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Anxiety and Depression: Can I Have Both?

how to know if you have anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders. An estimated 19.1% of US adults experienced anxiety, while depression has a prevalence of around 8.3%. They are also commonly comorbid, meaning they exist at the same time. Around 60% of people with anxiety also experience depression. Researchers think this is because of a shared etymology—or causation. Both anxiety and depression can be caused by genetics, stressful life experiences, poor social support, and physical health problems. 

Anxiety and depression also exacerbate each other. When you’re anxious, you burn yourself out into a depression. And when you’re depressed, you feel anxious about everything you’re not doing.

Anxiety and depression are a tricky combination to deal with. However, it is possible to recover fully from having both anxiety and depression. Understanding how they work individually and how they influence each other is the first step towards treatment

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety is a mood disorder characterized by extreme nervousness, restlessness, and racing thoughts. Someone who has an anxiety disorder might avoid anxious situations altogether, or experience a heightened, damaging sense of fear while in a triggering situation. 

Anxiety also involves a lot of rumination or circling and irrational thoughts. It can feel like you can’t calm down no matter what you try. 

Symptoms of anxiety include: 

According to the DSM-5, the following are some common symptoms of anxiety disorders:

  1. Excessive worry or anxiety that is difficult to control.
  2. Restlessness or feeling on edge.
  3. Being easily fatigued.
  4. Difficulty concentrating or finding your mind going blank.
  5. Irritability.
  6. Muscle tension.
  7. Sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having restless, unsatisfying sleep.

The most common form of anxiety is called General Anxiety Disorder. However, you might also have Panic Attack Disorder, a Phobia, Social Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of these disorders are linked to an increased risk for depression.

Depression Symptoms

Depression is a mood disorder that can almost feel like the opposite of anxiety. It is characterized by a low mood, persistent sadness, and a decreased sense of self-worth. People who experience depression might find it hard to go to work, keep up social relationships, or even get out of bed. Depression is not sadness or laziness; it is a recognized mental health disorder that can cause debilitating symptoms, such as: 

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness.
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  3. Changes in appetite, whether it's significant weight loss or gain.
  4. Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or oversleeping.
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  7. Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

The most common form of depression is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but you may also experience Seasonal Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or Dysthymia.

How are Anxiety and Depression Different?

Anxiety and depression both are mental health disorders that affect our mood, thoughts, and behavior. However, in many ways they are opposites. With its constantly racing thoughts and doom-spiraling, anxiety encourages action, whereas depression, with its low mood and lack of energy, encourages inaction. 

When found together, anxiety and depression can make each other worse. In a toxic loop, anxiety can overwork you, leading to a crash into depression, in which you become anxious about all of the things you aren’t able to achieve, leading to more overwork… when not treated, comorbid anxiety and depression can be very harmful.

How to Tell if You Have Both

Anxiety and depression have high comorbidity, meaning they often occur together. To tell if you have anxiety and depression, it can help to track your symptoms. Keep note of what you feel every day. After a few weeks, check to see if: 

  • You experienced 3 or more anxiety symptoms, persistent throughout.
  • You experienced 5 or more depression symptoms, for at least 2 weeks.
  • Your friends and family noticed both depression and anxiety symptoms.
  • Your symptoms impaired your happiness or ability to go to work, socialize, or complete tasks in your home, including personal hygiene.
  • You’re feeling burnt out. Sometimes people with anxiety and depression may look like they have it all together, but doing so is exhausting and not a long-term solution.

depression and anxiety

Treatment for Comorbid Anxiety and Depression

Treatment for both anxiety and depression will look a little different than treatment for just one or the other. This is because although they probably share a similar cause, they have different symptoms that often oppose one another. If you think you might have both anxiety and depression, it’s important to voice your concern to your therapist. They can help construct a better treatment plan, which might include counseling approaches such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to both anxiety and depression. Through collaborative work with a therapist, individuals learn to reframe their thoughts and develop healthier coping strategies. By targeting both anxiety and depression, CBT aims to break the cycle of negative thinking and provide practical tools to manage symptoms effectively.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy: This counseling approach recognizes the significant impact that family and interpersonal relationships have on mental health. When addressing comorbid anxiety and depression, Interpersonal Psychotherapy seeks to improve communication and resolve conflicts within your support system. By strengthening healthy relationships and establishing support networks, this therapy promotes a positive and nurturing environment, which can alleviate symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
  • Mindfulness-Based Therapy: Mindfulness-based therapy incorporates techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices to cultivate present-moment awareness and acceptance. This counseling approach helps individuals develop non-judgmental attitudes towards their thoughts and emotions, reducing the intensity of anxiety and depression symptoms. By learning to focus on the present and let go of distressing thoughts, Mindfulness-Based Therapy can help individuals find relief from comorbid anxiety and depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is a counseling approach that emphasizes skills development to address emotional dysregulation, a common feature of comorbid anxiety and depression. DBT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness techniques to help individuals identify and regulate their emotions. By learning skills like distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, individuals can better manage anxiety and depression symptoms and improve their overall well-being.
  • Strengths-Based Therapy: Strengths-Based Therapy focuses on identifying and building upon an individual's strengths and resources. By empowering individuals and helping them recognize their own abilities, this approach can positively impact comorbid anxiety and depression. Strengths-based therapy encourages individuals to tap into their resilience, creativity, and problem-solving skills to effectively cope with symptoms and challenges. By fostering a sense of hope and self-efficacy, this counseling approach promotes a more optimistic outlook and supports long-term recovery.

Both anxiety and depression have high recovery rates, meaning most people who receive professional therapy for them experience a reduction in symptoms and are able to experience healthy well-being.


Coping Mechanisms

Although professional therapy from a licensed therapist is the best way to heal from depression and anxiety, especially given their complex interdependence, having a strong set of coping skills will help you navigate life with anxiety and depression and take back control and well-being. 

Strong coping mechanisms can include:

  • Practicing grounding exercises 
  • Light exercise 
  • Spending scheduled time with friends and family 
  • Leaning into your hobbies 
  • Getting out in nature 
  • Taking care of your physical body by sleeping and eating well
  • Organize your thoughts by talking to a friend or journaling 
  • Take small steps by creating reasonable goals 
  • Create a schedule to follow 

Having both anxiety and depression can be incredibly draining, and some days it may feel like nothing will get better. Trust us, it will. At Lifebulb, we’ve seen countless people heal from their anxiety and depression, learning better coping mechanisms to navigate the day-to-day, and get to the root issue to create lasting, positive change in their lives.

If you think you might have anxiety and depression, reach out to a mental health professional.

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