Content Warning: This article mentions self-harm and suicide. If you think you may hurt yourself or someone else, please reach out for help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety and depressive disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that around 1 in 5 Americans might be experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder at some point in the past year, with possibly more going unreported around the world.
However, while some symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders might be well known, other symptoms can be less commonly discussed. Familiarizing yourself with both the common and hidden symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression can help you determine whether it’s time to reach out for help.
Exploring The Link Between Anxiety Disorders And Depression
Anxiety disorders and depression can commonly co-occur, with around 60% of people with anxiety also experiencing symptoms of depression (and vice versa).
While it may not be entirely clear why these disorders can frequently co-occur, psychologists hypothesize that the neurological triggers of anxiety disorders and depression can be similar—or that overlapping symptoms might make it possible for many to meet the diagnosable criteria of both anxiety disorders and depressive disorders.
The co-occurrence of these disorders can make them more difficult to diagnose, especially because anxiety disorders and depression can both cause symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to one’s mental health.
For example, some people who live with depression may tell their doctor that they have been falling down frequently. While falling may be a result of old age or an underlying physical condition, it can be caused by depression.
They can rule out underlying medical conditions and provide you with a diagnosis, as well as a list of appropriate treatment strategies for you to consider.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
People living with anxiety disorders might experience symptoms such as:
- Cold, tingling hands
- Dry mouth (known to many as “cottonmouth”)
- Muscular tension
- Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
- Feelings of overwhelm or sadness
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of fear
- Feelings of “jumpiness” or exhaustion
- Sleeping difficulties
We do want to note: Depending on the type(s) of anxiety disorder(s) that someone might have, one can experience a range of different symptoms. Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be characterized by worry and stress that may not have a specific trigger. People with GAD might experience:
- Feelings of restlessness
- An inability to concentrate
- Trouble sleeping
Conversely, panic disorder can be characterized by intense episodes of physical and neurological symptoms, known to many as panic attacks. Since the symptoms of panic disorder can mimic serious medical conditions, you may want to seek medical attention to ensure you’re physically healthy if you are unsure of your formal diagnosis. Typical symptoms of panic disorder can include:
- Racing heartbeat and chest pain
- A sense of dread or feeling like you’re in danger
- Heart palpations
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal distress (such as nausea, heartburn or diarrhea)
Social anxiety disorder is known by many as an intense fear around social situations. People living with social anxiety disorder may experience the following symptoms:
- Overwhelming worry or fear of judgement
- Excessive sweating
- Clammy skin
- Gastrointestinal distress (such as indigestion)
- Trouble making eye contact
Common Symptoms Of Depression
Also known by many as major depressive disorder, this condition is generally known as a psychiatric disorder characterized by overwhelming sadness that can disrupt daily functioning. The symptoms many people might experience with this condition can include:
- Overwhelming sadness, hopelessness or feelings of worthlessness
- A lack of interest in activities you used to find enjoyable
- Changes in sleeping habits (such as sleeping too little, too much or sleeping during the day)
- Feeling tired or fatigued easily
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Forgetfulness, less attention to detail and difficulty concentrating
- Experiencing guilt, excessive self-blame or feelings of weakness
- Thoughts or actions of self-harm
- Suicidal ideation
If you think you may hurt yourself or someone else, please reach out for help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Common (But Infrequently Discussed) Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders And Depression
Anxiety disorders and depression can cause a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms—but many of them are not talked about. Common but under-discussed symptoms can include the following:
- Gastrointestinal issues: Stress can release hormones that can make it difficult for the body to regulate normal gastrointestinal functioning. This can trigger symptoms such as diarrhea, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, cramps and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Tinnitus: While research is generally unclear on the causal relationship between anxiety disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), studies have suggested that they can be closely linked, and that stress might be a possible trigger of anxiety disorder-related symptoms.
- Skin problems:Anxiety and stress can cause flareups of skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, acne and eczema. Anxiety disorders may also cause itching, burning sensations, rashes or hives.
- Numbness, tingling, or “pins and needles” sensation: These symptoms can be commonly encountered during a panic attack, particularly when the heart rate increases and blood vessels become constricted. Constricted blood vessels can reduce blood flow to extremities, possibly causing temporary tingling or numbness that can feel frightening during a panic attack.
- Phantom smells: Also called olfactory hallucination, phantom smells can be sometimes seen in people who live with anxiety disorders.
- Globus hystericus: Anxiety disorders can cause the sensation of a lump in your throat (technically called globus hystericus). The sensation can make it feel difficult to swallow or breathe, and it can become a medical emergency in rare circumstances. Globus hystericus can result from muscle tension experienced during high periods of stress, and you may be able to reduce the sensation by drinking water or getting some light exercise.
- Dissociation: Dissociation can be characterized by feeling disconnected from your body, floating outside your body or as if you’re living in a dream or video game. It can be frequently experienced by people who have experienced trauma, but it can also commonly experienced by people who live with an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder.
- Dry eyes and blurred vision: Stress, depression and anxiety disorders have been scientifically linked to dry eye, which can cause blurred vision.
- Unexplained physical pain: According to Harvard Health, more than half of people who reach out for help with their depression might also experience physical pain. Common types of pain can include back pain, migraines, gastrointestinal distress and nerve pain.
- Irritability: Many people know that depression can cause sadness and hopelessness, but those are not the only common symptoms. Irritability, or a heightened proneness to anger, can be a very common predictor of psychiatric disorders later in life (including anxiety disorders and depression) as well as a very common symptom of depression.
- Perfectionism: Perfectionism is generally defined as a character trait that can be linked to anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perfectionism can drive extremely high standards and inflexible beliefs, possibly making perfectionists more susceptible to feelings of low self-worth and nervousness.
- Poor temperature regulation:Anxiety can cause sweating, hot flashes, chills, blushing or shivering, which can occur in response to altered heart rate and irregular vasodilation or vasoconstriction.
- Restlessness: Anxiety disorders and depression can cause an uncomfortable need to fidget or move, which can make it difficult to relax, sleep or concentrate.
- Trichotillomania: Also called hair pulling, trichotillomania can develop as a coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Falling frequently: Depression can make people less aware of their surroundings, which can make them more likely to fall. According to Dr. Anne Fabiny, this symptom may be common in older adults.
You generally cannot diagnose depression or anxiety disorders on your own, and these disorders might not get better without help. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, you might consider reaching out to your medical practitioner or an in-person mental health professional. They can use a diagnostic manual (called the DSM-5) to carefully evaluate your symptoms, and a medical practitioner can run blood tests and conduct a physical exam to rule out physical conditions.
After making a diagnosis, they can provide you with a recommended treatment plan. Their recommendation may include pharmaceutical intervention or therapeutic support.
How Can Online Therapy Help?
Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been scientifically suggestedto be an effective way to address depression and anxiety for most people. Even if you do not meet the diagnostic criteria for the mental health condition, you can still reach out for help from a therapist.
If you want to meet with a therapist as soon as possible, you might want to consider online therapy. One hospital reportedly had 880 patients on their waiting list for mental health care in 2022, and many people wait 6+ weeks to see an in-person therapist. In contrast, online therapy providers, like BetterHelp, typically match clients with therapists within 48 hours. It can also be more convenient and comfortable for those who are living with these conditions and who might experience difficulty leaving the home.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
According to a 2017 study, online CBT can effectively address symptoms of many psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder and chronic pain. The literature went on to note that it can often be more cost-effective for both patients and the healthcare system as a whole, connecting people with the support they need more efficiently.
Are You Experiencing Depression Or Anxiety Disorder-Related Symptoms?
If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders (whether they are commonly discussed or not), you might consider reaching out for help. Online cognitive behavioral therapy has been suggested to improve symptoms for most, and it can be generally easier to access compared with in-person therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you know if you are experiencing anxiety?
As is the case with any issue surrounding mental health, it’s always good to speak with a healthcare professional to review your symptoms and, if necessary, to receive a diagnosis.
Most of the symptoms of anxiety include intensely feeling anxiety and fear for one reason or another, even if the cause of the anxiety is something relatively harmless or normal. Sometimes anxiety comes on for seemingly no reason at all.
Anxiety might cause other, less obvious symptoms as well, like an increased heart rate, trouble sleeping, difficult concentrating, and others. Depression and anxiety can both be interconnected as well - that is, if you have depression anxiety may be more likely to occur and vice versa.
The best thing to do if you believe you are experiencing anxiety is to visit a behavioral health center or professional. Behavioral health centers focus specifically on providing mental health and psychiatric care for patients.
If you relate to any of the anxiety symptoms that we’ve discussed in this article, it’s possible that you may be dealing with chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder.
What are the 6 types of anxiety disorders?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the six types of anxiety disorders are as follows:
- Phobias/ Specific Phobias
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder
If you’d like further information about mental illnesses, health topics, anxiety disorders, and what resources are available to you, the United States Department of Health & Human Services has a great list of resources here.
Who gets anxiety disorders depression and how common are they?
Mental health issues are incredibly common across the world, and it’s likely that more people will receive diagnoses as the world becomes more familiar with what mental illnesses can look like.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses that people experience. The symptoms of depression and anxiety can be overwhelming and even debilitating, but they’re so commonplace that we may have trouble identifying them. In fact, anxiety disorders alone affect over 40 million Americans.
Other relatively common illnesses (aside from the depression anxiety discussion above) include post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental illness, taking advantage of behavioral health services like therapy and psychiatry is very important. If you can imagine how an untreated physical illness might worsen and grow over time, you can also apply the same line of thought to mental illness; without the care it deserves, it’s likely to only further impact someone’s life.
What is bad anxiety?
Bad anxiety, or chronic/severe anxiety, is different than the normal type of anxiety we all experience in life. Chronic anxiety may happen for seemingly no reason at all, and it burdens those who experience it on a regular, if not daily, basis.
Those with an anxiety disorder may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, meeting new people or being in new places, and more. Being aware of the way anxiety can manifest itself is a key step in identifying it in yourself and others.
Of course, without treatment, chronic anxiety can get worse over time. Seek out appropriate care from a mental or behavioral health professional (like a therapist). Anxiety can easily spiral out of control and feel like it’s consuming one’s time and life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Taking control back from anxiety is possible, and the first step is to find help if you need it.
How do you calm down anxiety?
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to completely avoid the things in our lives that can trigger anxiety. Luckily, having a specific and strategic plan to calm yourself down and manage your symptoms is usually very effective.
Developing a plan to deal with anxiety in the moment is a big part of what cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is focused on. If anxiety isn’t totally avoidable, the next best thing to do is to learn how to healthily cope with it.
If you need a treatment plan for yourself, be sure to look into what health services are available for you to take advantage of.
How do I get diagnosed with anxiety?
If you believe you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, it’s important that you seek out the medical advice diagnosis or treatment of a healthcare professional.
When you meet with a professional (someone within behavioral health or human services, like a therapist), they will likely go over your medical history, health information, symptoms, and any other additional information needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
Once a diagnosis can be figured out, proper and specific treatment can occur. It’s important that you seek out a behavioral health or mental health professional and don’t rely on self diagnosis, because many mental illnesses can look the same.
If what is actually post traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed as generalized anxiety, for instance, the root of the problem is not addressed or treated and it’s likely that symptoms will persist/worsen.
What do psychiatrists usually prescribe for anxiety?
When dealing with depression and anxiety, a psychiatrist (a professional in the mental/behavioral health field who can prescribe medication) will likely gather some important information to help determine which treatment is appropriate for you.
They may want to know your health information, family history, and specific details about your symptoms. Most people with mental illnesses benefit the most from a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, but it’s always best to follow the medical advice of your health care professional.
Other tools, like self-help activities or support groups, might also help manage your symptoms and boost your mood. Be sure to ask your psychiatrist if you have questions about your medications or how to better treat your symptoms.
Is anxiety a mental illness?
Anxiety is considered to be a mental illness. Mental health issues are often overlooked or considered to be less important than physical illnesses, but this isn’t the case at all.
Whether you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, or any other mental illness. It’s important that you receive the care that you need. Mental health professionals are well equipped to give out the tools necessary to deal with anxiety in the moment and long-term.
Anxiety will likely worsen over time without adequate treatment. That’s why it’s so important to ask for help when you notice that you need it - no one deserves to have to experience the symptoms of anxiety alone.
What is the hardest mental illness to live with?
It’s almost impossible to say which mental illness or mental health issue is the hardest to deal with. No two individuals or cases of mental illness are the same, and it’s truly not fair to make direct comparisons or deem one person’s experience as worse than another’s.
Depression and anxiety, for example, are both very common, but potentially troublesome, mental illnesses. The fact that they’re common doesn’t make them less deserving of attention and care.
The best way to make even the most severe symptoms of depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or other mental illnesses bearable is to seek out treatment. It might seem impossible to manage your symptoms when you begin treatment, but you can rest assured that it will get better with time, patience, and all the support you can get.
Is anxiety all in your head?
Something people with anxiety may often experience is the feeling that they’re overreacting, making up problems, or perceiving things differently than others (in the “wrong” way). This can, unfortunately, be reinforced by the reactions and misunderstanding attitudes of others. However, anxiety is very real and can be diagnosed as a mental health condition.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of anxiety or have noticed certain things trigger anxiety, it’s not all in your head (at least not in the sense that it isn’t valid, important, or real). Anxiety is a real mental illness, not just a temporary emotion. It can and absolutely does take over the lives of those who deal with it chronically.
If you feel you have difficulty concentrating when anxious, avoid things that make you anxious even when it causes problems, or other symptoms, it’s likely time to speak with a mental or behavioral health professional. Behavioral health focuses on understanding and addressing the way we behave, especially as a result of mental illness.
Support groups are another great resource to take advantage of. In the environment of a support group, you’ll find others who have the same thoughts and concerns. It’s hard to put into words how valuable it can be to understand and realize that you are truly not alone in your experience.
Can you ever be cured of anxiety?
While it may not be entirely possible to be fully cured of anxiety, it is possible to have it so well controlled that it barely interferes with your life.
There are lots of steps that individuals with anxiety must take to deal with their anxiety, and for most, it’s a lifelong effort. Taking advantage of behavioral health and human services when available to you is a great first step when developing a long-term treatment plan.
With the advice diagnosis or treatment of a professional, you can be assured that your health is being monitored and is in the best interest of everyone who’s a part of your care team.Other resources outside health care, like support groups, might also be an important part of treatment for you.
The goal when treating any mental illness is attempting to return one’s life back to normal. Unfortunately, none of these goals are necessarily easy to obtain. Still, with proper treatment and support, it’s likely that you can live a normal and healthy life even while dealing with anxiety.
How long can anxiety last?
Anxiety, for many people, is a long-term mental illness. That means that even with treatment from mental health services or behavioral health services, the symptoms of anxiety may still be challenging or persist.
Fortunately, behavioral health treatment gives you the tools to better handle anxiety even when you’re on your own.
Anxiety can also ebb and flow along with life. As things pick up and become more stressful, you may find that your anxiety spikes. Being aware of how your everyday life may impact your anxiety is another skill you can develop through therapy with a professional.
Can anxiety damage your heart?
Anxiety can have an impact on your physical health over time, especially if left totally untreated, but it’s unlikely that anxiety alone will cause very serious health consequences.
The result of anxiety - certain behaviors or habits - might contribute to your physical health (or lack thereof) over time. It’s important to speak with your doctor about any and all health information questions you have, especially if you’re dealing with chronic anxiety.
What to drink to calm nerves?
For many people, having a warm drink of choice is a great part of a strategic plan to fight depression and anxiety. It’s even more likely to help boost your mood if it’s part of a daily routine - taking the time out of your day to take care of and pamper yourself can actually be very healing. But if you deal with anxiety symptoms, it’s best to avoid caffeine, as caffeine withdrawal can actually worsen your symptoms.
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