What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a sensory experience, and everyone feels it a little differently. Some people might experience sweaty hands and a racing heart, while others react to anxiety by shutting down and tuning out.
Anxiety is a natural, and believe it or not, an integral part of being human. It’s a normal reaction to stressful events or environments. For example, it is perfectly normal and expected for you to feel anxious before facing a difficult problem or making an important decision.
Anxiety exists to help you cope in these situations. It causes the “fight, flight, or freeze” response and helps us to make quick decisions when we need to, and get away from danger. Your anxiety is what helps you to focus and fight through, and then cope with those stressful situations.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
While everyone will experience some levels of anxiety throughout their life, the feeling is not as temporary or easily manageable for people with anxiety disorders.
An anxiety disorder means that the anxiety doesn’t go away, and it can get worse overtime. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can become so overwhelming that they can interfere with a person’s social, emotional, and physical health.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders and what are their symptoms?
There are many different subtypes of anxiety disorders, and each have their individual characteristic symptoms, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – characterized by excessive worrying about ordinary stressors (job, finances, health, family, etc).
- Panic Disorder – characterized by sudden, repeated periods of intense fear when there is no real danger, otherwise known as panic attacks. These attacks usually last several minutes or more, and generally come on suddenly without much warning.
- Phobias – characterized by an intense fear or something that poses little to no actual danger.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder – characterized by intense fears about being separated from an attached figure, like a parent or loved one.
Generally speaking, the symptoms for all anxiety disorders involve some combination of anxious thoughts or beliefs, physical symptoms or sensations, and significant changes in behavior.
What causes anxiety disorders?
The exact cause for anxiety is still unknown, but it is believed that brain chemistry and genetics, stress, and environment may be factors that contribute.
There are certain events or circumstances that may include your risk of developing an anxiety disorder, including:
- Trauma in early childhood or adolescence
- Family history of anxiety or other mental illness
- Physical conditions such as arrhythmia or thyroid problems
How are anxiety disorders treated?
Anxiety disorders can be treated using psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Psychotherapy can help someone struggling with anxiety to think, react, and behave in different ways to the things that cause you anxiety. Your therapist can help you to learn tips and techniques to manage your stress, and improve your overall quality of life.
What is depression and what causes it?
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that can severely affect the way you feel, the way you think, and the way you interact with the world around you.
The precise cause of depression is unknown, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and biological factors play a part.
While depression can happen to people of any age, it most commonly begins in adulthood.
Depression can also be influenced by and co-exist with serious medical illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Often, the presence of depression worsens the symptoms and conditions of these illnesses.
What are some of the signs and symptoms of depression?
Everyone is different, and not everyone who is depressed will experience all of these symptoms. Some people with depression have many of the following symptoms, while others only experience a few. Symptoms can also vary in severity and frequency depending on the individual.
Typically, the following symptoms of depression are experienced for most of the day, every day, for at least two weeks:
- Decreased energy
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Feeling hopeless, or pessimistic
- Feeling worthless or helpless
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
What are the subtypes of depression?
- Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia – characterized by a depressed mood lasting for two years or more.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – characterized by the presence of depression during winter months, and typical absence during spring and summer. Those with SAD typically experience significant changes in their life, including social withdrawal, changes in sleep habits, and weight fluctuation.
- Postpartum depression – characterized by major depression during pregnancy or after delivery, including feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, extreme sadness, and difficulty completing daily tasks or care routines.
- Psychotic depression – characterized by severe depression existing alongside some form of psychosis. Typically, psychotic symptoms are depressive in nature, including delusions of guilt or illness among others.
How is depression treated?
Typically, depression is treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
There is no one treatment that will be right for everyone, so be sure to ask a qualified mental health professional about the best option for you.
Making changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in the way that you feel, and can have a positive impact on symptoms of depression. Being active and getting regular exercise, paired with eating a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients will supply your body with what it needs to start to heal.
Although it can feel challenging, try to spend time with people that you trust. Isolation and depression often go hand in hand, but they don’t have to. Therapy can help you to educate yourself about what you’re feeling, how you can change the way you react to those feelings, and how you can start to feel better now.