Life events can trigger emotional extremes such as the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, marriage, divorce, empty nesting or loss of a job. In the midst of dark or elated high days, many struggle to determine if it’s just a case of the blues, occasion for joy or the sign of a mental illness. It’s the persistent feelings of helplessness or anxiousness that raise red flags.
Differences between Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety disorders and depression are different illnesses. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) those with depression can experience similar symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability and problems sleeping and concentrating. However, each disorder displays its own emotional and behavioral symptoms and has its own causes.
Three main types of depressive disorders exist and treatment varies for each of the different disorders.
- Major depression
A person will likely experience one or more episodes of severe symptoms that negatively impact one’s ability to work, sleep, eat and generally enjoy life.
- Persistent depressive disorder
Symptoms of a depressed mood last longer than two years for those with this type of depressions and may include shorter or less frequent episodes of major depression.
- Bipolar disorder
Most characterized by cycling mood changes--from extreme lows to highs--bipolar disorder has been referred to as "manic-depressive disorder".
A temptation to self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs can often draw in those suffering with a depressive disorder. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, and the withdrawal symptoms (even the day after a binder) can worsen depression symptoms, according to a PsychCentral article. Also, it is dangerous to mix alcohol with antidepressant medications.
Anxiety can help up prepare for big events or stay out of harm’s way. However, anxiety disorders are characterized by extreme instances of anxious feelings that interfere with day-to-day living. When this anxiousness occurs for more than six months or more, the condition can worsen. These most common anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
“Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Additionally, anxiety disorders can occur with other mental illnesses such as depression and alcohol or drug abuse. Substance abuse can mask or worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Identifying signs of depression
Young beautiful woman with depression. Depression can present itself differently for different people. However, depression is likely present when one or more following symptoms occur for extended periods of time and often daily:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Depression symptoms in children and teens
Growing up can be hard and it’s likely that most children will feel blue or down at some point in childhood or adolescence. When symptom of depression persist longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life, seek the help of a medical professional. Symptoms for children with depression are similar to those listed above but may also include:
- Sadness or irritability
- Aches and pains
- Refusing to go to school
- Being underweight
With teenagers, symptoms may also include using drugs or alcohol, change in eating habits, sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in activities, and avoidance of social interaction. Depression can occur with other mental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorder or substance abuse.
Depression symptoms in elderly adults
Depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults. It is not a part of growing old, yet older adults may hesitate to seek help. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of depression may be different or less obvious in older adults, including:
- Memory difficulties or personality changes
- Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems, aches or loss of interest in sex, which are not caused by a medical condition or medication
- Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
- Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men
- When to see a doctor
Depressive and anxiety disorders often get worse as time goes by. If you, your child or an elderly loved one are experiencing signs of depression, see a doctor as soon as possible. Untreated depression or anxiety can lead to more serious mental illness or even suicide. Please talk to someone you trust. Know that Goshen Health is always here to help.