Anxiety and Depression
How to Help Your Loved One Who is Suffering from Anxiety and Depression
Mixed episodes of anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental health issues in the world. Symptoms of depression occur in up to 90% of people who meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. Depression symptoms can make people anxious, feeding the anxiety disorder, and ultimately, making the depression worse.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to control fear or worry
- Sudden, repeated attacks of intense fear
- Intense worry about when a panic attack will occur
- Nausea in the presence of others
- Avoiding places where panic attacks have happened
- Blushing, sweating, trembling
- Feeling anxious around other people
- Feelings of self-consciousness
- Fear of humiliation, rejection, or offending other people
- Avoiding social situations or crowds
- Difficulty making or keeping friends
Avoidance is the general response of someone who is suffering from untreated anxiety. Unfortunately, what may seem like a rational solution on the surface can actually cause depression or make depression worse.
Since depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, it is important for family and loved ones to understand the signs and symptoms.
Depression and mixed anxiety are treatable but, if left untreated, can lead to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. In extreme cases it can cause someone to self-harm or commit suicide.
Symptoms of depression:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Lack of self-care
- Excessive sadness, guilt, or shame
- Irritability or unexplained anger
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Slowed thinking, speech, or movement
- Suicidal ideation and attempts
A diagnosis of mixed depression and anxiety is met when the symptoms are subsyndromal, disruptive to daily living, but neither the anxiety or depression is predominant. This mixed state is incredibly hard to break out of; sufferers need adequate and professional treatment.
The specific and unique symptoms of both anxiety and depression feed into each other, keeping the sufferer in a constant, cyclical state. The low moods and apathy may cause them to fall behind on certain life-tasks, like paying the bills or cleaning the house. Falling behind will stress them out, leading to worry and anxiety. The anxiety becomes overwhelming, and they retreat and isolate. At this point, the cycle becomes entrenched and compounds itself.
Fortunately, there are numerous and effective treatment methods for anxiety and depression sufferers.
Since depression and anxiety are mood disorders, patients need a holistic approach to treatment. Therapy or medication alone are not adequate treatment methods. Both must be used in an individualized plan for the patient to make a full recovery and to prevent relapse.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a highly effective method used to treat mixed depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety cause the sufferer to ruminate. These ruminations are negative thought patterns and beliefs which can trap the person in a pessimistic attitude and influence their behavior in negative ways. Patients are at risk of making poor choices while afflicted, which make their depression and anxiety worse if these thoughts and belief patterns are not addressed.
With CBT, a trained therapist will encourage the patient to explore these negative belief systems and retrain their thinking for a more positive and beneficial way of looking at things.
During this process, the negative behaviors that result from these poor patterns of belief are examined, and patients are guided in ways to make healthier choices in how they will respond to certain situations or life stressors.
CBT lowers the patient’s risk of relapse. A trained therapist can encourage the patient in self-care routines, like getting adequate exercise, improving their diet, and setting realistic goals.
Talk therapy, while it does not address underlying belief systems which worsen anxiety and depression, is beneficial for patients when they need help addressing current life stressors and situations.
In talk therapy, patients can learn positive coping mechanisms, effective communication skills, and how to manage symptoms.
How to Help a Loved One
People with anxiety and depression feel alone, ashamed, and are sometimes suffering from suicidal thoughts. If a loved one is saying or doing any of the following:
- ‘Life is pointless’
- ‘You’re better off without me’
- ‘I wish I were dead’
- Gives away prized possessions
- Talks about how they will die
Call the national suicide prevention hotline or 911 immediately. Depression is the leading cause of suicide in the United States, and there are always signs. Be aware of these warning symptoms and do not hesitate to get your loved one help.
When talking to a loved one with suspected anxiety and depression, do not shame them. Telling them it is all a matter of ‘attitude’ and they should ‘snap out of it’ is incredibly damaging and will not get the person the help they need.
Someone with depression and anxiety is physically and emotionally incapable of adjusting their attitude through sheer willpower. Forcing them to get out of bed, go to work, or fix their diet or self-care routine will not fix the underlying issues that are causing the depression and anxiety.
Sufferers need support, encouragement, and gentle guidance from loved ones and family members. The most effective way to help someone with depression and anxiety is to get them help from trained medical personnel and therapists.
There are numerous resources available either through insurance carriers or through the state for low-income individuals. Charitable organizations frequently offer support groups and counseling for free or at a discount.
For people with depression and anxiety, the thought of having to reach out for help or find resources is overwhelming. Loved ones can help tremendously by finding these resources and reaching out to them on behalf of the patient.
While it is scary and distressing to watch someone suffer from anxiety and depression, there is hope. With the right support from family and friends, guidance from a trained therapist, and observation from a caring and understanding doctor, sufferers can make a full, life-long recovery from the disease.