Depression and anxiety are like flip sides of the same coin. In fact, in some cases, chronic depression masks an underlying anxiety disorder. In other cases, anxiety is a symptom of depression.
It is also not uncommon for someone in the beginning stages of treatment for depression to suddenly experience an increase in anxiety symptoms, such as nervousness, increased heart rate, upset stomach, dry mouth or racing thoughts.
Is It Depression Or Anxiety?
While anxiety and depression do not always go together, anxiety and depression symptoms are often experienced at different times by the same person, and some of the symptoms overlap, making it difficult to determine whether a person is suffering from depression or a full-blown anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety that are similar include the tendency to worry or ruminate – that is to review a problem or experience in one’s head over and over without any relief or resolution of the problem.
Feelings of restlessness and fatigue are also common to both depression and anxiety.
Certain symptoms suggest that a person probably has an anxiety disorder instead of depression.
These include a constant and overwhelming feeling of fear, obsessive thoughts, panic, frequent heart palpitations, cold or sweaty hands and gastrointestinal problems.
Symptoms that are more characteristic of depression include sadness, feelings of hopelessness and despair, lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable and feelings of worthlessness.
Depression Can Cause Anxiety
The consequences of depressed behavior can also trigger episodes of anxiety.
For example, a person with depression may be unable to work effectively or make new friends, causing anxiety about finances or one’s social situation.
A person who is trying to get through school while depressed may worry excessively about not being able to graduate.
Attacking Anxiety And Depression
Since the two conditions are so closely related, anxiety and depression treatment is similar in many ways to treating either condition alone.
For those who chose to try prescription medications, there are many drugs that are used for both anxiety and depression, primarily the class of medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
The more serotonin you have, the less depression and anxiety you will feel.
However, it is also important to recognize that not all medications for depression are appropriate for someone who also has anxiety or for someone whose symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder and not depression.
In fact, the use of some antidepressants in a person with an anxiety disorder can raise serotonin levels too high, a condition known as serotonin syndrome.
Both depression and anxiety disable the brain’s limbic system, which is the part that is responsible for mood.
The production of neurotransmitters – chemicals like serotonin and others – produces feelings of happiness, contentment and joy.
The inability to produce these chemicals leads to feelings of sadness, emptiness and anxiety.
While drugs can repair the brain’s ability to produce or maintain levels of these important chemicals, you do not necessarily need prescription drugs to regulate your body’s serotonin levels. There are other ways to do the same thing.
Natural Ways To Regulate Emotions
Exercise, sunlight and good nutrition are all involved in the processes that produce serotonin.
So staying active, spending time outdoors and eating well will help regulate the mood chemicals in your brain.
It is also possible to raise serotonin levels by changing the way you think, which is the goal of psychotherapy.
There are several mind-body approaches to dealing with anxiety and depression as well, and these approaches are especially useful for people with anxiety.
Practices like tai chi, yoga, and meditation all focus on controlling emotions by controlling the body and mind.
The goal is to still the mind and calm the body, which in turn prevents extremes of emotion such as anxiety and depression.
Another way to deal with depression and anxiety is through hypnotherapy or guided meditation.
In both cases, you are guided to actually change the thoughts and thought patterns that may cause symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Some people find that herbal remedies are helpful in treating minor depression and anxiety.
If your anxiety is closely related to depression, there are herbs that may be useful in boosting your mood.
One of these herbs, St. John’s Wort, is discussed in the ebook End Your Depression by Cecil Ellis.
You can also find out more about the chemicals that control emotions and get more ideas about how life circumstances and negative emotions can result in depression and anxiety when you read End Your Depression.