Understanding the Depression and Anxiety Relationship


The Connection Between Depression and Anxiety

The Connection Between Depression and AnxietyIf you were in school studying to be a counselor, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, you would learn all about the various mental health disorders. You would read books about depression and hear lectures about anxiety, but you would most likely learn about these issues as if they existed in a vacuum; not influenced by other factors in life. Though this information is extremely useful, it does not represent real-world situations.

In reality, because people, symptoms and stressors do not exist in a vacuum, mental illness often presents with comorbidity. This means that two or more mental health issues are present at the same time. This happens when some dysfunction from one disorder triggers symptoms of another to present. If left untreated, even a relatively benign issue can become more damaging and greatly impact your life in a negative way.

Two mental health disorders that are often found together are depression and anxiety. For this article, depressive disorders including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder and unspecific depressive disorder will all be referred to as depression and all anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, unspecified anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder will be referred to as anxiety for the sake of simplicity.

Some reports claim that the rate of comorbidity with depression and anxiety is as high as 85%, meaning that 85% of people with depression will also have anxiety. The rate is so high that the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5), the book that mental health professions use as basis for diagnosing mental illness, considered adding a diagnosis called mixed anxiety-depressive disorder for people with both anxiety and depression. In the end, the writers decided to leave them separate.

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This seems like a wise choice because despite the frequency they are found together, depression and anxiety remain unique and need to be treated as such. Before you can plan treatment, you must first understand depression and anxiety, their similarities and differences and the interactions between the two.

Impact of Depression

It is helpful to learn the power depression it has over your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physical symptoms. This is the impact of depression:

  • Feelings – Depression creates feelings of sadness, anger, irritability, guilt, shame, worthlessness and resentment. Depression itself has become a feeling as many people state that they feel depressed.
  • Thoughts – Thoughts during depression tend to be more pessimistic and negative. You are likely to think that the world is a terrible place filled with terrible people. You may believe that people only want to hurt you or use you for their own gain. You may be convinced things will never improve and that trying is futile.
  • Behaviors – The stereotypical behaviors of people with depression are largely true. People will rest in their home, lacking energy and motivation to do the daily tasks that need completed. People with depression tend to sleep more than others and may leave the house less often.
  • Physical symptoms – Aches and pains are common in people with depression. Headaches, stomach problems and back pain are common. These psychosomatic symptoms are depressions way of affecting every aspect of your body and mind.

Next page: the impact of anxiety, and lessening the impact of depression and anxiety on your life.

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