Anxiety and depression are two of the most prevalent mental health conditions that are often confused for one another. While they may have similar symptoms and treatments, and may even coexist at times, these two are not the same. To effectively identify measures on how to beat anxiety and depression, it is important to, first, know the difference between the two.
What is Depression?
Depression is not the normal sadness or depressive state that people feel or find themselves in from time to time. Depression is something more serious, something more debilitating. Whether it be mild or severe, depression can hamper one from living a normal life. To distinguish depression from sadness, one may look into these commonly identified behavioral symptoms:
- a depressed mood
- loss of interest
- loss of or increase in appetite
- feeling tired or fatigued
- haunting feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
- having thoughts of suicide
Take note, however, that some of these symptoms are also characteristic of certain types of anxiety. In fact, medical studies show that a person diagnosed with depression may also suffer from a certain form of anxiety disorder at the same time.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized by feelings of worry and fear. In the most basic term, it is defined as the body’s initial response to stress. At certain points in life, some people will find themselves feeling uneasy over something they are uncertain or scared of. There are instances when being anxious incapacitates one from carrying on with his or her daily routine. In these cases, anxiety becomes a disorder and may be one of the following types: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Common symptoms of anxiety are:
- rapid heartbeat or rapid breathing
- muscle tension
- feeling fatigued
- having difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Again, some of these symptoms are also indicative of depression, hence, when dealing with anxiety and depression, one is often mistaken for the other.
How to Beat Anxiety and Depression
There are two main approaches to helping people cope with anxiety and depression: medication and psychological therapy or psychotherapy. The treatment program will depend on the symptoms manifested after thorough examination of a patient’s condition. The evaluation will usually include physical and diagnostic tests, and interviews to assess a person’s lifestyle and overall mental health.
Psychotherapy is usually the first line of treatment when trying to manage anxiety and depression. This treatment method involves giving “psychological assistance” to patients by helping them process their thoughts and emotions, which will lead them to understand how these aspects impact or influence their behavior. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is one of the most popular methods of psychotherapy. A CBT session is structured in a way that acknowledges possibly distorted perceptions of oneself and of the world. A person suffering from anxiety and/or depression may perceive his case as useless, helpless, or hopeless, and will often think that the world shares the same view of himself. This person does not see any purpose in living. In CBT, a therapist guides the individual into transforming these negative views into ones that are geared towards overcoming slanted depictions of reality, thus, eventually, making the patient more functional and productive. The effectiveness of CBT as a treatment method lies in the fact that it does not rely solely on a healthcare professional, but, instead, it is a collaboration between the therapist and the patient. Another mode of psychotherapy that is most effective in patients with depression is Interpersonal Therapy or IPT. This is different from CBT as it is more focused on a patient’s ability to effectively maintain interpersonal or social relations. Some advantages of psychotherapy over medication include the absence of side effects and that patients are only required to attend sessions in a limited time.
In some instances, psychotherapy alone does not work for some patients. This is where medication comes in. Medicines, such as antidepressants, may be used as an exclusive treatment modality or may be administered at the same time an individual is undergoing psychological therapy. The most common antidepressants are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This type of medication is usually given to patients suffering from depression to increase the serotonin levels in their brain, which helps with mood regulation. The second tier in antidepressants are the SNRIs or the serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Patients that become unresponsive to SSRIs are given SNRIs, which has a similar but a more intense effect. This type of medication is also recommended for individuals dealing with anxiety disorders. To reiterate, medication may be used singularly or paired with psychotherapy. However, some studies show that this combination of drugs and psychology is only effective in some cases when managing anxiety and depression. The efficacy of these approaches always depends on the type or severity of the disorder.
Reaching Out to Cope with Anxiety and Depression
There are other ways to beat anxiety and depression, but a treatment program must always begin with careful assessment of the type of mental health issue a person is suffering from. It is very crucial to first evaluate the condition before devising a form of intervention, else, the patient will be at a risk of suffering a relapse. At the onset of symptoms, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional and have oneself diagnosed. Although this doesn’t come naturally for most people, and may even sound dreadful for some, it also helps to have someone to confide in and open up to. Remember, treatment begins with acknowledging the condition, reaching out, and having oneself checked.