Recognizing Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
It's normal to feel a little down sometimes, just like it is natural to get nervous every once in awhile, but it's important to look for signs that what was once occasional has become clinical and chronic. Are you or someone close to you depressed?
The real question is how can you tell, because it's not always about sadness. In fact, many people who suffer from depression have episodes of anxiety as well. These are two mental health issues that tend to go hand in hand. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates about half of the individuals living with depression suffer from anxiety as well.
Today's healthcare consumer is focused on wellness, a concept that can extend to mental health and emotional well-being. Learn more about the symptoms of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. A little education goes a long way in controlling the blues and that overwhelming anxiety monster.
Recognizing the Risk Factors
The World Health Association reports that depression is very common worldwide, but what puts a person on that road? Both depression and anxiety are complex emotions, but there are some common risk factors, such as
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse, past or present.
- Addiction. A person might use drugs or alcohol because they feel depressed or anxious and then experience additional mood problems due to their addiction.
- Toxic relationships. Being stuck in a relationship that isn't healthy or supportive can lead to both depression and anxiety.
- Prolonged or excessive stress. Chronic stress affects both physical and emotional health.
- Family history. Having a family history of any of these risk factors or of depression and anxiety disorders puts you at risk as well.
- Anxiety itself is a risk factor for depression. People who suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder can become depressed about their condition.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Whether you fall into a risk category or not, the key to managing a mood disorder like depression or anxiety is learning to recognize the symptoms including common ones:
- Shock, denial or disbelief.
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating.
- Anger, irritability and general mood swings.
- Feeling fearful or anxious.
- Guilt, shame and self-blame.
- Social withdrawal.
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
- Feeling numb or disconnected.
People suffering from anxiety and depression may exhibit one or more these symptoms, although they may not experience them every day. It is not uncommon for these conditions to begin taking over a person's life at some point, making it hard for them to function from day to day. For many, the key is to find a way to heal from an emotional trauma that is contributing to the depression and anxiety.
Finding Ways to Heal
There is no easy answer to conquering either one of these illnesses, alone or combined, but there are things you can do to help yourself.
Seek a Strong Support System
Building a strong support system is where it all starts. Talk to others about your fears and your sadness. A few people you can turn to for support:
- Your primary care doctor.
- A licensed counselor.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or having an anxiety attack, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at (800) 273-8255.
Double Down on Self-Care
Self-care is a powerful tool when fighting depression and anxiety. It is really up to you to find ways to control your moods and feel better. How you treat yourself has a big influence on how you feel. Start by developing healthy and smart daily habits. Focus on
- Good hygiene.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Finding a diet that helps to energize you.
Add to that putting yourself in safe and healthy home and social environments, those that are uplifting and calming, as opposed to stressful or depressing. Reassess your relationships to determine whether they are supportive and help you move forward. Avoid people and situations that bring you down or foster negativity.
Look for ways to express your feelings openly, as well. For some people, it can be something as simple as keeping a journal to chronicle your thoughts. Consider a creative outlet that not only allows you to channel your feelings but works to distract your thoughts and relax you at the same time. Hobbies like painting, drawing, photography and even singing are all valid expressions that can help improve how you feel not just about yourself, but about the world in general.
Gather some self-soothing tools to help during bad episodes:
- Mindfulness techniques that engage the senses. Mindful cooking and eating, soothing touch and relaxing smells. Something as easy as floating in a bathtub full of water can calm your nerves and lift your spirits.
- Get moving. Exercise is the body’s natural mood enhancer. Cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good. Go out and take a walk or bike ride when you are feeling down. It's an effective way to offset a bad day.
- Master some relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing exercises, take a bubble bath or practice tensing every muscle in your body individually and then slowly letting go of that tension.
- Make a connection. Today's world is full of opportunities to connect. Go online and chat with a friend via social media. Share a picture that inspires you and just talk about life in general. Call a family member to engage your support system, too.
If you prefer a little time away from home, how about volunteering at the nearest animal shelter or food kitchen? You can give back and help others along the way. That feeling of sharing your time is a useful way to keep your mood stable and your mind clear.
Keep in mind, there is no easy answer to healing. One day you will feel good, but the next one brings back all those feelings you thought were gone. Learn to process your feelings as they happen and understand that things are what you make of them. There is no rule that says you have to feel anything but what you do as long as you address how you feel.
Moving forward is the hardest part of managing depression and anxiety. These moods become familiar to you, so you latch onto them instead of facing the uncertainty that healing brings. Break free of that comfort zone and move on to good mental health and happiness by first learning the signs of depression and anxiety and then how to leave them behind.