Adding Depression to Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • There are a number of similarities between anxiety and depression. Both can cause symptoms such as insomnia, inability to focus or concentrate and feelings of hopelessness. Both are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication. But depression and anxiety are two separate illnesses.

    Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

    If you have an anxiety disorder, you might worry excessively or be filled with a sense of doubt and dread. You might focus on future events and worry that they will all turn out bad. You might have a sudden feeling of panic. Physical symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, heart palpitations and chest pains, often accompany anxiety.

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    When you have depression you don’t feel fear in the same way as when you have anxiety. Depression is characterized by a sense of hopelessness, feeling sad and a lack of interest in activities you once found enjoyable. You might have physical symptoms, such as a general feeling of “not feeling good” or unexplained aches and pains. You might feel tired all the time. You might eat more or eat less than you did before.

    The Chicken or the Egg

    It is sometimes hard to know which disorder is your “primary” illness - anxiety or depression. Some people develop depression after unsuccessfully trying to manage symptoms of anxiety for years. The constant battle to keep symptoms under control brings about feelings of despair, which can turn into depression. For others, depression develops first and the feelings of not living up to others expectations (or your own) can trigger feelings of anxiety.

    Your doctor might ask questions to try to determine which illness began first. This would be your “primary” illness. This is important because treatment is often centered around the primary cause of symptoms. Imagine you have a leaky pipe under your kitchen sink. You can mop up the water but it isn’t going to solve the problem unless you correct the leak; if you don’t, you will only end up mopping the water repeatedly. Treating anxiety and depression is similar. Treating only the secondary illness is not going to help you to manage the underlying condition.

    If you developed depression as a result of dealing with anxiety symptoms, it is important to address and treat the anxiety. In many cases, people in this situation find their symptoms of depression naturally lessen when they are better in control of their anxiety. It can work the other way as well, if you have developed anxiety after your depression, the symptoms of anxiety might lessen when the depression is treated.

    When Both Live Together

    It is possible to have both anxiety and depression, as separate conditions, at the same time. In these cases, your doctor or therapist will often address the one that is causing you the most difficulty, for example, symptoms of depression might cause you to lack the motivation to manage your anxiety. Your doctor might suggest first working on improving the depressive symptoms and once these are under control, moving on to treating the anxiety.

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    It is also possible to treat both anxiety and depression at the same time. Both conditions respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. Relaxation strategies, such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness have been found to be helpful with both anxiety and depression. Daily exercise has also been found to both reduce levels of anxiety and improve depression.

    Whether you have anxiety, depression or both, it is important to talk with a medical professional. Because both conditions can lead to a feeling of hopelessness, seeking treatment can be the hardest step. But, both conditions are highly treatable and millions of people in the United States alone are living successful and happy lives, even though they suffer from anxiety and depression. Recovery is possible.


    “Anxiety Disorders,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Institutes of Mental Health

    “Depression,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Institutes of Mental Health

Published On: October 14, 2014