Although everyone feels sad or overwhelmed occasionally, severe anxiety and depression is not normal. If these feelings begin to interfere with your enjoyment of everyday life, you may be suffering from a serious mental illness.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders. In fact, over 2.4 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression affect people of all ages, races, and cultural backgrounds.
The following are some of the most common anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder is the medical term for anxiety that is constant, but not attached to a single source. People with this condition live in a continuous, illogical state of worry and tension.
- Panic disorder is characterized by panic attacks. These brief episodes of intense fear usually last less than 10 minutes and are accompanied by sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, or dizziness. Many people suffering from panic disorder initially believe they are having a heart attack.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to anxiety brought on by exposure to events such as military combat, sexual abuse, natural disasters, or a criminal assault. Symptoms typically begin within three months of the triggering event.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by the reoccurring obsession with cleanliness or a fear of contamination. People suffering from OCD have an extreme need for orderliness in their everyday lives.
- Phobias are fears of specific situations. Common phobias include a fear of flying, fear of animals, or fear of crowded places. A social phobia is sometimes known as social anxiety disorder.
The Link between Anxiety and Depression
While many people think of depression as a disorder that results in a lack of energy, the opposite is often true. Many people suffering from depression become so anxious that they are unable to relax. A person suffering from an anxiety disorder feels distressed in situations which would not bother an ordinary person. For example, he/she may be unable to go to the grocery store without suffering from a paralyzing sense of fear. In severe cases, people with anxiety disorders are simply unable to work or maintain friendships.
There is no single cause for anxiety and depression. The conditions do seem to run in families, but you can be diagnosed even if none of your relatives have ever shown any symptoms. Stress may aggravate anxiety and depression, but symptoms may linger long after the triggering event has passed.
Although anxiety and depression are closely related conditions, they are not the same. The symptoms of each disorder must be addressed separately for treatment to be successful.
Many people are prescribed medications to treat the symptoms of anxiety. For example, Valium and Xanax are two very popular medications for anxiety. The anti-depressant Paxil is also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. However, prescription anti-anxiety medications can have troublesome side effects. It's important to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various medications with your care provider before beginning treatment.
While medications can often be very useful in treated both anxiety and depression, your care provider may also recommend counseling. Speaking with a trained psychiatrist or psychologist can help you learn to identify your feelings and change self-destructive behaviors. Counseling provides a safe, effective way for patients to cope with the symptoms of anxiety and depression.