Worried it’s hopeless? Sounds like anxiety and depression are buddying up on you. You might find yourself wondering what it means when you’re struggling with both anxiety and depression, and the short answer is this: it means that you’re like 41% of people who’ve struggled with depression or anxiety in the same 12-month period (check out this article for more on this stat).
Think about that for a second… 41% of people who experience anxiety in a 12-month period are also likely to report experiencing depression in the same 12-month period. And while there are a few symptoms that are overlapping (which may explain why one sort of “pulls up” another), there are some symptoms that are specific to each. In that same vein, treatment for anxiety and treatment for depression has some overlap, and there are some strategies in treatment that are specific and appropriate to each.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety: excessive and uncontrollable worry about a lot of different stuff, trouble sleeping/concentrating/relaxing, feeling nervous/anxious/on edge, irritability, and/or an impending sense of doom. Symptoms last longer than 6 months, and been present more than half the days over the past two weeks.
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder: Feeling down/depressed/hopeless, little interest in doing stuff you used to love, sleep disturbances, feeling super tired, appetite issues (over or under eating), feeling bad about yourself/negative self-evaluations, worrying you’ve let people down, moving super slow/being fidgety, and thoughts of suicide or that you’re better off dead. Symptoms are present more than half days over the period of 2 weeks.
Symptoms Overlap – A Process-Based View
Paying lots of attention (in the form of worrying/ruminating) to a time that is not now:
- Anxiety focuses on the future
- Depression focuses on the past
Feeling guilty, ashamed, or believing you’re letting people down
- Anxiety often focuses on who you will let down in the future, and guilt/shame show up as a result
- Depression focuses on who you’ve let down in the past, and guilt/shame show up as a result
- Anxiety we often find ourselves avoiding things that are scary, uncertain, or overwhelming
- Depression we often find ourselves avoiding activities that we used to love or enjoy,
Stuck in Self-oriented Stories
- Anxiety we are often stuck in stories that are predictive and untestable (e.g. planning out the next 23 years at 11:45pm).
- Depression we are often stuck in stories that are explanatory and untestable (e.g. why I made some questionable decision that had a not so great outcome)
Treatment Overlap – A Process-Based Treatment
- Paying more attention to now and the things that matter most to you.
- Reducing avoidance of stuff (whether it’s stuff that scares us or is stuff that used to bring us joy that no longer does). Which is just to say, we want you active and engaged in your life!
- Getting Unstuck from Stories. We start to recognize when Storytelling Mind has been working (read more about my Storytelling Mind, Brenda). Fighting with Brenda is just an un-winnable tennis match!
Ultimately, hopelessness is likely just a symptom of depression, not an actual fact or truth that’s worth paying attention to; and worrying is like a bear trap that keeps you stuck in one spot. You aren’t alone in this struggle, and there is a way forward. You don’t have to go at it alone.