Anxiety and Depression

In this Anxiety and Depression article we discuss what anxiety and depression are, if you can have both anxiety and depression together, and useful information on treatment for anxiety and depression. Depression and anxiety are both serious disorders. Learn more here..

Anxiety and depression are mental health issues that may occur separate, combined in one diagnosis, or in separate health issues that occur at the same time. This article helps to sort out the complicated inter-relationship.

What Are Anxiety and Depression?

An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which a patient experiences anxiety, fear, or panic in situations in which most people would not. There are several different types of anxiety disorders specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV), including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), agoraphobia (without panic disorder), specific phobias, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder, anxiety disorder due to a specific medical condition, and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified (NOS).

A depressive disorder is a mental health condition in which a patient experiences sadness, despondency, or hopelessness, or even numbness of feeling to the extent that normal functioning is not possible and disproportionately to most people’s response. There are several different types of depressive disorders specified in the DSM-IV, including dysthmic disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and major depressive disorder, single episode (MDE). Bipolar disorder also includes episodes of depression.

Although people who have an anxiety disorder and people with depression may share symptoms, including irritability, sleep problems, nervousness, and trouble concentrating, they are not the same thing.

Coexisting Anxiety and Depression

A person may have two separate disorders - one anxiety disorder and one depressive disorder, such as those described above - at the same time. One study found that - for unidentified reasons - 85% of people with major depression are also suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and 35% of them experienced panic disorder symptoms.

It is also possible to have a separate type of disorder that combines depressed mood and anxiety. An example of such a condition is an adjustment disorder (AD). An adjustment disorder is a mental health issue of short duration that arises from stress that the person has a disproportional reaction to. The stress can be a single event, a seasonal occurrence, or a chronic condition. It is explicitly not a disorder related to grief or bereavement.

There are several different types of adjustment disorder defined in the DSM-IV, and in the various types, depressive symptoms and anxiety can appear alone or combined. The disorder in which the symptoms of depression and anxiety are combined is adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.

Other Relationships Between Anxiety and Depression

One finding, published in several studies including one in December, 2009 in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, have found that fear of anxiety may make people who could be called worriers have symptoms of depression. Because of the links between them, experts have suggested that treating anxiety may help prevent and also treat depression.

Other studies have shown that when depression and anxiety coexist, they are more severe than when they occur separately, and when depression is exacerbated by anxiety, there is a greater chance of suicide. The combination also is associated with more frequent chest pain in patients with coronary artery disease, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association in June, 2009.

Treating Anxiety and Depression

Antidepressants are used to treat both anxiety and depression. And even though exercise may not be the first thing on the mind of someone who is anxious or depression, there are both physical and psychological benefits from exercise, including reduced anxiety and improved mood, making it ideal to treat both conditions at once. Exercise is not a replacement for antidepressants, but it may have some of the same effects, as well as providing opportunities for socializing and better general health and self-image.

Other helpful steps that are supportive for both anxiety and depression are support groups, relaxation and meditation techniques, and psychotherapy.


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