Anxiety disorders and depression are among the common mental health conditions affecting adults in the United States. That aside, it is common for adults to experience these conditions simultaneously, with approximately 50% of adults with depression also manifesting anxiety symptoms, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
If you or one of your family members have received a dual diagnosis, you might be wondering if this means double treatment. However, this isn’t necessary as anxiety disorder treatment can also be used to treat depression. Your healthcare provider will guide you into finding the right treatment plan.
Can Depression and Anxiety Occur at the Same Time?
While depression and anxiety are two separate mental disorders, they are the most comorbid mental health disorders. This means they can occur simultaneously. Depression, on its own, is a mental disorder often associated with symptoms of despair, hopelessness, overwhelming sadness, and feelings of worthlessness. According to stats from the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated 10% of Americans experience major depressive disorders.
On the other hand, anxiety disorders are marked by nervousness, fear, and excessive worry that affects everyday functioning. Without early intervention, anxiety can worsen over time. Unlike depression, there are several anxiety disorders, with each presenting with unique symptoms. Some types of anxiety disorders include;
- Generalized anxiety disorder, which affects approximately 2% of U.S adults
- Social anxiety disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive compulsory disorder
Anxiety and Depression: What Are the Possible Causes?
Despite being different emotional states, mental health experts suggest that anxiety and depression can occur together because they are caused by similar factors. Some overlapping causes of these conditions include;
- Genetic factors – genes contribute to more than 40% of predisposition to anxiety and depression symptoms. However, anxiety has a stronger family history than depression.
- Environmental factors – these are social factors that include neglect during early childhood, trauma, stressors, such as unemployment, relationship issues, physical illness, and social isolation. Adults with posttraumatic stress disorder, which is a type of anxiety, are most likely to develop depression.
- Pain – chronic pain, especially disabling pain syndromes, such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, low back pain, and nerve pain, can lead to psychological distress.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
According to the DSM-V classification of mental disorders, anxiety and depression have several common symptoms. They include;
- Being easily fatigued
- Sleep disturbance, such as restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, and unsatisfying sleep
- Constant irrational worry and fear
- Physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, headaches, sweating, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain
- Persistent feelings of worthlessness and sadness
- Panic attacks
- Losing interest in hobbies
Can Depression and Anxiety Be Treated Together?
Yes. Anxiety and depression can be treated concurrently. If you are experiencing symptoms of both mental disorders, speak to your psychiatrist or therapist so that you can begin treatment. However, before you start any treatment therapy, a thorough evaluation should be done. Effective treatment therapy involves a combination of various strategies.
Unfortunately, there is no single test that can diagnose anxiety and depression accurately. Therefore, your doctor may begin with a physical exam and anxiety/depression screening test. For these tests, they will ask you several questions that help you get a better insight into your mental health experiences.
If the initial diagnosis is not clear or your physician suspects that the symptoms indicate another health condition, they may order blood tests to evaluate your hormone, thyroid, and vitamin levels. General practitioners will also refer you to mental health experts, either a psychologist or a psychiatrist, who are better equipped to diagnose and manage the presenting symptoms.
Treatment of Anxiety and Depression
As mentioned, effective treatment involves a combination of pharmacological drugs, psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, and lifestyle changes. Nonetheless, several classes of drugs can be used to treat anxiety and depression. Since the symptoms of both conditions overlap, one type of drug may treat both conditions effectively. Some medications that your doctor may prescribe include;
- Antidepressants – Several categories of antidepressants, including serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can treat social anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, and phobias. These drugs are also effective for PTSD and OCD, which are not anxiety disorders.
- Antianxiety medications – even though antianxiety drugs effectively reduce anxiety symptoms, they may not act on symptoms of depression. These drugs should also be used for a short period to avoid risks of addiction.
- Mood stabilizers – they are used to check on moods in case antidepressants don’t act.
Can Antidepressants Cause Anxiety
While antidepressants, specifically SSRIs, don’t cause anxiety, they can enhance anxiety symptoms in patients with major anxiety symptoms. In such situations, your doctor will start these drugs at a very low dose before adjusting gradually. Patients with anxiety on antidepressants may experience increased anxiety symptoms at first since it takes between two and four weeks or longer for antidepressants to produce serotonin amounts required to relieve depression or anxiety.
In some situations, your anxiety may be getting better as symptoms of depression persist. Interestingly, SSRIs are not fully effective in patients with low mood or energy. In such a case, your doctor may increase the dose or add another medication that tackles low energy and mood. Wellbutrin/Bupropion is the commonly prescribed antidepressant for patients with low mood and energy.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn’t normalize living with unusual thoughts, feelings, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Seeking early treatment can help alleviate the symptoms of these conditions. Note that finding a suitable treatment takes time, and you may have to switch several drugs. Medications also take at least two weeks to become effective.