We’ve all heard of anxiety and depression, in fact, those types of disorders are among the most diagnosed of any mental health condition! These seem vastly different on a fundamental level. After all, as a society, we stereotypically view depressed people as those who sleep all day and anxious people as unable to sit still. But what about both at the same time? Is that even possible? In this article, we’ll be looking at answering that big question.
Short Answer, Yes:
Despite being seemingly contradictory to one another, it is indeed possible to have a depressive disorder along with an anxiety disorder. In fact, statistics show that up to 60% of people diagnosed with one disorder, will have symptoms of another. In many cases, the same medications will be used for either disorder (Salcedo 2018). This is why these two types of disorders are considered comorbid.
To better understand both depression and anxiety, it’s important to break the two down. When we say depression and anxiety, we’re looking at broad symptoms rather than a specific disorder (SciShow 2019). There are actually many types of depression. Typically when we refer to someone who is depressed, we mean Major Depressive Disorder, but there are other forms: Persistent Depressive Disorder, Minor Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder to name a few. This goes the same with anxiety. When we say that someone has anxiety, we usually refer to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But, panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, and phobias are also types of anxiety disorders as well.
Major Depressive Disorder is typically characterized by:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Apathy to activities once enjoyed
- Low energy
- Lack of motivation
- Slowness in movement
(Source: Mayo Clinic 2018A)
While Generalized Anxiety Disorder is usually described as:
- Feeling on edge, tense, or nervous
- Excessive worrying
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling that something bad is about to happen
(Source: Mayo Clinic 2018B)
So How Are These Two Related?
Quite frankly, we don’t know! While both condition types are well studied and documented, and there’s a high statistic of overlap between the two, we understand very little about why these conditions occur in the first place! Let alone why they happen together. While there are many hypotheses from some of the best researchers, there is no definitive answer. However, there are some distinct patterns between the two that bring out some guesses (Salcedo 2019). A big similarity deals with stress response. That is, a depressive disorder AND an anxiety disorder are potential responses to stressors that someone may experience (SciShow 2019). These stressors can be work, home, or relationship related, or can stem from genetics. So, while the symptoms may be different, they come from the same place. A person struggling with anxiety and a person with depression may also feel similar symptoms such as thinking difficulties, negative thoughts, and carrying out tasks. While there is much left to learn about both of these conditions, the more we learn about them leads us to believe they aren’t that different after all.
What’s It Like Having Both?
Now that we learned that deep down, the two disorder types have some in common. Still, they have many core differences that contradict one another. So what’s it like for someone who deals with both? Well, the general consensus is that it’s an overwhelming experience. People with both describe how the two disorders conflict with each other: that they will excessively worry and ruminate over something while at the same time feel unmotivated to actually do anything about it. Others describe it as feeling uninspired and tired throughout the day, but restless at night with an inability to stop thinking. In any case, it’s a struggle with two different conditions; that are able to work together making life increasingly difficult (The Mighty 2016).
What Should I Do to Seek Help?
Seeking help when struggling with anxiety or depression (or both!) is a great step to help get your life back on track. Typically one should seek help if their mental state is causing them distress and is unable to be controlled. The best way is to reach out to a healthcare provider or other mental health professional to get in contact with the appropriate resources. Sometimes life can get overwhelming and people consider suicide as an escape. Fortunately there are resources available and the ability to talk with a counselor 24/7. Getting in contact with the right mental health professional can get you on track for receiving proper therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication if needed.
While depressive symptoms differ greatly from anxious ones, there is actually a big overlap. There is a high rate of comorbidity between the two and the symptoms of each disorder and they tend to work together, creating a highly unpleasant experience. What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you comfortable sharing any personal experiences? Let us know in the comments!
- Kati Morton. (2018, October 15). Why are Anxiety and Depression Connected? | Kati Morton[Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGCyQcvfsBQ
- Mayo Clinic. (2018a, February 3). Depression (major depressive disorder) – Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
- Mayo Clinic. (2018b, May 4). Anxiety disorders – Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
- Pietrangelo, A. (2018, September 25). 9 Types of Depression and How to Recognize Them. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-depression
- Salcedo, B. (2018, January 19). The Comorbidity of Anxiety and Depression | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. National Alliance on Mental Health. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/The-Comorbidity-of-Anxiety-and-Depression
- SciShow Psych. (2019, February 28). Why Do Depression and Anxiety Go Together? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdAjGRvxGPM
- The Mighty. (2016, November 2). What It’s Like Living With Both Anxiety and Depression [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqCS0774HII