Are Depression and Anxiety Interconnected?
By: 2SC Staff
Traditionally, therapists have viewed depression and anxiety as separate problems. In recent years however, more and more clinicians are coming to believe that the two reflect a single underlying problem – or at least closely related that in some way feed off one another. If you have historically struggled with anxiety and depression, you have likely made your own observations.
According to the research, links between depression and anxiety certainly exist. One link is that people with anxiety disorders have much higher rates of depression than do the rest of the general population.
Another link is that around half of all people with major depressive disorder also have an anxiety disorder. Treatments for one of these disorders are sometimes helpful for the other as well. Isn’t that a link as well?
Medications for Depression and Anxiety
In 1999, for example, the anti-depressant drug commonly referred to as Effexor received approval as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, commonly referred to as “GAD”. Sometimes anxiety and depression have common features, such as worry, demoralization, and social withdrawal.
Even when symptoms are distinct (i.e. fear versus loss or pleasure), they can become intermingled, leaving clinicians, such as therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, incapable of determining if the person is suffering primarily from an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder.
That may seem odd but when you think about it – the question mark around the diagnostic puzzle makes sense.
Depression and Anxiety Connected?
How can we explain this apparent overlap between depression and anxiety? Perhaps they have a common basis. Each, for example, has been linked to such biological variables as heightened secretions of the stress hormone, cortisol and low activity of the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Or perhaps intense anxiety leads to depression. That is to say – anxiety may be so disabling and upsetting for some people that they become worn down and depressed (Parker, 1999).
Adults who suffer from both severe anxiety and severe depression develop their anxiety symptoms, on average, at around 16-years of age. Depression usually appears, on average, around 23-years of age. Obviously the severity of each disorder’s symptoms is uniquely tied to the individual and her/her life circumstances.
While the relationship between anxiety and depression is still being sorted out, two things have already become fairly clear. First, it is more complex and disabling to experience both of these problems than one of them alone. Symptoms for depression, for example, last longer in persons whose mood disorder is accompanied by an anxiety disorder.
Second, distinguishing between anxiety and depression is a more difficult task for clinicians than it may seem to be.
Depression and Anxiety Resource
Research on the relationship between anxiety and depression is an ongoing endeavor for many involved in the medical sciences – including pharmaceutical companies. We encourage our clients to monitor all aspects of their mood and think about the two as “best friends”.
We say this because rarely does depression show up in someone without some form of anxiety or vice versa. If you are a person who is challenged by what has been mentioned here, we would like to recommend the following: Anxiety and Depression Workbook for Dummies by Elliot.
We make this suggestion because this particular read offers an excellent, concrete resource to address both of these mental health challenges in a way that acknowledges the link we have discussed in this post.
Talk-therapy has been shown to yield real help for people living with various forms of depression and anxiety. Sometimes, just having a supportive, non-judgmental person can make a big difference in a person’s mood.
As we like to say at 2SC – when you reach out, you really reach in.
Reference: Parker, G. Wilhelm, K. Mitchell, P. Austin, M (1999). The influence of anxiety as a risk to early onset depression. Journal of Affective Disorders.