Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Many people who have one will experience the other at some point. In fact, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. When you miss work, sleep too much or feel sad most of the day nearly every day, you are bound to miss opportunities at work and in life. Your love life may suffer, you may run into financial problems, and while experiencing a deep and overwhelming depression, you may have trouble keeping up with the things that used to be important to you. Then, when the depression begins to lift, you may realize that you have been neglecting your life; now, anxiety sets in. Questions arise, like, “What will I do about work, money and my relationship?” Depression can lead to anxiety, and anxiety can lead to depression.
The relationship between depression and anxiety is not just a one-way street. Having an anxiety disorder is the single most significant predictor that a person will develop depression. Anxiety can be depressing; even this article can be depressing. However, you can take back your power by understanding the connection between anxiety and depression. There is strength in insight — and with insight you can become motivated to get treatment.
Many people who have anxiety and/or depression are about to stop reading. Many believe that treatment for these disorders is not very successful, and that if you have already tried therapy or medication, then there is no help for you. That is not quite true — people and their experiences vary, and in-tune treatment varies depending on the individual. It may take time and energy, but being your own advocate until you find the right treatment for yourself is key.
Your clinician should develop a treatment plan that is specific for the type of anxiety disorder and depression that you have. Medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy are very effective treatments, alone or in combination, but are not one-size-fits-all. Unfortunately, finding the treatment that best fits you is often a trial-and-error-prone process.
Current research suggests that treatment should begin with addressing depression first. A reduction in depressive symptoms will often lead to a reduction in anxiety severity because the symptoms of depression can incite anxiety. Additionally, some common and effective medications for depression — SSRIs (Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and others) — have the added bonus of reducing anxiety. For some, this may be enough.
Alternatively, some may recover best with a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or CBT on its own. CBT can actually be more effective than medication only. Although effective, it may take 12 to 16 weeks to see improvement. This is often where pharmacological treatment comes in. It can be a quicker and more effective treatment for symptoms that persist in the first few months of therapy.
The difference between traditional psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy is that opposed to the traditional “talk” therapy that many have tried, CBT offers patients an opportunity to take back control. It is an active process that involves homework, reading, learning specific skills and a lot of practice in putting those new skills to use. CBT involves changing your thinking as a means to alter the behavior, reactions and feelings that accompany anxiety and depression.
To recover, you need to be as persistent, pervasive and powerful as anxiety and depression are. You are up against a lot. It is a battle, but one that can be won with help and hope. If you have tried medication or therapy and not had any luck, don’t give up. It may simply be that the right treatment for you is still out there. You are unique and treatment can be complicated, but with the support of a trained and well-informed clinician, freedom from depression and anxiety is possible. Though patience may be necessary, passivity will be damaging. Take action. Take back your life.
You can start your recovery by getting more information on pharmacotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and complementary or alternative treatments from The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and by seeking help from a professional in your area.
Have a story about depression that you’d like to share? Email [email protected], or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.