Anxiety and Depression
Although no one knows exactly why, a great number of people with depression also experience anxiety. Over 60 percent of major depressions are accompanied by varying levels of anxious feelings and behavior.
In one study, 85 percent of those with major depression in depression treatment were also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder while 35 percent had symptoms of a panic disorder.
Other anxiety disorders experienced by people with depression include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because they so often go hand in hand, anxiety and depression have been called the “fraternal twins” of mood disorders.
Anxiety and Depression Together
Being both anxious and depressed can pose a tremendous challenge. Clinicians have observed that when anxiety occurs with depression, the symptoms of both the depression and anxiety are usually more severe compared to when those disorders occur independently. Additionally, the symptoms of the depression take longer to resolve when anxiety is present, making the illness more chronic and more resistant to treatment.
Depression exacerbated by anxiety to the point that people with both have a much higher suicide rate than those with depression alone. In one study, 92 percent of depressed patients who had attempted suicide were also plagued by severe anxiety.
Medications for Anxiety and Depression
While medications help some, one of the major side-effects can be anxiety. The medications most often used to treat anxiety are a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (also called “minor tranquilizers”). These include Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin.
The main problem with these substances is their potential for tolerance, physical dependence, and the likely recurrence of panic and anxiety symptoms when the medication is stopped. Hence, they are best used for treating short-term anxiety and panic.
Therapy for Anxiety and Depression
Because anxiety is so often associated with depressive disorders, it is essential to treat the underlying depression with psychotherapy along with the anxiety disorder. When the depression is healed, symptoms of anxiety often diminish.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, has been found to be particularly useful in treating both depression and anxiety. CBT helps alter anxious self-talk and mistaken beliefs that give the body anxiety-producing messages. Overcoming negative self-talk involves creating positive counterstatements. What often underlies our negative self-talk is a set of negative beliefs about ourselves and the world. Replacing these beliefs with empowering truths can help to heal the roots of depression and anxiety.