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Depression and anxiety are separate issues but often their symptoms can overlap. They can be so all-consuming for some people that they feel unable to go about their daily lives without it seriously impairing them in some way. It is important to understand depression and anxiety’s separate characteristics, in order to best help the individual struggling with either issue or both.
Some symptoms of depression are:
- Very low mood over a prolonged period of time
- Distinct lack of enthusiasm in activities
- Noticeable change in the person’s sleep-wake cycle
- Lack of interest in engaging with others
- Noticeable change in appetite
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal ideation
- A general sense of numbness or emptiness
Some symptoms of anxiety are:
- Stress-induced headaches
- Jaw problems, from grinding teeth excessively
- Backache and neck tension
- Panic attacks and difficulty regulating their breathing
- Dizzy spells
- Stomach issues
- A feeling of nameless dread
- Disruption in sleep-wake cycle
- An inability to stop or pause to rest for fear of something going wrong
Someone without depression and anxiety may experience some of these symptoms during particularly stressful periods in their life; however, when an individual experiences these persistently and daily, it can become a serious issue. Being busy is one thing; feeling unmanageably anxious or low is something very different.
If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing depression or anxiety, the most important thing to do is talk about it. While this can be easier said than done, there are a number of reasons why taking that leap of faith to reach out is imperative in improving things.
A lot of people who experience anxiety have thoughts or fears that they might be ‘crazy’ because they feel they are the only one who feels a certain way. Speaking to somebody can allow the person to air the enormity of their thoughts and can also help the person to see that perhaps they are not so alone after all.
Research has linked loneliness to depression, so speaking to someone, whether it be a family relative or friend, or through an organisation like the Samaritans, can really help the person to feel connected to the world again. Talking to someone allows for the possibility of seeing one’s troubles from a different perspective. When a person is solely within their own thoughts and no one else is hearing them, it is more likely that these will grow and become severely distorted. This can be extremely dangerous if an individual is depressed, as they may then have idealised suicide to the point where they act on it.
Some research has shown a genetic disposition towards depression, and separate research has indicated that anxiety can be a side-effect of certain medication or health conditions. Both of these suggest that speaking to a professional doctor could be extremely important in determining if there is anything helpful they can do to alter this. Sometimes a person can be experiencing mental health issues silently for so many years that they do not see the point in reaching out to investigate what it’s all about. It may be linked to an emotional issue, but it can also, sometimes, be connected to physical and genetic factors.
These are just a few reasons why it is important to find a way to reach out if you are experiencing depression or anxiety, whether it is to a loved one, or to a professional. If you feel that you or someone you care about needs extensive support, again there are numerous different avenues for this. These strategies are not foolproof but they can be effective, especially when used in conjunction with other therapeutic techniques.
- Mental health services, which can be accessed through self-referrals (depending on the specific mental health service), or through the GP, where a referral can be made for further specialised support. This can include inpatient care, support groups, and personal therapy.
- Personal therapy: there are numerous different therapeutic approaches for both anxiety and depression. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one type of therapy that offers direct steps to help target specific issues. Other talking therapies, such as integrative counselling, psychodynamic counselling, and psychoanalytic counselling, work with the underlying issues of anxiety and depression to help facilitate positive changes.
- Mindfulness and meditation: these are both relaxation techniques that help the individual to feel calm and present in the moment. This practice can range from breathing techniques to vivid visualisation activities to try to help the individual to connect with a calm core sense of themselves.
- Medication can be prescribed when a person feels they cannot manage healthily or effectively. This can vary from anti-anxiety tablets to beta- blockers (which can also be prescribed for anxiety issues), to antidepressants. This very much depends on the individual’s needs and on the level of impact these issues have on their day-to-day life.
- Physical activity can sometimes be effective in relieving some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is partly due to the chemicals that are released through exercising. When endorphins are released into the human body, it can help to lift the mood, making people feel better overall. The other aspect to taking up an activity of some sort is that if it involves socialising, this can give the person the opportunity to not feel isolated within themselves, and instead, to experience something positive and new.
There are many ways to approach depression and anxiety but the most important theme is to stay as open as possible, both as someone who is suffering, and as someone who is trying to best support a sufferer.
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