Each year, up to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. visit their doctor complaining of anxiety or depression. Approximately 45 percent of those individuals also suffer from another mental illness or substance use disorder (SUD). While anxiety and depression often co-occur, it is also common for either one to co-occur with a substance use disorder.
What is Clinical Depression?
Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is much more severe than the feelings of sadness many of us experience at times and may lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. This type of depression often manifests as persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, lethargy, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, and severe irritability.
A person with depression may be unable to cope with the everyday activities of living. They may experience challenges with sleep and appetite, have unexplained pain, and experience problems with personal relationships, work or school, and social interaction. Those with depression may have lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Once believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance, recent studies have found that a combination of factors likely leads to depression. A Harvard Medical School study, updated in 2019, identified such factors as genetics, medications, stressful or traumatic events, medical issues, or dysfunctional mood regulation as contributing to depression. Multiple studies agree with this conclusion.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Occasional anxiety is a natural part of life, built into our DNA along with our “fight or flight” response. We may feel worried or even fearful about a perceived danger, responding with an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, for example. Typically, these feelings are temporary and resolve once the “danger” has past.
With an anxiety disorder, the fear and worry persist at such intense levels they interfere with the ability to function successfully in everyday life.
There are five recognized categories of anxiety disorder, including: General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Studies have found the anxiety disorders that most commonly co-occur with SUD are SAD, PTSD, and panic disorder.
Managing Depression and Anxiety
The approaches for managing depression and anxiety are similar. An integrated approach combining prescription medication and psychotherapy has the highest rate of success for treatment of severe depression and anxiety disorders, especially when combined with certain lifestyle changes.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy are two approaches used to treat depression and anxiety.
CBT helps an individual identify and change negative thought patterns to improve their emotional responses and develop coping strategies.
Exposure therapy helps an individual overcome specific fears that may cause anxiety. Once used primarily to treat PTSD, this therapy has been found effective for the treatment of both anxiety and depression.
There are many lifestyle changes that improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, including:
- Practicing relaxation techniques, including meditation and yoga
- A healthy, balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Improved sleep
- Setting goals
- Practicing positive thinking
- Learning something new and pursuing interesting hobbies
- Inspirational reading
- Interaction with positive, supportive people
- Regular participation in support groups and having a personal support network
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, it is important to reach out for help. Even though COVID-19 has caused the temporary cancellation of many in-person support group gatherings and counseling sessions, there are many virtual resources available. Contact your physician or therapist for options.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides an extensive list of online services for those in recovery, for people feeling anxious or depressed due to Covid-19 or for anyone in crisis.
Another source for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-6264 M-F, 10 am – 6 pm, ET. For crisis situations, text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or email@example.com.