Though depressive and anxiety disorders are typically separate diagnoses, the two have a complicated relationship. It is not only possible for people to experience depression and anxiety symptoms simultaneously, but due to the many shared symptoms, it is likely.
The overlap between the two groups of disorders is relatively high, with nearly one-half of people diagnosed with depression also receiving an anxiety disorder diagnosis. When two types of disorders, like depressive and anxiety disorders, co-occur in a single patient, the disorders are described as comorbid.
In this article, we’ll explore the connection between depressive and anxiety disorders to learn why they often co-occur and what you can do if you are experiencing both anxiety and depression symptoms. We’ll cover—
- What Causes Anxiety?
- What Causes Depression?
- The Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression
- What Are Co-Occurring Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression?
- What Treatment Options Are Available for Anxiety and Depression?
Unsure if you have anxiety, depression, or both but don’t want to wait weeks to speak to a medical provider in-person to find out? Klarity makes it easy to connect with a board-certified mental health professional who can diagnose and prescribe depression and anxiety treatment online.
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Exploring the Link Between Depression and Anxiety
In order to better understand the connection between anxiety and depression disorders, it’s essential to consider each condition on its own first. Though there are many similarities between the two mental health conditions, they are fundamentally different disorders.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal human reaction—everyone will experience anxiety at one point or another. With varying life circumstances, external and environmental factors, and changing emotional conditions throughout one’s life, anxiety, uncertainty, and nervousness are all inevitable.
Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are not normal human reactions. They involve prolonged, intense, frequent bouts of fear, panic, or extreme terror that significantly impact the lives of those suffering from those mental health conditions. Generally, these feelings are not proportional to the actual situations causing them.
Underlying physical or mental health conditions, circumstantial events, childhood trauma, or certain medications or drug use effects can cause these anxiety disorders. Additionally, anxiety can develop due to other mental illnesses, like depression or personality disorders.
Anxiety disorders interfere with everyday activities, causing the people experiencing them to avoid situations, places, and people that could trigger a fear response. However, not every anxiety disorder is the same. There are several distinct anxiety disorders, that each function differently. Some of the most common anxiety disorders are listed below.
Various Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: If you experience persistent worry and anxiety over everyday issues, activities, and tasks for more than six months, you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Other symptoms include restlessness, irritability, sleep disturbances, and trouble concentrating.
Panic Disorder: If you experience repeated and unpredictable episodes of intense terror, including physical symptoms like chest pain, G.I. issues, heart palpitations, dizziness, or profuse sweating, you might have a panic disorder. The triggers of panic attacks are often unknown or not proportionate to the extreme psychological or physiological response experienced.
Stress Disorders: If you’ve experienced a traumatic event directly or indirectly, your body’s reaction to stress can change. Stress disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder, change how the mind and body produce and utilize stress hormones. Symptoms include intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, avoidance symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms, including insomnia, hyperactivity, self-harm, and concentration issues.
Phobic Disorders: If you experience irrational and disproportionate fear of an activity, event, or item that poses little or no actual danger, then you could have a phobic disorder. Everyone occasionally experiences irrational fears, but when they are crippling and prevent you from normal day-to-day functioning, they are a disorder. Common phobias include claustrophobia, arachnophobia, aerophobia, and agoraphobia.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear, anxiety, and avoidance of social situations. Individuals with SAD may experience significant distress or impairment daily due to their fear of being judged or scrutinized by others.
What Causes Depression?
Like with anxiety, it’s normal to experience bouts of depression occasionally. For example, feeling down or sad in response to life events, life changes, or illness is an expected human reaction.
However, depressive disorders are different from “normal” sadness. These disorders alter the way you think, feel, and act for an extended period of time. Depression can lead to various physical and mental conditions that negatively impact your relationships at home and work, alter your self-perception, and compromise your well-being.
Depression is a complicated disease that has multiple potential underlying causes. Sometimes depression can be caused by stressful or traumatic life events or circumstances, or there can be a genetic component to the illness. Depression can also result from chemical dysregulation in the brain.
Most psychiatrists believe it isn’t one singular issue that causes depression but a combination of several factors. Just like anxiety, there are several depressive disorders that each function differently. Here are the most common depressive disorders.
Various Depressive Disorders
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): People who experience MDD experience chronic sadness, a loss of interest in everyday activities and hobbies, and a poor sense of self-worth.
Often, people with MDD are unsure why they feel so miserable and unmotivated. Symptoms may include intense feelings of sadness, tearfulness, and hopelessness. Also, people with MDD are more prone to irritability, frustration, anxiety, and agitation. They may lack energy, feel unmotivated, and possess irrational feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame.
Perinatal and Postpartum Depression: Hormonal changes during pregnancy, the stress of labor, and the significant life change of becoming a mother can lead to women developing perinatal and postpartum depression, which affects between 10% and 20% of all childbearing women. Women with no family history of depression are also susceptible to developing these depressive disorders.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Persistent depressive disorder is a mild or moderate depression that is persistently present for an extended period of time. Though the symptoms are not as severe as major depressive disorder, they are omnipresent, lasting most of the day and being in effect most days out of the week.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Seasonal affective disorder is a seasonal type of disorder that affects people at the same time every year. For most people, SAD begins in the fall and ends at the end of winter, but there are exceptions. Just because this type of depression is seasonal doesn’t mean it is any less serious. People must take preventative steps to keep their mood and motivation levels consistent throughout the year.
The Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression
Though the mechanisms behind these two conditions are still being researched, neuroscientists and psychologists have established a cyclical, bidirectional relationship between them. It’s essential to explore what scientists mean by cyclical and bidirectional.
Anxiety and Depression Have a Cyclical, Bidirectional Relationship
In this case, cyclical means that a bout of one can lead to the other developing. For example, suppose a person with a diagnosed anxiety disorder has difficulty making new friends and maintaining old relationships due to their condition.
As a result, they may feel isolated, and their self-esteem may decline. They may start to think they are worthless and unwanted, causing them to isolate themselves more.
In this example, social anxiety led a person to develop depression symptoms. However, the relationship is bidirectional, meaning it can go the other way. Depression may also cause symptoms of anxiety in a person.
Suppose a person is experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder. They may feel unmotivated, lethargic, and unable to perform productive work, which may lead to concerns about job security.
People may begin to experience insomnia and other anxiety symptoms as they contemplate getting fired. In this scenario, underlying depression caused the person to develop symptoms of an anxiety disorder. This is what cyclical and bidirectional mean. An underlying depressive disorder can cause a person to develop an anxiety disorder and vice versa.
But how can a person figure out what condition is underlying? How does a person find out if their anxiety is causing their depression or if their depression is causing their anxiety? Getting to the root of this question can be challenging, and it is a job best left to therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Your medical provider will review your symptoms and medical history to diagnose your condition, whether it’s anxiety, depression, or both.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, Klarity can help you find help quickly and affordably. Book an appointment with an experienced medical provider today!
Examining co-occurring symptoms of depression and anxiety can provide some insight to help you start the conversation with a medical professional.
What Are Co-Occurring Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety?
As mentioned above, though depression and anxiety are different, they share many of the same symptoms. The following symptoms are co-occurring depression and anxiety.
- Irrational Fears and Anxieties
People with depression and anxiety disorder both exhibit irrational thoughts that come in the form of fears, doubts, anxieties, and uncertainties. A person with depression might feel unlovable or unworthy of attention. A person with anxiety might have an irrational fear of being in public or returning to in-person work.
- Physical Symptoms
People who have depression and anxiety also experience several physical symptoms in addition to their mental symptoms, including:
- Rapid Heart Beat
- Gastrointestinal/Abdominal Pain
- Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances
Both anxiety and depressive disorders may cause a person to experience several sleep-related symptoms, including:
- Strange dreams
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Waking up in a panic, unable to fall back asleep
- Sleeping too much
- Difficulty Making Decisions, Remembering Events, and Concentrating
Depression and anxiety often interfere with normal, everyday activities. People with these conditions might have difficulty keeping appointments, remembering important events, tasks, and obligations, and concentrating on the present.
- Constant Feelings of Sadness or Worthlessness
People with depression and anxiety often struggle with self-confidence and can develop inaccurate self-representations. They may feel inadequate, worthless, or like something must be wrong with them.
- Experiencing Panic Attacks
Panic attacks may occur in people with anxiety as well as depression. Panic attacks are also associated with feeling a loss of control, a commonly reported experience by people in severe depressive episodes.
- Loss of Interest In Hobbies and Activities
People with an anxiety disorder may become too preoccupied with their fears and anxieties to participate in the hobbies and activities that used to bring them joy. Similarly, depressed people struggle to motivate themselves to engage in previously enjoyable activities.
- Weight Loss or Weight Gain
Both depression and anxiety may cause a person to eat more or less in response to stress, fear, and other negative emotions.
What Treatment Options Are There for Depression and Anxiety?
Depression and anxiety share many symptoms that can make it challenging to determine which condition, if not both, is the underlying cause. Luckily, the treatment options for anxiety and depression are also similar (with much overlap) and can be performed simultaneously, as evidence-based research strongly suggests.
Doctors recommend medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. This holistic approach is vital because there are many possible causes for both conditions, and casting a wide net improves the chances of successful treatment.
Medication can help regulate and restore chemical imbalances in the brain that negatively impact a person’s mood, energy, self-perception, and other factors. Antidepressants have been shown to treat many symptoms of anxiety too. As a result, many antidepressants are prescribed to treat anxiety also:
SSRIs Often Prescribed for Anxiety and Depression:
- Paxil, Paxeva, or Brisdelle
SNRIs Often Prescribed for Anxiety and Depression:
Other Antidepressants Prescribed for Anxiety and Depression
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Other Types of Talk Therapy
Psychotherapy helps people address the cognitive, behavioral, and experiential factors, such as trauma, loss, or injury, that can cause anxiety and depression to develop. During CBT therapy, for example, patients learn about the causal connection between their thoughts, behaviors, and self-perception.
Exercise and Relaxation Techniques
Certain lifestyle changes—like starting a regular aerobic exercise routine—are equally effective as antidepressant medications in helping to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression and promote overall positive mental health and well-being.
Learning coping skills to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression may help provide additional defenses against spiraling downward into a depressive or anxious episode.
- Breathing techniques
- Grounding exercises
Do You Suffer from Anxiety and Depression and Need Mental Health Treatment? Klarity Can Help!
Need help figuring out whether you have anxiety or depression (or both) but don’t want to wait weeks to see an in-person medical provider? With Klarity, you no longer have to wait!
Klarity makes it easy to connect with board-certified mental health professionals who can diagnose and treat various mental disorders like depression, anxiety, or both. When you book through Klarity, you can meet with your provider in 48 hours or less virtually from the comfort of home!
To get started on Klarity, take our brief self-assessment and meet your provider!
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“Depression and Anxiety Can Occur Together. Read about the Connection.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2 June 2017, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/depression-and-anxiety/faq-20057989.
Karen Jacobs, DO. “Anxiety vs. Depression: Which Do I Have (or Both?).” Cleveland Clinic, 3 July 2020, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/anxiety-vs-depression-which-do-i-have-or-both/.
Kimberly Holland and Crystal Raypole. “Depression and Anxiety: How To Treat and Identify Coexisting Symptoms.” Healthline, 19 January 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/depression-and-anxiety.
Ned H. Kalin, M.D. “The Critical Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression.” The American Journal Of Psychiatry, Published Online 1 May 2020, https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.20030305.
Robinson, Kara Mayer. “What to Do When Depression and Anxiety Mix.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/anxiety-depression-mix.