The Link Between Anxiety Symptoms And Depression
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse , its important to seek treatment for both conditions.
Anxiety: What It Is What To Do
- By Francesca Coltrera, Editor, Harvard Health Blog
While anxiety symptoms vary widely, odds are good that at some point youve experienced occasional physical and emotional distress signals such as panicky breathing, your heart pounding in your chest, trouble sleeping, feelings of dread, or even loops of worry. Thats normal.
Experiencing anxiety is normal, says Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. A certain amount of anxiety can even be helpful. The problem is that sometimes the systems underlying our anxiety responses get dysregulated, so that we overreact or react to the wrong situations.
The End Of Everything: What A Panic Attack Feels Like
Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago. Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. My heart started racing and my body felt so hot. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. My vision became distorted and my body felt limp, like a wet noodle, she says. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Her mother didnt know what to do.
Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years. For a long time, she had full-blown attacks 2-3 nights a week. I would usually awake to a racing heart or the feeling of my heart expanding in my chestas it might explodeFrom there, I would begin to panic and my heart would go even fasterand my body would shake so hard that it felt like I was having a convulsion. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Sometimes Id go the ER and theyd hold me overnight because my heart would be going so fast and they couldnt get it to go down.
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What Helps To Manage Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to print off these tips, or write them down, and keep them somewhere easy to find.
During a panic attack:
- Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
- Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
- Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
- Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.
After a panic attack:
- Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
- Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.
How Is Anxiety Treated
Treatment for anxiety typically consists of a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder. CBT teaches specific skills to manage your worries and help you gradually return to the activities you have avoided because of anxiety.
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What Are The Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack
Symptoms can vary from person to person but some of the more common symptoms of an anxiety attack are:
- An accelerated, pounding heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating and/or hot and cold sweats
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Feeling like you need to escape
- An intense feeling of fear
I experienced an anxiety attack last week, I hadnt had one in quite a while but this one came out of nowhere and completely caught me off guard, like most anxiety attacks do.
It was as horrible and unbearable as I remembered, my heart rate was rapid and felt like it was pounding against my chest. It got so intense that I could feel a pulsing sensation on my back and my chest began to ache painfully with my irregular breaths.
I was having a discussion at the time, I wouldnt necessarily call it a stressful discussion but I would say that I had some minor anxieties about the topics that were being discussed. I did have a severe headache at the time and looking back I feel that that may have attributed to the attack.
Physical sensations such as pain and irritability can sometimes add to and also elevate our anxiety. I have had my fair share of anxiety attacks over the years and have also spent many hours reading through books and articles in search of any techniques that may help me get through them.
Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
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Focus On Something Less Anxiety
At times, it may be most helpful to simply redirect yourself to focus on something other than your anxiety. You may want to reach out to others, do some work around your home, or engage in an enjoyable activity or hobby. Here are a few ideas of things you can do to thwart off anxiety:
- Do some chores or organizing around the house.
- Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing, painting, or writing.
- Go for a walk or engage in some other form of physical exercise.
- Listen to music.
How Anxiety Affects Neurotransmitters
Neuronal circuits are governed by multiple neurotransmitter systems the most extensive of these are gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate. The neural systems of the three major neurotransmitter systemsserotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrinehave been extensively studied in normal and pathological anxiety states., The significance of these systems in anxiety is apparent from the fact that most effective therapies for these disorders affect one or several of them. However, anxiety disorders are not simply a deficiency of one neurotransmitter or another. The networks governed by these transmitters have extensive interrelationships, multiple feedback mechanisms, and complex receptor structures. This complexity helps to explain the unpredictable and sometimes paradoxical responses to medication.
Research involving other neurotransmitter systems has been fruitful in elucidating their function in anxiety but thus far has failed to produce new treatments. The primary neurotransmitter and receptor systems implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders are discussed next.
Despite this complexity, it is recognized that medications that inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, presumably increasing serotonergic neurotransmission, result in a reduction in symptoms of anxiety for many patients.
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What Are Anxiety Medications And How Do They Work
Anxiety is a normal and useful response to potentially stressful or dangerous situations. It increases our awareness of what’s going on around us. For most people, anxiety is short-lived and normally goes away once the situation has passed. This is not the case for an estimated 40 million adults in the United States who have some type of anxiety disorder and experience ongoing and unwarranted psychological distress. That distress may also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as muscletension, headaches, or chest pain.
Anxiety medications include multiple types of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. The three most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medication are
- anti-anxiety medications , and
Antidepressants and anxiolytic medications work primarily by affecting the balance of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Beta-blockers and other types of drugs are used to address the physical symptoms that may accompany an anxiety attack. First-generation antihistamines are also used to help with anxiety symptoms because they have a sedating effect.
Anxiety disorders are associated with certain chemical imbalances in the brain involving neurotransmitters such as
- norepinephrine, and
- gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA.
These chemicals are associated with an individual’s sense of well-being or with the ability to relax.
What Treatments Should I Be Offered For Panic Disorder
Some treatments may not be suitable for you, depending on your exact circumstances. If you have questions about specific treatments and options covered, please talk to a member of your healthcare team.
Psychological treatment, medication and self-help have all been shown to be effective in treating panic disorder. Studies of different treatments found that the benefits of psychological treatment lasted the longest.
Different treatments will suit different people, so your healthcare professional should discuss the options with you. Whatever you decide, the chosen treatment should be available promptly.
During treatment you may be asked to complete a questionnaire at intervals to help you and your healthcare professional decide whether your symptoms are getting better.
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What Causes Anxiety Disorders
Its a question that is so difficult to answer. Its not like having a cold – you cant simply wake up with an anxiety disorder because you forgot to wash your hands before picking your nose.
Anxiety disorders are forged over years of experiences. They have a genetic component, an upbringing component, an environmental component. Every experience youve ever had can craft your anxiety disorder, just as any experience youve had in life can ensure you never get one.
Anxiety may even have no real cause at all.
There are also many forms of anxiety. There are different causes of OCD, causes of panic attacks, causes of PTSD, causes of generalized anxiety disorder, causes of phobias every experience and every anxiety is unique in some way.
Still, the best way to understand what created your anxiety disorder is to break it down into the two main causes:
These do not account for all anxiety symptoms. In fact, anxiety can, in some ways, create itself something that we will explore near the end of the guide. But generally, the two causes of anxiety are your body, and your experiences in the world around you.
Treatment Of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can be successfully treated. The most common form of treatment is a combination of drug therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy .
Because most anxiety disorders have some biological basis, the most common drugs prescribed are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
CBT involves helping people to turn their anxious thoughts and feelings into more rational ones. Sometimes people will benefit from being exposed in a controlled way to the object and situation they fear. Some CBT techniques have been developed to deal with specific disorders. For example, people with panic disorder can benefit from learning new breathing and meditation techniques, which can help them deal with their anxiety.
Support groups and learning more about the disorder can also help a great many people deal with anxiety disorders. Involving family and friends who are also affected by the disorder, can help people recover or learn how to cope with their condition.
The most important first step in treatment is to get a proper diagnosis from a specialist in anxiety disorders. Many people suffer for 10 years or more before getting the right treatment.
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Interplay Between Biological And Psychological Factors
In order to treat an anxiety disorder effectively, clinicians should understand how these conditions emerge and which factors are involved in maintaining them. In recent years, we have gained a better understanding of the interplay between genetic, biological, and stress factors that shape the presentation of the disorder, although it is not clear which factors are inherited.
One possibility is that abnormal cognition could be the inherited factor. Cognitive theory assigns a primary importance to abnormal or catastrophic cognition as an underlying mechanism of all anxiety disorders. Most cognitive strategies for treatment and research were developed in earlier years.
The ABC model focuses on the interaction of information processing and emotional and cognitive processes that are controlled by overlapping circuits and compete for the same brain resources.
In most anxiety disorders, patients usually process fear-inducing information in excessive detail that overwhelms their ability to appraise it properly. They cope by separating the information into good and bad with no gray area in between. As a result, they consider the worst-case scenario and then act to protect themselves against the perceived danger.
You Answered Yes To Question
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, you might have an anxiety disorder. Most people deal with stress in their lives, but when stress begins to significantly interfere with our functioning and/or causes impairment, it might be more problematic than âeveryday stressâ. The good news is that anxiety disorders can be successfully treated. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and think that they are negatively interfering with your life, it might be time to seek treatment!
It will be important to begin with a structured clinical evaluation by a professional to see if you meet criteria for an anxiety disorder, which will inform your treatment plan. Our mental health impacts many aspects of our lives, such as our physical health and our quality of life, which is why it is so important to address any mental health problems with effective treatments!
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. To begin your search for a mental health professional, go to the ADAA’s Therapist Directory.
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What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder
With GAD, you may feel extreme and unrealistic worry and tension even if theres nothing to trigger these feelings. Most days, you may worry a lot about various topics, including health, work, school and relationships. You may feel that the worry continues from one thing to the next.
Physical symptoms of GAD can include restlessness, difficulty concentrating and sleeping problems.