Many people who suffer from anxiety suffer from depression too. Short term anxiety usually clears up before causing depression, but anxiety disorder such as panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder very often lead to depression. But is anxiety and depression one and the same thing? The answer is both yes and no.
When you become anxious you are usually concerned with what might happen. This means that you are afraid of something outside of yourself. Depressed people on the other hand focus on the inside of themselves in that they feel they are not smart enough or not strong enough to deal with a certain “problem”. Anxiety overestimates the “outside” danger, while depression underestimates the “inner ability” to handle that danger. Anxiety is afraid of the danger while depression is afraid of its own weakness.
The “Yes” answer
Both anxiety and depression are caused by imbalances of the same brain hormones, namely serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. For this reason they are treated identically. Anti-depressants are used to treat both anxiety and depression and the medicine is often combined with psychological treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Unfortunately it is not only how your body works that can cause anxiety and depression. The environment that you work and live in can also increase your chances of developing anxiety, and it is not just your current surroundings that may influence you. Children need to learn how to deal with stressful situations, and if these skills are not acquired at a young age, it may lead to them suffering from anxiety and depression as adults. During our childhood years we develop a body image which influences our self esteem. It is because of this unlearned skills and an acquired low self esteem that medicine alone is not always enough to relieve anxiety and depression. Psychological treatments such as behavioral therapy need to be combined with medicine to address the lack of acquired coping skills.
The long term negative effects of anxiety and depression are also the same. Depression can increase your chances of developing heart disease by as much as 60%. Many scientists believe that the influence of anxiety in developing heart disease is even higher than that of depression.
Can you have either anxiety or depression?
The answer to this question is just yes. Most people will suffer from anxiety during their life due to everyday responsibilities and pressure. Likewise many people may feel incompetent or suffer from low self-esteem, without necessarily feeling anxious or threatened. Suffering from anxiety, or anxiety disorder, for long periods of time may however increase your risk of developing depression as well. The opposite is also true. Depressed people may feel incapable of handling difficult tasks or responsibilities and then when asked to do just that they may become anxious.
There are thus clearly more similarities than difference between anxiety and depression. In recent years scientists have begun expressing anxiety and depression as the “two sides of the same coin” in order to try and explain the difficult but close relationship between the two illnesses.
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