Have you ever found yourself in a constant state of worry or an endless loop of anticipating negative outcomes? Do you think you are having a heart attack at times because your heart is racing, you’re experiencing jitteriness or you don’t want to leave your home because it means interacting with others? The answers could be anxiety or depression.
Anxiety and depression, while present independently of each other are often found as a pair when being professionally diagnosed. Not only do they share many of the same signs and symptoms, but they involve many of the same brain pathways. Experiencing some anxiety or a few depressive thoughts are a normal part of life, but can become problematic when the symptoms become intense, excessive or persistent.
Anxiety is a very general word that is used as an umbrella term to refer to a situation that is causing a great deal of stress. When referring to anxiety, it is important to understand the types of anxiety that can be present in order to effectively work with the situation.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD): An anxiety disorder characterized by consistent anxiety that is seen even when little to nothing provokes it.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): An anxiety disorder that is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. This is often noticed by the repetitive behaviors that occur including counting, cleaning, hand washing, or engaging in rituals in order to make the feelings go away. Not engaging in these behaviors will typically make the anxiety worse.
Panic Disorder: An anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of fear that include physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, etc.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A well-known anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event which may have included physical harm. Other traumatic events can trigger PTSD at any time.
Social Anxiety Disorder: An anxiety disorder that causes overwhelming fear and excessive self-consciousness during everyday situations. This can include very specific instances such as presenting to a public audience or can be broader to the point of limiting the person’s ability to interact with other people in any situation.
Some people can live their whole lives without seeking professional treatment for anxiety and depression, it is best to understand when help is needed.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to see your doctor if:
- You feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships, or other parts of your life
- Your fear, worry, or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
- You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
– You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Non-Medical Treatments for Anxiety and Depression
- Support groups (Can be done either in person or virtually at this time)
- Talk therapy (Therapist are a good source for talk therapy and can help with coping skills)
- Breathing exercises
- Connection with supportive family members and friends
- Regular exercise ( Three to Five days a week is ideal, but start off slowly)
- Eating a healthy diet (Follow a simple plan that can be easily focused on)
- Supplements (Always best to talk to your doctor in order to ensure not to ruin your medication effectiveness)
- Taking a break (Always take time for yourself. Make yourself a priority)
Five of the most commonly used medications to treat anxiety and depression are considered Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI).
SSRI is the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants because they also treat anxiety disorders. SSRIs work to increase levels of serotonin. SSRIs are generally safe for most people to take. In some minimal circumstances, they have caused abnormal heart rhythms so working with a doctor is optimal. It is always important to speak with a doctor to determine the proper combination of medications.
Medication is not a guaranteed fix and it is important to understand that not everyone responds the same way to every medication available. In some cases, the medication prescribed by your doctor may make the symptoms experienced worse.
Trial and error is an important part of the medication process and takes some time to get it right. If treatment with SSRIs needs to stop, it is important to do it properly as stopping antidepressant treatment can cause withdrawal-like symptoms.
Your doctor can provide instructions on how to gradually reduce the dose slowly to limit symptoms which can include…
- A general feeling of uneasiness
- Flu-like Symptoms
There are many options for treatment but each and every one starts with getting a professional involved on some level for maximum effect. You do not have to fight alone against the way your brain and body respond to anxiety nor do you have to shy away from seeking help and building a trusted bond with someone who has a broader understanding of what you are experiencing.