However, they are all very different conditions.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can include:

  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, constantly feeling restless, keyed-up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Feeling down every now and then is normal, and everyone feels anxious from time to time. However, severe or ongoing feelings of depression and anxiety can be a sign of a serious mental health disorder.

Causes of Depression and Anxiety

The exact cause of depression and anxiety is unknown. As with many mental health conditions, the causes likely arises from a variety of biological and environmental factors, which may include:

  • Having blood relatives who experience depression or anxiety disorders
  • Experiencing traumatic or stressful events
  • Major life events, even if they are planned
  • Having a major medical problem
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

Treatment decisions are based on how significantly generalized anxiety disorder and/or depression is affecting your ability to function. Typically, psychotherapy and medications alike are used to treat depression and anxiety. Most people benefit from a combination of the two.

Psychotherapy

Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you coping skills to manage your worries. Also, it can help you gradually return to activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety or depression. Through this process, your symptoms can improve as you build on your success.

Medications

Several types of medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

  • Antidepressants: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the most often prescribed antidepressants. Examples of antidepressants used to treat generalized anxiety disorder include escitalopram (Lexapro), duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR) and paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva). Your doctor also may recommend other antidepressants.
  • Buspirone: An anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be used on an ongoing basis.
  • Benzodiazepines: In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe a benzodiazepine for relief of anxiety symptoms. These sedatives are generally used only for relieving acute anxiety on a short-term basis. Because they can be habit-forming, these medications aren’t a good choice if you have problems with substance abuse.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Usually those with mood disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety and depression under control. However, lifestyle changes also can make a difference.

  • Move your body. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a great stress reducer and can improve your mood. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your exercise.
  • Get good rest. Do what you can to ensure you are getting adequate sleep.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are great ways to ease anxiety.
  • Eat healthy. Healthy eating may be linked to reduced anxiety and depression, but more research is needed. Generally, healthy eating can improve physical health, which can improve your immune systems and mood.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Substance abuse can worsen anxiety and depression.
  • Quit smoking and limit caffeinated beverages. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.

Symptoms of both conditions usually improve with psychotherapy, medications and lifestyle changes.

If you believe you are suffering from depression or anxiety, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend, a faith leader or someone else you trust.

Through whatever steps you decide to take towards improving your mental health, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your anxiety and depression and the struggles that come with them. When it comes to working through mental illness, no accomplishment is too small and every stride forward is worth celebrating.

If you or a loved one need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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