Two of the most common disorders that I see in my practice are anxiety and depression. Both have their own set of symptoms. While they are technically different, they also share a lot in common, and their similarities and relationship may affect one’s treatment.
We must take a look inside the body to have an understanding of why these disorders are so common.
There are two types of neurotransmitters: inhibitory and excitatory.
The inhibitors are the neurotransmitters that make us feel good and are also responsible for our self-esteem and sleep. When these get depleted, we suffer from depression and even anger.
The excitatory neurotransmitters are responsible for making us alert, to focus, have memory, to have ambition, and experience stress. When some of our neurotransmitters are low, we will generally be fatigued, have trouble with numbers, have low libido, and decreased short term memory. Too much of a few of them and we get panic and insomnia.
One of the first things I must do for a patient is determine if he/she has anxiety, depression, or both. I ascertain this from testing, patient history, and from a full discussion with the patient.
Actually it is very common for a person to suffer from both anxiety and depression at the same time, especially if they have severe anxiety or panic disorder. Often the anxiety comes first, and the impact that anxiety has on one’s life ends up leading to the development of depression and depressive symptoms.
Let me explain how depression and anxiety are different.
Anxiety is characterized by fear and apprehension. There are often worried and have nervous thoughts, along with significant attention given to both the present and future. Anxiety creates a feeling of discomfort and often has a lot more energy. Those with anxiety tend to think very negatively, but they do so about things that might happen. Often the basics of anxiety are the fear that something will make their life worse.
On the other hand, depression does not have that fear. Depression centers around the idea that life is already bad, with less hope about getting better. The depressed person is less worried about the future because he/she has less hope. Those with depression may suffer from severe fatigue and have less energy. The depressed person has fewer emotions, although like anxiety, these emotions are often very negative.
Depression is best described as the belief that nothing can go right and make life better. Anxiety is best described as the belief that things can go wrong and make life worse. Physically, anxiety tends to cause an activation of feelings and sensations such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and/or the feeling of panic, while depression seems to cause an absence of feelings and sensations, such as no positive feelings and feeling that nothing nor anyone is worth getting up for.
In some ways the two are related.
There are many similarities between the two conditions, and remember that in some cases one can cause the other. For example, after a severe panic attack some people find themselves so drained of energy and so emotionally upset that they develop temporary (and sometimes even long lasting) depression as a result, as though their emotions and happiness are drained out of them.
Both involve a considerable amount of negative thinking. While those with anxiety tend to fear the future and those with depression see the future as more hopeless, both believe that the worst is likely to happen. Both anxiety and depression are related to the same neurotransmitters as well, which is one of the reasons they have similar thoughts (since neurotransmitters affect thinking and perception).
They sometimes even have similar physical symptoms, including:
Nausea and stomach issues
Aches and pains for no apparent reason
The other symptoms often differ enough that it is clear to the professional whether or not someone suffers from one, the other, or both. The reason there is often both conditions occurring in the same person at the same time is because not everyone suffers from the condition every day, and because not all depression and anxiety exhibits itself in the same way.
Let me give you a few examples.
Those with depression may still fear the future getting worse, or be afraid something bad will happen despite otherwise having less hope. Those with anxiety may have depression symptoms often as a result of their anxiety – enough that they qualify for depression – but anxiety is the major condition (especially true of panic attacks).
Those with depression and anxiety often have their ups and downs. Not everyone deals with one or the other each and every day, every moment of the day. Some show symptoms of both, but not all. For example, some may feel life is not worth living (depression) because nothing good is happening. They have hope or wish good things will happen though, which is less indicative of depression and more common with anxiety.
But then when those things do not happen, they continue to have their woe-is-me thoughts. This is why anxiety versus depression is so complicated, and why it is important to recognize how often the conditions are different and how often they are similar. The practitioner who specializes in these disorders looks at both. Then we set about to differentiate the major problem as well as figure out how to treat them.
One of the most amazing things about both anxiety and depression, however, is that they are both treatable. Very treatable! In fact, there have been countless studies proving that those willing to commit to a treatment will find their conditions lessened or eliminated.
The problem is that both anxiety and depression change the way a person thinks, causing the patient to believe that he/she is untreatable. That is what the condition does – it affects thoughts and hope so that the person does not and cannot feel as though the gloom will ever go away, despite mountains of evidence that they can.
There will not be immediate results. Those with anxiety are going to have a few episodes of anxiety or panic even after their anxiety has been mostly corrected. Those with depression might experience a brief period of the blues. Because the two conditions cause negative thinking, these setbacks (that every human experiences) can lead to feelings of hopelessness that cause patients to quit treatments, even though setbacks are a likely part of recovery. That is where the counseling I provide makes the profound difference.
There is no one size fits all approach to treating anxiety and depression. That means that before a person sees me, oftentimes they have gone through various treatments that failed.
Many treatments on the market that people turn to when they are desperate do not work, and that means that when they do not work, people will continue to believe that there is no hope for treatment. That is a problem because there are many treatments that do work. That is why it is particularly important that patients and their loved ones refrain from self-treating these problems!
Anxiety and depression require long term and individualized treatments.
Anxiety and depression are incredibly treatable – so much so that if a person is willing to commit to effective treatments, relief will be the result.
Those treatments can take time, and during that time the depressed or anxious person needs to make sure they are doing everything possible to commit to effective treatments and looking for ways to improve life.
I have helped many people overcome their problems with anxiety and depression, but each one began with a consultation. Call and schedule now so that peace is restored to your life or the life of your loved one.