Depression and Anxiety – They Can Coexist!

When we think of depression and anxiety, we always think of them as two different issues. I admit that I had been guilty of that too. While 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 seeks to sever all ties with the outside world. Men, women and children are all susceptible to this disease which can have devastating effects on someone’s daily life.  It can come on suddenly, for no reason, or it might follow a traumatic experience.

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No one knows what exactly causes depression, but some believe it might be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, and in that instance you and your doctor might decide that you need to take antidepressants.  One form of depression called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD) uses light therapy as treatment since it is thought that a lack of sunlight during certain times of the year could be a cause.

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 a while a sufferer of these attacks begins to live in fear of the attacks themselves, wondering when the next one is going to happen.

The bad news is that 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. Scary thoughts, right? What many sufferers of these two diseases do not realize is that either one can lead to the other.

Picture this – a person who suffers from chronic depression can be led through a maze of different emotions. This in itself can lead to anxiety and eventually, if serious enough, 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.

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Why these two disorders seem to occur at the same time is still largely unknown. But many studies show that both are likely caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry. However, 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, there 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 behavioural therapy there is a high success rate of treating depression accompanied by anxiety. Remember, depression is a treatable condition that can get better.  You need to take the steps to get the help you need.

Hope this helps.

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