Anxiety disorders and depression frequently come together. Approximately half of all people with an anxiety problem also suffer from depression, and two-thirds of people with depression have a co-existing anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (n.d.). The large occurrence of co-occurrence for these two ailments strongly suggests they are linked.
One reason for this link might be the significant overlap in the risk factors and causes for the two conditions. When you compare symptoms, however, the link is more complicated. Some symptoms are strikingly similar (such as having a negative outlook on life), while others could be considered opposites.
Anxiety disorders and depression are generally considered mood disorders. They affect the way an individual feels, which impacts thoughts and behavior.
An anxiety disorder’s effect on mood differs somewhat, depending on the type of disorder. Generally, however, a person with an anxiety disorder goes through intense worry and fear along with chronic, unwanted negative thoughts. These emotions can result in distraction and difficulty completing tasks. Physical symptoms could include agitation, muscle tension and sleeplessness. Behaviorally, the individual may frequently avoid situations that increase anxiety and stress.
As with any anxiety disorder, people with depression may also feel agitated, tense and have sleeplessness. They can have difficulty focusing on completing a task and may display avoidance behaviors, just as anxiety disorder sufferers often do.
However, people who have depression will often have strong feelings of hopelessness and overwhelming sadness, which frequently lead to slowness of movement and speech. Depression may also cause people to sleep an excessive amount rather than not enough. These depression symptoms are notably different from the jumpy, excitable behavior associated with many anxiety disorders.
The overlap in factors that cause the two disorders is reflected in their highly similar treatment approaches. Both disorders are generally treatable with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.
The symptoms between panic attacks and depression are related but different, while the causes are nearly indistinguishable. Because of this link, some psychologists are starting to question if the two conditions may actually represent different sets of symptoms that are part of a single disorder. At this time, anxiety disorders and depression are classified as different diseases. However, research into this question is ongoing, and a better understanding of why they co-occur so often may be just around the corner.
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