Anxiety and depression are intricately linked, which is why the same types of therapy and the same classes of medications are often used to treat both disorders.
In my practice, I have noticed that many clients that have self-diagnosed as depressed are actually experiencing anxiety. Similarly, many clients who identify as anxious are often depressed. Here, I will explain the connections between anxiety and depression, and why one can lead to the other.
Shared Traits and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
When you are anxious, your predominant feeling is that of worry, and being wound too tightly. You feel like you can’t relax, and that danger is everywhere in some form or another. However, the irritability associated with depression gives you a similar wound up feeling. Often, the overlap between the two can be difficult to tease apart.
Avoidance or Retreat
Anxiety makes people retreat from situations, out of fear that they will be evaluated poorly, or that some danger will befall them. Depression also leads to retreat from the world, since you feel so negatively about yourself and others that you can’t imagine a reason to purposefully put yourself into contact with other people.
When you are depressed, you see the worst in every situation. The depressive cognitive triad includes negative thoughts about yourself, the world, and the future. For example, going to a party, you may think, “nobody will like me, I’m not going to make any friends.” There may in fact be a strong likelihood of this outcome coming to pass, since when you’re depressed, you don’t act as outgoing, engaged, or responsive.
However, if you focus on these negative thoughts about others, you may end up diagnosing yourself as socially anxious, and not recognizing the major impact that your depression has on your thinking.
Additionally, both anxiety and depression can result in changes in your behavior.
Anxiety and depression can both prompt people to withdraw from social situations, for different reasons. However, let’s say you withdraw from parties due to fatigue and apathy. Eventually when you’re out of practice at socializing, you will in fact have raised your chances for developing social anxiety, as any anxiety deepens with avoidance of the feared situation.
It’s much the same when you stop engaging in world-expanding behaviors, like driving, flying, or even leaving the house, due to anxiety. Over time, your world will shrink and you may become depressed thinking about all of your missed opportunities.
No Matter the Challenge, Therapy Can Help
Whether you’re anxious, depressed, or (sometimes) both, therapy can help you get yourself back on track. A good therapist can help you identify what you’re feeling, and work to treat the exact issues you are struggling with.
There is no shame in getting help and support from a trained professional. Once you and your therapist figure out how your anxiety or depression, or both, is manifesting in your life, you can both figure out next steps to take to create a life that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.