So, what does that mean? Can you have both anxiety and depression at the same time, or are you just misreading the signs? Well, seeing a psychiatrist can definitely help! If you are not already seeing someone, you can get started by filling this form out.
While Rocket Health matches you with the right psychiatrist, let us learn a bit more about whether depression and anxiety can co-exist and if some of their symptoms actually overlap.
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, is a mood disorder. It is characterised by a constant low mood and general hopelessness toward life. Feeling unmotivated or perpetually sad for a stretch of at least two weeks can also indicate clinical depression.
What Causes Depression?
- Genetics: You are more prone to clinical depression if you have one or more family members who have also been diagnosed.
- Brain structure: Depression can be caused by anomalies in how certain happiness-inducing hormones and neurotransmitters are released by your brain.
- Past trauma: Certain traumatic experiences in your past can also trigger depression.
- Medical conditions: Chronic medical conditions such as cancer or parkinson’s can result in prolonged hopelessness, causing depression.
Anxiety is something we all feel when we are in stressful situations. However, anxiety disorders are quite different. Anxiety disorders are medical conditions that cause a constant feeling of overwhelm and fear, sometimes for no clear reason. You can read more about anxiety disorders here.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
The causes of severe anxiety are similar to the causes of clinical depression - genetics, environmental factors, past experiences, medications, etc. - with the addition of drug withdrawal or misuse. Constant stress and burnout can also trigger anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorders.
What is Comorbidity?
Some estimates show that 60% of those with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression, and vice versa. Wondering if something can help us understand the coexistence of the two disorders? Well, let’s look at the term comorbidity!
Comorbidity is when a person is diagnosed with two or more illnesses at the same time. It is quite a common condition when it comes to a mental health diagnosis, especially prominent in depression and anxiety. In fact, comorbidity has now become a common concept instead of being an exception. Getting diagnosed with two or more mental health concerns simultaneously doesn't make you better or worse off; it just indicates multiple symptoms signalling different disorders.
A theory suggesting the coexistence of the disorders states that they trigger similar biological responses in the brain, leading to overlapping symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Trouble falling asleep
- Eating too much or too little
- Trouble unwinding and relaxing
- Persistent intrusive thoughts
- Unexplained physical problems like joint pain and headaches
The two disorders acting together can also form a vicious cycle. The anxiety of failing can cause depression, and the recurring worrisome thoughts can make you sad and depressed. One can easily trigger the other.
How to know if you have depression, anxiety, or both?
Finally, consider the following if you are confused about your symptoms:
- Do your research: Read about the symptoms of both disorders (from authentic sources only!) and ask yourself reflective questions. Recognise your behaviour and track any possible changes. And if you think the list of symptoms sounds too relatable, it might be a good time to see a doctor.
- Talk to someone: Asking a friend or a family member if they have noticed any changes in your behaviour might help you identify the symptoms better as well as seek comfort and support.
- Seek professional advice: Mental illnesses can be complicated to understand and diagnose. Hence, try to avoid self-diagnosing. Seek professional help at the earliest, as a therapist can prevent your mental health from getting worse or one of your comorbid conditions from triggering the other.
First things first, do not panic. If you feel you might have both depression and anxiety (or either of those), remember that another thing depression and anxiety have in common is that they both can be treated, and help is always available! While a psychiatrist can offer you the right diagnosis and medication, the right therapist can use various methods, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, expressive arts therapy, etc., to help you understand and deal with your disorder better. Want to get started?