Depression and Anxiety: Some People Confuse Them, and Rightly So
Person 1: You look depressed. Are you?
Person 2: No, I’m anxious.
Is there any difference between the two? The answer is maybe.
The simplest way to tell the difference between depression and anxiety is, once recognized:
- Depression is hopelessness, a feeling of “no way out”
- Anxiety is helplessness, a feeling of “if somebody would tell me what to do to get out this mess….”
There also exists a combination of the two.
If you suspect either depression or anxiety, or a blend of the two, you should require rescue in form of a health professional, probably seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist. That’s one of the jobs of the primary care physician (PCP) to recommend.
To get more specific:
DEPRESSION is a common but serious mood disorder can cause severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as eating, sleeping, or working.
- Major depression includes symptoms of depressed mood or loss of interest, most of the time for at least 2 weeks, that interfere with daily activities.
- Persistent depressive disorder consists of less severe symptoms of depression that last much longer, usually for at least 2 years.
- Perinatal depression is depression that occurs during or after pregnancy. Depression that begins during pregnancy is prenatal depression and depression that begins after the baby is born is postpartum depression.
- Seasonal affective disorder is depression that comes and goes with the seasons, with symptoms typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.
- Depression with symptoms of psychosis is a severe form of depression in which a person experiences psychosis symptoms, such as delusions (disturbing, false fixed beliefs) or hallucinations (hearing or seeing things others do not hear or see).
Depression can affect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders.
Women are diagnosed with depression more often than men, but men can also be depressed. Because men may be less likely to recognize, talk about, and seek help for their feelings or emotional problems, they are at greater risk of depression symptoms being undiagnosed or under-treated.
Studies also show higher rates of depression and an increased risk for the disorder among members of the LGBTQ community. You may be suffering from depression if:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
- Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause and do not go away with treatment
- Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
Depression can also involve other changes in mood or behavior that include:
- Increased anger or irritability
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Becoming withdrawn, negative, or detached
- Increased engagement in high-risk activities
- Greater impulsivity
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Isolating from family and friends
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work and family or ignoring other important roles
- Problems with sexual desire and performance
Depression is one of the most common mental states in the U.S., and research suggests that biological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors play a role.
Something you may try and see if it helps:
Just 30 minutes a day of walking can improve your mood.
Try to maintain a regular wake up and bedtime routine.
Eat healthy, non-processed meals.
Connect with people who want to know how you are feeling.
Delay making important decisions until you feel better.
Avoid using alcohol, nicotine, drugs, and medications not prescribed for you.
ANXIETY is a normal part of life. People with an anxiety disorder can interfere with daily activities such as, for example, job performance and relationships.
Here are some of the common ones:
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) usually involves a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread, which can interfere with daily life. People living with GAD experience frequent anxiety for months, if not years.
Symptoms of GAD include:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued or irritable
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep
People with panic disorder have frequent and unexpected panic attacks where they experience intense fear, discomfort, or sense of losing control even when there is no clear danger or trigger.
During a panic attack, a person may experience:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Trembling or tingling
- Chest pain
- Feelings of impending doom or feelings out of control
People with panic disorder often worry about when the next attack will happen and actively try to prevent future attacks by avoiding places, situations, or behaviors they associate with panic attacks. Panic attacks can come several times a day or as rarely as a few times a year.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and/or judged by others. For people with social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations may feel so intense that it seems beyond their control. For some people, this fear may get in the way of going to work or doing everyday things.
People with social anxiety disorder may experience:
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Pounding or racing heart
- Rigid body posture or speaking with an overly soft voice
- Difficulty making eye contact or being around people they don’t know
- Feelings of self-consciousness or fear that people will judge them negatively
A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. Although it can be realistic to be anxious in some circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.
People with a phobia:
- May have an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
- Take active steps to avoid the feared object or situation
- Experience immediate intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
- Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety
There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders:
Specific Phobias: People who have a specific phobia have an intense fear of, or feel intense anxiety about, specific types of objects or situations. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of:
- Specific animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes
- Receiving injections
Agoraphobia: People with agoraphobia have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed spaces
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside of the home alone
People with agoraphobia often avoid these situations, in part, because they think being able to leave might be difficult or impossible in the event they have panic-like reactions or other embarrassing symptoms. In the most severe form of agoraphobia, an individual can become housebound.
Separation anxiety disorder
Separation anxiety is often thought of as something that only children deal with. However, adults can also be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. People with separation anxiety disorder fear being away from the people they are close to. They often worry that something bad might happen to their loved ones while they are not together. This fear makes them avoid being alone or away from their loved ones. They may have bad dreams about being separated or feel unwell when separation is about to happen.
Anxiety symptoms can be produced or aggravated by physical health conditions, caffeine, or certain substances and medications.
Stress management techniques, such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation, also can reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance the effects of psychotherapy.
By the way, Niznik Behavior Health of Dallas, TX, offers this announcement:
“Each year the first week of May is recognized as National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. Designated to raise awareness surrounding the most common mental health disorders in the United States, this week is important for ending stigmas surrounding mental illness. Social attitudes about mental health and mental illness promote shame and secrecy, causing many to suffer in silence. Depression and anxiety are both potentially debilitating mental health disorders that impact all areas of one’s life.”
I’ve never heard of it, but all who are afflicted nationwide could do one thing, says me, an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) survivor: Own depression and/or anxiety with no shame or embarrassment, celebrate with cake, and recognize it’s just being human!
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