Do you sometimes worry so much that it interferes with your everyday activities? Or feel so blue that it completely clouds your outlook? Do you often experience these or similar feelings together? You’re not the only one.
What’s the link?
Depression and anxiety might seem pretty distinct, for the most part.
The main symptom of depression is typically a lingering low, sad, or hopeless mood, while anxiety mainly involves overwhelming feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear.
But these conditions do actually share several key signs. Anxiety, for example, often involves irritability — and some people with depression may feel more irritable than sad.
Since these conditions can show up differently from person to person, you may not always know exactly what your symptoms mean.
It’s also possible to have both depression and anxiety at the same time: A worldwide survey from 2015 found that 41.6 percent of people reported having both major depression and an anxiety disorder during the same 12-month period.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals, anxiety and depression can share several common symptoms, including, but not limited to:
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep; restless, unsatisfying sleep)
Other signs that a person may suffer from both anxiety disorder and depression include:
- Constant, irrational fear and worry
- Physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, headaches, hot flashes, sweating, abdominal pain, and/or difficulty breathing
- Changes in eating, either too much or too little
- Persistent feelings of sadness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Inability to relax
- Panic attacks
Look after your body and your brain
Looking after your body with physical activity, good food and sleep will also help you look after your brain.
Try taking one of these steps:
- go to the beach or forest, listen to the sounds of nature and smell the fresh air
- get out and do something physical, like going for a run, walk or to yoga
- get your hands dirty in the garden
- sleep in your bed (and not in front of the television)
- keep a bottle of water in your car or handbag
- cut back on alcohol and recreational drugs
- Eat healthier meals.
Depression and anxiety can make it hard for you to deal with everyday situations. By using some of these strategies you can take some of the stress out of your life.
- Get back into your daily routine, by doing little things like, showering, making your bed, hanging the washing out. Choose one thing to start with.
- Postpone major life changes such as moving house or changing jobs until you’re feeling better.
- Help someone else who needs support.
- remember to take holidays from work and get away from your everyday life
- Learn to relax. Try yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation or a breathing technique.
5 quick ways to cope with anxiety
- Question your thought pattern
Negative thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of the situation. One way is to challenge your fears, ask if they’re true, and see where you can take back control.
- Practice focused, deep breathing
Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.
The 4-7-8 technique is also known to help anxiety.
- Go for a walk or do 15 minutes of yoga
Sometimes, the best way to stop anxious thoughts is to walk away from the situation. Taking some time to focus on your body and not your mind may help relieve your anxiety.
Getting some quick exercise can help boost your mood and calm your mind.
- Write down your thoughts
Writing down what’s making you anxious gets it out of your head and can make it less daunting.
These relaxation tricks are particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety sporadically. They may also work well with someone who has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) when they’re in a bind!
Whether they’re in essential oil form, incense, or a candle, natural scents like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood can be very soothing.
Aromatherapy is thought to help activate certain receptors in your brain, potentially easing anxiety.
When to seek help
Sometimes it can be hard to accept that what you’re feeling is really a mental health disorder, but there’s no need to hide your condition.
Depression affects your daily life and can create feelings of hopelessness. The condition isn’t just feeling “sad” or “blue” for a day or two. It’s persistent, and it can show up as:
- Loss of interest in things you’ve always enjoyed
- Sleep disturbances
- Extreme, persistent sadness and emptiness
- Irritability and quickness to anger
- Lack of energy and tiredness
- Abuse of alcohol and/or recreational drugs
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Restlessness or agitation
If you have anxiety that persistently affects you every day, you may have a disorder that would benefit from professional help. Feeling anxious every now and then is normal, but episodes of intense anxiety and fear about everyday situations may signal a disorder.
You can suspect some form of an anxiety disorder if you experience:
- Feelings of nervousness or tension
- A sense of impending doom or danger
- Panic attacks that may involve elevated heart rate, nausea, and rapid breathing
- Difficulty concentrating due to concerns about your present worry
- Disrupted sleep
People with anxiety and/or depression can benefit from talk therapy, group work, medications, and lifestyle changes. Getting professional help from our office or another mental health provider can help you overcome depression and anxiety and find joy in life again.
Don’t wait and just “keep thinking about” getting help though, because seeking help early on can prevent an anxiety disorder or depression from taking over your life.
For some, self-care is an effective way of managing their mental health and overall wellbeing, but sometimes, we need extra support. There is no shame in asking for help. Should you need additional support to look after your mental health and wellbeing this winter, why not consider the following:
- Friends and family.
If you’re not sure where to begin, reaching out to friends and family is a great place to start. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Workplace support.
Mental wellbeing in the workplace has become more of a priority, with many organisations offering mental health support services to their staff. If you don’t want to confide in a loved one because you feel guilty or embarrassed, using a workplace mental health support scheme could be the right first step.
- Your GP.
They may be able to offer you support and treatment. They can also refer you if appropriate or recommend local options.
- Mental health professionals.
You may be able to self-refer to the NHS in some areas. This means you don’t need to see your GP first. You can also access therapists through certain charities or privately.
- Charity helplines and support groups. See the websites listed below for some examples.
Smoking, anxiety and mood
Most smokers say they want to stop, but some continue because smoking seems to relieve stress and anxiety.
It’s a common belief that smoking helps you relax. But smoking actually increases anxiety and tension.
Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.
The mental health benefits of quitting smoking
When people stop smoking, studies show:
- anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower
- quality of life and positive mood improve
- the dosage of some medicines used to treat mental health problems can be reduced
Stopping smoking can be as effective as antidepressants
People with mental health problems are likely to feel much calmer and more positive, and have a better quality of life, after giving up smoking.
Evidence suggests the beneficial effect of stopping smoking on symptoms of anxiety and depression can equal that of taking antidepressants.