Depression and Anxiety: The Risk Factors You Need to Know

Recognizing the Risk Factors That Contribute to Depression and Anxiety

There is a range of different risk factors that can contribute to depression and anxiety in a person's life. Addiction is one of the major ones, as are physical, emotional or sexual abuse in your past or present. But not all risk factors are "major" ones like these – ongoing toxic relationships, prolonged or excessive periods of stress, or even a family history of any of the above all have a role to play in the story of your life that is currently unfolding.

However, recognizing these risk factors is a very good thing as it gives you actionable information to work from moving forward. You can't solve a problem if you don't understand it in the first place, and in the case of depression, anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder, knowledge is – and will always be – power.


The Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

There is a wide range of different symptoms that a person might exhibit if they're currently suffering from a condition like generalized anxiety disorder. These include, but are certainly not limited to, ones like:

  • Shock, denial or disbelief.
  • Confusion or general difficulty concentrating.
  • Anger, irritability and mood swings.
  • A deeply rooted sense of anxiety or fear.
  • Guilt, shame and self-blame.
  • Social withdrawal. 
  • Sad or hopeless feelings.
  • Feelings of being numb or disconnected from the world around you.

Any one of these can be warning signs of a serious problem lurking just beneath the surface. But the good news is that once you've determined what symptoms you're showing and what risk factors are contributing to your current status, you're in an excellent position to address these issues head on.


Now Is the Time for Self-Care

If you've begun to recognize some of the risk factors that contribute to depression and anxiety in your own life, the number one thing you can do to avoid a problem like an anxiety attack is to focus your attention on self-care whenever possible.

Be very protective of your sleep and hygiene as they can often directly affect the way you see yourself. Focus on building a healthy diet with foods that energize you. Choose healthy environments and relationships whenever possible, as both will go a long way toward supporting your own ability to heal and grow.

Seeking support in any way that you can will be hugely important during this time. Whether you're talking about friends, family members, your primary doctor or even a licensed counselor doesn't matter – just as long as you understand that this is a step you need to take. If the need ever arises, you should also not be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Once you realize just how easy it is to reach out to someone for insight and assistance, you'll wonder why you waited so long in the first place. 

Don't be afraid to process emotions; they're all natural – even if they are mixed or contradict each other. It's perfectly fine to laugh, to cry, to shout or to scream – just do it in a healthy way. Try to focus some of this energy on creative outlets like journaling, drawing or singing. 

Emotions are ultimately part of a story that is still being told. Addressing your feelings as they arise is a great way to reclaim that story, bringing it into focus in a positive way that helps make you stronger than ever before.

Likewise, make an effort to always have self-soothing tools on standby. Just a few include but are not limited to:

  • Move your body. Don't forget that exercise is a great way to boost your mood.
  • Do whatever you can to relax. Take a bubble bath, read or even just close your eyes and breathe deeply. Every little bit helps.
  • Stay connected. If you're feeling lonely and isolated, pick up the phone and call a friend. Send a text or share a picture with a family member. Take a class so that you can be around other people and make new friends. 
  • Practice mindfulness in ways that engage the senses. Eat healthy foods that taste great. Curl up with a nice blanket or in a warm bath to engage your sense of touch. Light a candle. Take a day trip out into the woods to view pleasant scenery and practice mental visualization. Put your favorite album on loop and jam out.

It doesn't matter which one of these techniques you do – just as long as you do one.


The Healing Process Begins Today

According to a study that was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or over had at least one major depressive episode in 2015 alone. That number represents a striking 6.7% of all adults living in the United States. Generalized anxiety disorder is something that affects everyone – men and women, young and old, of all races and backgrounds.

But studies like these shouldn't get you down. Yes, healing is a process. One that is going to take time and effort. But as these numbers prove, it's a road that you do NOT have to travel down alone – even if it can sometimes feel that way. There ARE other people who understand how you feel and who are going through exactly what you are. Acknowledging that is one of the keys to making the recovery process as effective as possible.

In the end, it is important for you to remember that healing is a process. The feelings that you've processed in the past may very well rise again, depending on what is going on in your life today and how your current experiences relate to what has come before. But the key is to take things one day at a time – stop looking backward and focus your attention on the future where it belongs.

There is no rule that says you aren't allowed to feel anything after you've gone to great lengths to process something for the first time. What you shouldn't do is hold onto that pain. Moving forward can be scary and unfamiliar, yes – but through that proverbial storm rests the gateway to health and happiness.

Often, your "comfort zone" can be a funny thing – it can actually contribute to you feeling stuck when you least expect it. Breaking free gives way to change, which in and of itself can be unsettling. However, with the right outlook, it certainly doesn't have to be.

Even the change and uncertainty that comes with this period in your life can often be the very thing that changes it. Regardless of what happens, remember the old saying, "Every time you have the courage to step outside of that comfort zone, it expands a little bit more as a result."