By Candace Schoner
Anxiety and depression are serious mental health conditions that affect the lives of millions of Americans. While they are uniquely different conditions, they can occur together.
The main symptom of depression is generally a lingering low, sad, or hopeless feeling. On the other hand, anxiety mainly involves an overwhelming sense of worry, nervousness, and fear.
Feeling down or having the blues on occasion is normal, however so is feeling anxious in a stressful situation. When the feelings become severe or chronic they can indicate an underlying mental health disorder.
Many people who have anxiety and depression know their worrying is irrational, but they still cannot stop the self-doubt and negative thoughts.
Signs of depression and anxiety frequently show up differently from person to person making it difficult to diagnose the problem. Some of the overlapping symptoms, including, but are not limited to:
Other signs that a person may suffer from both anxiety disorder and depression include:
“It’s a cycle,” says Sally R. Connolly, LCSW and therapist. “When you get anxious, you tend to have this pervasive thinking about some worry or some problem. You feel bad about it. Then you feel like you’ve failed. You move to depression.” (heart grove hospital.com)
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), some experts estimate that 60 percent of people with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression.
Since anxiety and depression tend to worsen when existing together, mental health professionals recommend treating both conditions at the same time.
The first step in treating any mental health issue is a diagnosis. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5),” the diagnosis for:
Depression is experiencing at least 5 of the 9 main symptoms of depression most days, for at least 2 weeks.
Anxiety is experiencing excessive, uncontrollable worry, along with 3 additional anxiety symptoms most days, for at least 6 months.
Therapy for Anxiety and Depression
In many cases, psychotherapy can be tailored to treat the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, including:
It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another.
If a person is not sure about which type of therapy is best for their individual situation, they should consult with their doctor or healthcare provider.
Medications for Anxiety and Depression
There is no single medication to treat anxiety or depression, usually there are multiple medications working in conjunction with each other to address all of the symptoms. In most cases a medication regimen is usually started at a low dose, to minimize side-effects, and slowly increased until the ideal dose is found. The ideal dose is one that provides the greatest benefit with minimum side-effects.
Some of the most commonly prescription drugs used to treat depression include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine HRI (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Selective serotonin & norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), such as desvenlafaxine (Khedezla), desvenlafaxine succinate (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), levomilnacipran (Fetzima), and venlafaxine (Effexor).
When treating anxiety disorders, antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs and some SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), have been shown to be effective.
Other anti-anxiety drugs include benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), buspirone (Buspar), and lorazepam (Ativan). These drugs do carry a risk of addiction or tolerance. Other possible side effects include drowsiness, poor concentration, and irritability. (Source: webmd.com)
Always consult your physician prior to e adding any medication (prescription or over the counter) As there could be a negative reaction mixed with existing medications or diets.
By Candace Schoner, Producer and Host of Speaking Candidly with Candace
Most people experience anxiety on occasion. You know the feeling: Your chest tightens, your breathing shallows, and your mind starts racing with worst-case scenarios. No matter how hard you try, you can’t calm down.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older … yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."
As someone who has lived a relatively stressful life as an entrepreneur and freelance writer, I have personally experienced the physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension, abdominal pain and nausea) commonly associated with generalized anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is when the intensity of the worry is out of proportion to the likelihood of the anticipated event. The excessive worry or anxiety occurs more days than not for a period of at least six months. (psychcom.net)
Like many children growing up, I worried unnecessarily about many things such as: the boogeyman under my bed, getting good grades, my first sleepover, and being struck by lightning.
According to psychologists, fear can appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often extremely stressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe. “Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to either anxiety or depression”. (CDC.gov).
Anxiety may present as fear, but can also cause children to be irritable and angry.
This is also true for adults. Other anxiety symptoms may include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea. In some cases, individuals may even break out in hives.
What you may not know about stress is that it’s not all bad. In fact, anyone can experience eustress or positive stress.
Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese explains, eustress is a chemical response in the body which can be brought on when faced with a fun challenge.
“Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life,” he says. (Healthline.com)
When a child fails to outgrow ‘normal’ age-related fears which interfere with school, home, or play activities, it is time to seek advice from a mental health professional.
Unrelenting feelings of doom are often the result of biochemical root causes, just like diabetes or heart disease. Thus, those exhibiting longer than ‘normal’ bouts of anxiety may find relief through behavioral changes, talk therapy or medications.
Physical activity, a healthy diet, regular sleep, and meditation may reduce feelings of anxiety. Experts also recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for managing symptoms. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do to keep my anxiety in check was give up coffee. Now, even if I have just one cup of Joe, I can feel my anxiety levels starting to rise.
You are probably tired of hearing how exercise is the cure for everything that ails you. Well, don’t blame the messenger. According to the Mayo clinic, “doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.”
Meditation can help lower stress by helping individuals pay closer attention to their emotions and provide the means to relax before things get worse. (Heathline.com)
To learn more about treatment options for anxiety such as diet and prescription medications, talk to your doctor.
By Karin Kirn
As humans, we endure a multitude of life stages; whether they are individual or shared, the experiences that we collect from each of these stages are meant to challenge us, help us learn and grow, and ultimately build our character. With the constant shifting of our environment - be it social circles, work, routine, et cetera - comes the need for support from our fellow humans. This can be in the form of a family member, friend, or therapist; even just the knowledge that you have access to a helpful ear when you need it, of itself, is an incredibly comforting feeling.
One of the most difficult stages in my life was one that hundreds of millions of people have experienced before me, alongside me, or will experience in the future: the transition from high school to college. It’s not something you can ever truly prepare for. You just have to bite the bullet, buy your textbooks, and pack your bags. Those first few months at college away from home were stressful, to say the very least. I had struggled with depression and anxiety for the majority of my life, and living hours away from the home where I’d spent the first 17 years of my life only exacerbated these issues.
My first year at college was a challenging one, but it is still what you would call “normal” by today’s standards; I lived in a dorm, had in-person classes, and could easily hang out with friends in group settings. I was able to develop a support system of friends, and yet I still went to therapy once a week through the college’s counseling and psychology services.
The Class of 2024 was not as fortunate. They had to endure one of the most transformative and challenging phases of their life during a global pandemic. What they’ve experienced, especially during the fall 2020 semester and the beginning of spring, could barely be described as college. Sure, many of them got to live in a dorm - but all of their classes were held virtually. They had to wear masks whenever they went out, and were not permitted in groups larger than 5. There was no orientation, no activities fairs, no parties (at least none that were allowed), no dining halls - none of the things that usually define a freshman’s first year of college. They had to deal with the isolation of quarantine, the threat of a virus, and the lack of engagement in Zoom classes, all the while being away from their homes and families for the first time.
It’s no wonder that college students’ mental health is at an all-time low; according to a nationwide survey by Boston University, ½ of students screened positive for anxiety or depression in the fall, and around ⅔ of them struggled with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Since it’s harder to make friends, it’s also harder for students to develop the support system they need during their freshman year of college.
I’ve spoken to a multitude of first year students, many of whom have lamented that they “should have stayed home” and taken virtual classes from the comfort of their own room, or even taken a gap year in the hopes that by next year things will have returned to some semblance of normal. They’ve told me that it’s been one of, if not the most, mentally taxing times of their lives - it’s not hard at all to believe. When me and a couple of upperclassman friends hung out with a small group of first years outdoors, one of them approached me afterward and excitedly informed me that it was the highlight of their entire semester, and that it was the closest thing to a party they’d been to so far.
Residential advisors have also gotten the short end of the stick this year, having to manage dorm life (which is by itself a difficult job) while also being under the added stress of living in close quarters with restless freshmen during a pandemic. They had to receive extra training for handling a COVID-19 school year, which they were not compensated or even thanked for. My RA friends would tell me stories about life in dorms during the 2020-2021 school year - some of them are to be expected, such as resolving a spat between roommates or helping a particularly drunk resident to the bathroom. Others are much darker; they’ve seen firsthand the damaging effects of coronavirus on the mental health of freshmen, and it has negatively impacted them in turn. Several RA’s that I know began experiencing panic attacks or severe depression, and said that UVA did not provide them with extra resources to help themselves.
Karin Kirn is a fourth year student at the University of Virginia (UVA). She is majoring in Media Studies with a minor in French. Karin is currently working as an associate producer for Speaking Candidly with Candace.