Anxiety and Depression: How They Connect

Know the warning signs and risk factors

Anxiety and Depression: How They Connect

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at August 26, 2011 Views 7,119 Likes 15

Most people will feel anxious or depressed at times. Losing a job, the death of a loved one, going through a divorce and other difficult situations can lead to feelings of sadness, nervousness or fear – normal reactions to life’s stressors.

But some experience these feelings daily or nearly daily and without discernable cause, making it difficult to carry on with everyday tasks. For them, these feelings may be caused by an anxiety disorder or depression – or both. 

Indeed, there's a very close relationship between depression and anxiety in adults.

In the National Comorbidity Survey, the co-occurrence of anxiety disorders and depressive disorders was at least 58 percent. In fact, because of the strong relationship, some researchers have gone so far as to say they could be classified as a single category of distress disorders. 

Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders.

While at first glance they can seem very similar, depression and anxiety disorders are not the same. Each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms. 

Depression generates emotions such as hopelessness, despair and anger. Energy levels are usually very low, and depressed people often feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks and personal relationships so essential to life.

A person with anxiety disorder, however, experiences fear, panic or anxiety in situations where most people would not feel anxious or threatened. The sufferer may experience sudden panic or anxiety attacks without any recognized trigger, and often lives with a constant nagging worry or anxiousness. 

It’s easy to see how many symptoms of anxiety disorders and major depression overlap. Major depression can lead to anxiety and conversely, anxiety can lead to major depression.

So, we're talking about a very tight relationship here in terms of diagnosis, and also in terms of treatment. Antidepressant medication is often used for anxiety, while behavioral therapy frequently helps people overcome both conditions.

Because of the difficulty in diagnosing these mood disorders, it’s important for you to talk to your doctor candidly about your symptoms of depression and anxiety. A qualified clinician can separate the symptoms and develop a treatment plan that takes both conditions into account. What's most important, psychiatrists say, is to recognize that something is wrong. Then see a doctor regularly.

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