By, Amanda Ashley Taylor
What is the difference between anxiety & depression?
First, let’s talk about the debilitation of a disorder. While most people feel symptoms of both anxiety and depression naturally in response to normalized stimuli there are often times these symptoms persist and affect our ability to function at our everyday lives.
For depressive symptoms to meet criteria for diagnosis the symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment. Depression may affect the health of your relationships, emotional status, activities, your job satisfaction, physical health and spiritual wellbeing. Common symptoms of depression are; emptiness, lack of motivation, decreased energy and/or appetite, diminished pleasure, weight challenges, sleep difficulties, negative thought patterns leading to feelings of worthlessness, anger, shame, or guilt. Additionally, depression can cause difficulty with focus, concentration and decision making with recurrent thoughts of death or absence of life.
I remember a time I experienced persistent depression, it often felt like I was walking around in a cloud with a weighted blanket no one else seemed to consider. I was irritable, affirmed negative thought patterns and reinforced low vibrational emotions by listening to sad music or even to other people vent about their challenges in life over the phone, on social media or through other digital programs. Depression had consumed so many aspects of my life it all felt very overwhelming. Everything became harder and harder, I felt lonelier and lonelier and had no motivation to attack the mountain that had grown before me in every direction. I remember seeing everything from a “loss perspective” feeling like I’d lost time, friends, possessions, motivation, happiness etc. I had no idea how to climb out and didn’t have the energy to care, I remember feeling paralyzed.
While depression can feel like not enough energy in the body, anxiety may feel like too much energy in the body. Depression may have you feeling heavy and laid out in a clouded fog while anxiety may have you racing around pacing in thought or distraught in panic, and yes, you can suffer from both.
For anxiety to meet criteria for diagnosis, again these symptoms must also cause significant distress or impairment. Some common symptoms of anxiety are; feeling nervous, restless or on edge, a sense of impending danger, panic or terror, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, trouble concentrating or thinking so much about everything and nothing that you can’t seem to be attentive to the present, sleep difficulties, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, unexplained pains, excessive worry, and an urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety (NIMH).
I remember as a child feeling such intense anxiousness that I’d avoid odd numbers, other kids, eye contact with other people and even the cracks in the side walks when I could. Everything had to be even, I was someone who very early who appreciated balance and symmetry. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at 15. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the importance of flexibility and preparing for the unexpected. I avoided social situations and chose not to participate in group activities for so many years just hanging out in my own head most of the time. This caused anxiety and depression to well up in me, I had very little understanding of myself and how to grow and function in an environment of people who I felt were very different from me.
Can you have both?
Depression and anxiety can often co-occur or happen together and there is an overlap in some symptoms. This can often be due to many factors, however being anxious and out of alignment without answers can certainly cause depression. Consequently, a person who is experiencing depression may feel anxious about their depressive symptoms. There are often times other mental illnesses, medical conditions or lifestyle choices lead to anxiety and/or depression. Therapy requires a trained professional to treat and manage symptoms to alleviate the distress and/or impairment unmanaged symptoms may cause.
When it comes to treating mood or thought disorders, which often result in long lasting depressive and/or anxious symptoms. Psychotropic medications can be helpful in stabilizing these symptoms. However, they were initially, in most cases, intended to stabilize severe mental illnesses as a protective measure against further decline in order to increase prognosis with traditional talk therapy. This is still common practice for many inpatient mental health treatment facilities. Medication isn’t the problem solver, but it can help you solve your problems and manage more severe or debilitating symptoms.
Do you treat them separately?
It was once said when beginning my career that Mental Health professionals should treat disorders in isolation first treating one, then the other, depending on severity. Today, both depression and anxiety can and are often treated simultaneously through the use of medication management, talk therapy, holistic alternative medicine, spirituality and other integrative therapies.
I am someone who very early went through many grave traumas as a mixed person of color in Gainesville, Florida where 75% of our African American children are below grade level today. It has been my experience, that our emotions are valid and often need validating. It’s important to make the time to listen to yourself, to feel your emotions and identify what that means for you. It can be life changing to link up with the right person to help you heal. As humans we are always growing, evolving and healing. As someone who studies human behavior and motivation, human development and evolution from a pychotechnological perspective, I can tell you this: if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and they are affecting your ability to do your work, take care of yourself and your home, or get along with other people, pay attention to what you’re allowing to influence your perspective and begin drawing clear lines toward what you envision a life of peace is. Seek out someone who can help and every step of the way give yourself credit for doing so!
Love and Light,