By Cecil Ellis
Depression and anxiety are sometimes hard to tell apart. While they may seem like completely different conditions, chronic depression can hide anxiety, while people who suffer from general feelings of anxiety may actually be experiencing a symptom of depression.
Further, when people begin treatment for depression, the new focus on underlying issues sometimes causes anxiety symptoms, such as frequent heart palpitations, agitation and feelings of nervousness.
Which is it?
This can make it more challenging to decide whether the main issue is depression or an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms that are the same in both conditions include obsessive thoughts or rumination, panicky feelings, stomach upset and racing heartbeat.
Symptoms like sadness, lethargy, hopelessness and lack of motivation are more characteristic of depression than anxiety.
Anxiety may be caused by depression
Many times anxiety escalates because of depression and the behavior associated with being depressed.
For instance, if depression causes a person to become isolated, he or she may become anxious about being alone.
Depression-related anxiety can also result from financial worries due to the inability to concentrate and work effectively while depressed.
Students who suffer from depression may experience anxiety about grades.
What to do about anxiety and depression
Since anxiety and depression are related, they are often treated in similar ways.
If medications are prescribed, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be used because these medications target the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood.
People with higher levels of serotonin experience less depressive symptoms and fewer feelings of anxiety.
However, some medications for depression may make symptoms of anxiety worse because raising serotonin levels too much causes a condition called serotonin syndrome which may increase anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety and depression both interfere with the limbic system of the brain – the area that regulates mood.
Chemicals like serotonin and others, which are called neurotransmitters, create “good” feelings.
When the brain cannot produce these chemicals for one reason or another, feelings of happiness and contentment diminish and feelings sadness, lethargy, anxiety and agitation increase.
The goal, then, is to keep levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters high. While medications can be helpful in this regard, you don’t necessarily need them.
Lifting Mood the Natural Way
Levels of serotonin increase when you exercise, eat a healthy diet and spend time outdoors.
That’s why regular exercise and healthy eating habits are so important for people who suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders.
Interestingly, changing the way you think can also raise serotonin levels, which is why counseling and psychotherapy are often helpful.
Since the mind and body are closely connected, exercises that target both, like yoga, meditation and tai chi, can do wonders for people who suffer from chronic symptoms of depression and anxiety.
These practices work by calming the mind so that extremes of emotion can be avoided.
Guided meditation and hypnosis are forms of mind-body therapy that focus on guiding you to change the thinking habits that contribute to negative emotions.
In some cases, herbal remedies can be beneficial to people who suffer from minor depression or anxiety.
One of the most common herbs for depression is St. Johns Wort, but there are many other herbs as well as other nutritional approaches to boosting mood and alleviating anxiety.
[St. Johns Wort is available from HBC Protocols]
Cecil Ellis is a psychologist and nutrition specialist who personally dealt with depression for nearly 20 years, and through his research developed a way to shift your focus and change your mindset, to re-gain control over your thoughts and feelings.
See more articles by Cecil Ellis.
More information about natural ways to beat depression and anxiety can be found in his free ebook (PDF): Tips To Treat Depression
and his ebook program:
Will Smith photo from article Building self-confidence: changing limiting beliefs and helping others.
See related site: Anxiety Relief Solutions – Multiple drug-free self-help products and programs to relieve social anxiety, stage fright, performance anxiety and other forms of stress and anxiety.
Facebook page www.facebook.com/AnxietyReliefSolutions