Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety appear to be two different emotional responses humans are capable of having. We do not usually associate these two disorders with each other. But research has shown that depression and anxiety do in fact co-exist, much to the detriment of their sufferers.

When you picture someone with depression you think of all the normal symptoms associated with it: Despair, hopelessness, anger, fatigue, an unwillingness to be a part of society and a feeling of being overwhelmed by everyday life. A depressed person withdraws into themselves and seek to sever all ties with the outside world.

Anxiety attacks on the other hand seem to happen for no reason at all. Feelings of fear and panic happen in situations in which most people would be perfectly calm. These anxiety attacks come on suddenly with no warning and with no outright reason for them to happen. After awhile a sufferer of these attacks begins to live in fear of the attacks themselves, wondering when the next one is going to happen. Before long, and without treatment, both anxiety attacks and depression can begin to affect the sufferers lives in negative ways by not allowing them to hold a job, have a relationship, or even go out into society

What many sufferers of these two diseases do not realize is that either one can lead to the other. Being depressed can weigh heavily on the mind leading the depressed person through a maze of different emotions. This in itself can lead to anxiety and eventually panic attacks. Panic attacks signify a loss of control and when this happens more and more often the sufferer can become depressed with their situation of not knowing if and when the next attack will occur.

Why these two disorders seem to occur at the same time is still largely unknown. But many studies show that major depression is often accompanied by an anxiety disorder. Both are likely caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry, but exactly why the two seemingly opposite disorders can coexist in the same person is not completely understood. What is understood about anxiety disorder is that the fight-or-flight reaction in the brain does not work the way it is supposed to. It can go off at any time, even in seemingly peaceful situations. Those who have anxiety disorder always feel that they are in danger.

One thing that psychologist agree on is that having a combination depression and anxiety is much more debilitating than having just one or the other. It can take patients with both disorders a much longer amount of time to resolve their depression which makes treating them much harder. It has also been shown that people who suffer from anxiety and depression both have a much higher suicide rate.

While this sounds bad their are options for treating both these conditions. Anti-depressant medications can be used to treat both depression and anxiety. When these medications are used in conjunction with behavioral therapy there is a high success rate of treating depression accompanied by anxiety.

Anxiety Symptoms: What Anxiety Is And What Its Symptoms Are.

First of all, before we start to describe what the symptoms of anxiety are, let’s first establish what anxiety is and its purpose. Anxiety is a survival mechanism. It exists to remove any perceived danger from our environment by either fighting it or running away from it.

A few thousand years ago, when man was a hunter-gatherer searching for food in the great outdoors, anxiety played a very important role in preventing our ancestor from becoming some animal’s next meal. If and when confronted by some ferocious beast, anxiety would come into play and give our great, great, great etc. grandparent the wherewithal to either stand and fight the threat or to run away to some safe haven.

In order for this fight or flight mechanism to be effective, certain physiological and psychological changes are temporarily made. These are as follows:

1. Body hair stands on end to give an overall appearance of being bigger.

2. Sweating starts to occur in the hands and feet to enable a better grip whilst running and/or climbing.

3. Adrenalin is released into the bloodstream to give an all-important boost of energy.

4. The body’s normal functions of digestion and cell repair are put on hold and the resources are re-directed to the muscles to enhance strength.

5. Under extreme conditions, the body will excrete in order to reduce weight.

6. Normal breathing is replaced by much shallower breathing and the heart rate increases.

7. Both sight and hearing are heightened.

8. Psychologically, there will be a feeling of discomfort and agitation. This will increase as necessary in order to initialise some sort of action.

So, looking at the above example of our stone-age hunter, we can clearly see that anxiety was indeed a very necessary part of their day-to-day life and no doubt it was instrumental in saving quite a few lives at that stage in our evolution.

But, how on earth can such a mechanism be useful to us in our current society? In certain situations, such as when the job that you’re working on is quickly running out of time, anxiety will help you to focus better by increasing your sight and hearing perceptions and the adrenalin will give you more energy to complete the task. I seriously doubt, though, that such a low level of anxiety would cause involuntary excretion.

However, there are other situations where anxiety rears its head and it isn’t appropriate. Imagine that you’re late for work and that you’re stuck in traffic. No matter how anxious you feel the traffic won’t flow any quicker and as for running away from or fighting the perceived threat that would be impossible.

It’s situations similar to the latter that can bring about anxiety disorders in certain individuals. I know, I used to suffer from an anxiety disorder along with panic disorder and agoraphobia for many years. Until, after many years of searching, I found the cure.