Anxiety and depression are the two of the most common problems affecting people and their relationships. Understanding them better can help you a great deal, whether you're the one struggling with them personally or have someone else in your life who is.
Anxiety has many faces. Sometimes we worry and repeatedly go over the things we expect or think might happen. Sometimes or even most of the time, we just feel on edge, and we don't know why. We can even feel a knot in our stomach or lose interest in eating. Being obsessed with doing things in repeated or exact ways to calm yourself or prevent disaster or being phobic about certain places, things or situations are also serious expressions of anxiety that need help.
Anxiety is an expression of our fight or flight system. It's on the flight side. It encourages us to hang back and avoid things in an effort to minimize risk and keep us safe. Anxiety can find a foothold in the things that are going on in your life like relationship and family conflict, financial problems or work related stress. Although some medications can cause anxiety, treatment for it can include other medications.
Therapy is also an important and very effective way treatment, too. It can reduce tension to make relationships better and make work more satisfying. It can also improve sleep. Therapy works to get to the root of your problems, instead of just treating the symptoms like medications do.
Since we all feel anxious sometimes, how do you know when it's a problem? It's a problem when it starts to interfere with everyday activities, becomes difficult to control, is out of proportion to the actual dangers in your life or you experience episodes of panic.
18% or nearly 1 in 5 adults in the US have an anxiety disorder. This works out to over 45 million people in the US according to the National Institute of Health. It is the most common family of mental health problems.
- Insomnia and irregular sleep patterns
- Stomach upset or pain (including indigestion, gas and bloating, abdominal cramps and pain, and irritable bowel syndrome)
- Difficulty breathing (including choking sensations, hyperventilating, asthma attacks and coughing fits)
- Intrusive negative thoughts (including expecting danger or catastrophe around every corner, frequently feeling inadequate or like a failure)
- Believing that something bad will happen if certain things aren't done in an exact, certain or perfect way which often need to be repeated frequently
- Worrying which results in edginess and physical trembling or shaking.
- Heart and chest pain or irregular heartbeat
- Low appetite, loss of appetite or binge eating
- Feeling detached or unreal
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having an increased heart rate
- Sweaty palms or sweating without it being very warm or being due to exercise
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than your present worries
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety or panic
- Excessive muscle tension
- Feeling weak or tired
- Panic attacks
Just like all of us feel anxious sometimes, we all feel down at least on occasion. When emotions like hopelessness and despair take hold and just won't go away, you may be depressed. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life. Just trying to get through the day can feel overwhelming.
Some people have described depression as "living in a black hole" or as having a feeling of impending doom or hopelessness, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. Aaron Beck summarized it by say depressed people feel that they are bad, the world is bad, and the future is bleak.
Depression varies a great deal. Extreme forms of depression can include feeling suicidal and can even include delusions and hallucinations. In Bipolar disorder, depression alternates with mania.
- Feeling helpless or hopeless. Having a bleak outlook. Feeling nothing will ever get better and that there's nothing you can do to improve things.
- You've lost interest in daily activities you used to enjoy. You don't care anymore about your hobbies, pastimes, social activities or even sex. You've lost your ability to feel joy, pleasure or happiness.
- You've experienced appetite or weight changes. You've lost or gained a significant amount of weight.
- Your sleep patterns have changed. You either don't sleep (insomnia) or you oversleep.
- You're angry or irritable frequently. You feel agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper is short, and everyone and everything gets on your nerves.
- You feel like you don't have any energy. You feel fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- You start to dislike, hate or loath yourself. You have strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You criticize yourself harshly for faults and mistakes.
- You engage in reckless behavior. You "escape" with substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, dangerous sports or excessive spending.
- You have trouble concentrating, focusing, making decisions, remembering things or just plain thinking.
- You have unexplained aches and pains. You have more physical complaints like headaches, back pain, aching muscles and stomach pain.
- Talking about killing or harming yourself, having a preoccupation with death or dying or feeling like "Everyone would be better off without me.", "I want out." or "I just want the pain to end."
Can I Be Dealing with Both?
Anxiety and depression are related. People who have one often have the other to some degree. Most of us tend to have more of one than the other, but I can vary back at forth over time or as circumstances change. If you are anxious and progressively become more isolated and inactive, you are likely to get depressed.
Fighting Anxiety and Depression
- Be active. Do something physical every day. Walk around. Go to the store. Visit a friend. Get a newspaper, magazine or even a book.
- Eat healthier. Avoid drinking, binge eating and too much unhealthy comfort food.
- Think about good things and find something distracting or involving to do when negative thoughts and moods start becoming a problem.
- Pay attention to what you're thinking. Are your feelings carrying your thoughts away? What do you think a wise trusted friend would tell you?
- Find ways to be around and interact with other people. Go to church. Go to meetings. Hang out with healthy friends.
- Get help. Talk to your doctor, pastor, teacher or a therapist.
Do You Need to Get Help?
If you have recognized that you have a significant number of the issues or symptoms brought up here or in class and think you might need professional help, please see me after class, talk to your doctor or find a therapist as soon as you can. Anxiety and depression don't get better when you do nothing.
If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support and want immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8225. You can also chat with them 24/7. Veterans can text 838255. Your call will be confidential and free. Talking with someone about your thoughts and feelings can save your life.
Questions for Journaling
- How often do you feel anxious or seriously worry? Have you ever suddenly felt short of breath or had a “panic attack”?
- Have you ever felt seriously depressed? What did you do that helped?
- Do you have any family or friends with anxiety or depression problems? How has it impacted you? How have you tried to help?
- How easy is it for you to stay positive in the “middle of the storm”? Are you able to pay attention to the way you’re thinking or do your feelings effectively take over your thoughts?
Live on Purpose TV, Positive and Negative Self Talk – Voices in Your Head
Live on Purpose TV, How to Stay Positive When Everything Is Going Wrong
Live on Purpose TV, How to Stay Positive No Matter What – Happiness Is a Choice
Therapy in a Nutshell, Healing the Nervous System from Trauma – Somatic Experiencin,
Mind, the Mental Health Charity, What is CBT? | Making Sense of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
SciShow Psych, Why Do Depression and Anxiety Go Together?
Therapy in a Nutshell, Rewiring the Anxious Brain – Neuroplasticity and the Anxiety Cycle (Anxiety Skills #21)
Therapy in a Nutshell, Why Anxiety and Depression are Connected – Avoidance and Willingness with Painful Emotions
Therapy in a Nutshell, Daily Habits to Prevent Depression During Stressful Times
Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind (2021)
AnotherDayThinking, The Other Fifty Shades of Gray
Paul Jenkins, Portable Positivity (a free eBook)
Quotes for the Week
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.
Verses for the Week
Finally, my dear friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
2 Corinthians 10:5
We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In all circumstances give thanks…
[Notice it says "in" not "for". We can find ways and things to be grateful for even in the middle of the worst.]
As someone thinks in their heart, so they are.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (New Living Translation)
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (Good News Translation)
Prayer for the Week
Help me pay attention to way I'm thinking and feeling this week. I want to see where I'm sabotaging myself, holding myself back or isolating myself. Help me recognize the times where I let my thoughts and feelings buddy up in an unhealthy way. Help me remember thoughts are just thoughts and feelings are just feelings. I want to remember they aren't 100% true or real and that I can see things in other ways that are better for me and those I care about. Amen.