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  • Writer's pictureWorth Counseling Group

Anxiety + Depression: How to Protect your Mental Health

Anxiety vs Depression

If you ask someone to name two common mental health problems, chances are they will think of anxiety and depression. Despite the fact that they are commonly referenced in conversation, people still struggle sometimes to determine the difference between these two conditions. This is because many people with anxiety also develop depression and vice versa.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or a job interview.

Depression is more than just feeling down, having a bad day, or anxiousness over an exam. It is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

Both are normal emotions to experience, routinely occurring in response to high-stakes or potentially dangerous situations (in the case of anxiety) or disappointing, upsetting circumstances (in the case of depression).

However, for major depression and anxiety, these types of thoughts are persistent most of the day and more days than not for weeks on end.

While depression and anxiety are two different medical conditions, their symptoms, causes, and treatments can often overlap. There are however, some distinguishing features and it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to treat the correct conditions.

Physical symptoms and behavioral changes caused by depression include:

Decreased energy, chronic fatigue, or feeling sluggish frequentlyDifficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recallingPain, aches, cramps, or gastrointestinal problems without any clear cause

Changes in appetite or weightDifficulty sleeping, waking early, or oversleeping

Emotional symptoms of depression include:

Loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbiesPersistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness Feeling hopeless or pessimistic

Anger, irritability, or restlessnessFeeling guilty or experiencing feelings of worthlessness or helplessnessThoughts of death or suicideSuicide attempts

For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, a person needs to have experienced five or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks.

Emotional symptoms of depression include:

Feeling fatigued easilyDifficulty concentrating or recallingMuscle tensionRacing heartGrinding teethSleep difficulties, including problems falling asleep and restless, unsatisfying sleep

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge Difficulty controlling worry or fearDreadPanic

If you’ve experienced these symptoms most days for more than six months, and they cause distress in your daily life, then you may receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. Other types of anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, panic disorder, or phobias, among others.

Protecting Your Mental Health

Mental health is integral to living a healthy, balanced life. Our mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well-being. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each day. It also contributes to our decision making process, how we cope with stress and how we relate to others in our lives.

Protecting your mental health is important because it will help you take care of your physical health, recognize emotional and spiritual needs, foster and sustain strong relationships, and achieve balance in different areas of your life. A good mental health also allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

Connect with other individuals, friends and family.

Reaching out and opening up to other people in your life can help provide emotional support.

Learn more about mental health. There are many resources you can turn to for learning more about emotional health. Some examples include Psychology Today, National Institute of Mental Health, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Talk about your feelings. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.

Keep active and eat well. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.

Take a break. A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.

Accept who you are. We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.

Take a mental health assessment. An assessment can help determine if stress, anxiety or depression may be having an impact on your life. Doctor On Demand offers a free and private online mental health assessment that you can take at any time.

Talk to a professional. If you start to feel like your emotional health is starting to impact you, it may be time to reach out for extra support. With Doctor On Demand, you can see a psychologist or psychiatrist and find the personalized support you want.

Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely. Take action now and continue these expert tips to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life's ongoing challenges.

By: Shelly Killingsworth, LPC


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