Anxiety and depression: 7 proven tips to treat both (1)

By

Ella Marcantonio

|

June 2, 2021

Many people try to address anxiety or depression separately, but the two conditions often co-occur. The reality is that these disorders tend to hang together, and it’s more common than you think to experience both depression and anxiety at the same time.

If you’re experiencing both conditions at once, we’ll show you how to recognize the signs and symptoms and, even more importantly, how to treat them.

For people with anxiety and depression, purposefully engaging in pleasurable activities can improve mental health.

Many people try to address anxiety or depression separately, but the two conditions often co-occur. The reality is that these disorders tend to hang together, and it’s more common than you think to experience both depression and anxiety at the same time.

If you’re experiencing both conditions at once, we’ll show you how to recognize the signs and symptoms and, even more importantly, how to treat them.

The strong link between anxiety and depression

Over 40% of those diagnosed with depression also had one or more anxiety disorders within the same 12-month period. Nearly half of those with anxiety disorders will also experience major depression at some point in their lives.

Plus, anxiety disorders are the single most significant risk factor for developing depression. In cases where depression and anxiety exist simultaneously within a person, it’s most common for anxiety to precede depression.

Approximately 85% of people battling depression also experience some significant symptoms of anxiety. Similarly, nearly 90% of patients with anxiety also experience some significant emotional and physical symptoms of depression.

What causes anxiety and depression?

Factors that can influence the development of both anxiety and depression include:

  • Shared genetic risk factors
  • Personality, especially the tendency towards negative feelings and self-doubt
  • Early adversity such as trauma, neglect, or toxic stress
  • Neurobiology, specifically in the parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, cognitive control, and executive function

Even if you have all of these influencing factors, you won’t necessarily experience depression and anxiety. These elements simply increase the likelihood of their occurrence.

Here’s the good news: you can target any of these risk factors through prevention.

For example, if you know anxiety, depression, or both run in your family, you may choose to practice preventative mental health behaviors such as exercise, mindfulness, and behavioral strategies like CBT.

You may also be on the lookout for the early signs of anxiety and depression so you can seek prompt treatment.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression

There isn’t a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) for depression and anxiety. From a medical perspective, people who experience these conditions simultaneously have both a diagnosable anxiety disorder and a diagnosable depressive disorder.

If you start to compare depression vs. anxiety symptoms, you’ll notice that there’s significant overlap. The table below shows distinct symptoms of each disorder, as well as overlapping symptoms common to both. Some people have started referring to the simultaneous experience of anxiety and depression as “agitated depression.”

Anxiety-depression overlap

Most of us experience some of these symptoms some of the time. For example, it’s common to worry, feel tense, or be down. That’s part of being human and responding to the stressors we face in life.

The difference with clinical disorders like anxiety or depression is that these experiences significantly inhibit your capacity to perform at work or school, show up in relationships, and engage in leisure.

Treating anxiety & depression

Having anxiety or depression can limit your capacity to participate in life. And battling both issues at the same time can feel incredibly overwhelming and exhausting.

You might feel extremely tired but find that you can’t put down certain thought spirals or stop catastrophic thinking. Maybe you feel so exhausted and caught by the whole experience that you just have no idea what to do next.

Recognizing just how often these disorders co-occur urges us to consider tools and approaches that target them simultaneously, effectively helping with anxiety and depression at the same time.

1. Move in any way that feels good.

We know that physical activity is really good for mental health. It can help prevent anxiety and depression, manage symptoms, and manage your overall mood and stress levels. For co-morbid depression and anxiety, a recent study suggests that exercise is most effective when combined with medication.

The ideal dose of exercise is 30 – 45 minutes, 3 – 5 times per week, at moderate or high intensity. But don’t let this ideal get in the way of being active. Even for people who aren’t experiencing mental health conditions, building an exercise habit takes time and effort.

Set small, achievable goals to begin. Choose any form of movement that feels good. Even 5 minutes a day, or dancing to a single Lady Gaga song, is a commendable place to start.

2. Protect your sleep.

Sleep disturbances like insomnia are common to both depression and anxiety. Persistent lack of sleep tends to amplify anxiety, negative thinking, and emotional vulnerability.

On the other hand, getting a good night’s sleep can consistently alleviate the co-occurring depression and anxiety symptoms.

Experts recommend beginning with “sleep hygiene” habits to protect your rest. These include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, using your bedroom for sleep and sex only, and avoiding technology at bedtime.

If you find your mind won’t stop talking to you, try a relaxation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) or some relaxing exercises.

Takeaway

  • It’s very common for depression and anxiety to occur in the same person.
  • While they’re distinct conditions, anxiety and depression have many overlapping symptoms.
  • When it comes to helping with depression and anxiety, medication and psychotherapy can address both simultaneously.
  • Lifestyle habits can also be an effective way to treat the symptoms of both conditions.
  • Even if you have all of these influencing factors, you won’t necessarily experience depression and anxiety. These elements simply increase the likelihood of their occurrence.

By

Ella Marcantonio

|

June 2, 2021