Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental health issues, with tens of millions of people going through them in the United States alone. While it's common to have emotional ups and downs throughout life, prolonged mental and emotional distress can be a sign of a more serious illness. Anxiety and depression can have a profound impact on work, relationships, and personal life, so it's important to receive a proper diagnosis in order to take the right steps to manage your mental health.
Anxiety and depression can often take different forms depending on age, gender, socialization, and cultural background, as well as personal differences unique to each individual. In men, anxiety and depression often manifest themselves in anger, irritability, and reckless behavior. Women are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression including feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and persistent fatigue. In children and young adults, symptoms can vary from separation anxiety and clinginess to defiant behavior and trouble in school. For older adults and seniors, depression and anxiety symptoms can include memory loss, substance misuse, and loss of interest in hobbies and activities. Many people want to avoid feeling like a burden in these situations, but reaching out for help is often the most powerful thing you can do.
Not sure if you're going through depression or anxiety? While mental illness varies from person to person, there are a few common symptoms to be on the lookout for. The more symptoms you experience and the longer you experience them for, the more likely you are to be dealing with a mental illness like anxiety or depression.
If you find yourself constantly worrying about things, it could be a symptom of anxiety. While some worry is a normal part of everyday life, people going through anxiety deal with excessive worry, even about things that might not otherwise seem very important. These worries are often intrusive and affect your thoughts and emotions even when you try your best to ignore them.
Feelings of unexplained restlessness and tension can be another common symptom of anxiety. This can include a sense of impending doom or disaster, sometimes accompanied by fear or even panic. These feelings can be concentrated on a specific event, like loss of a job or a natural disaster, or they can be more diffuse. If you feel like you're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, you may be dealing with anxiety.
Constantly tense and physically wound up? Muscle tension is a physical symptom that often accompanies mental health issues, including anxiety. This constant tension leaves you feeling sore and physically exhausted, even when you haven't done any other physical activity. This prolonged tension can often be the source of chronic pain and other recurring illnesses, so it's important to nip it in the bud before it becomes more severe.
People dealing with depression often experience a persistent feeling of worthlessness and low self-esteem. This can be a more general feeling or can be related to a specific area such as work, school, or personal relationships. While most people go through periods of self-doubt and uncertainty, the symptoms experienced by those dealing with depression are more intense and tend to persist regardless of external factors.
Similar to feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt is another common symptom of depression. People can feel guilty for things they have or haven't done, often dwelling on past actions to an unhealthy extent. People can also feel guilty about their mental illness itself and the way it affects their personal and professional lives. These feelings of guilt are compounded by the other common symptoms of depression, such as withdrawal from personal relationships and failure to fulfill obligations at work and school. Guilt over symptoms of depression can be a vicious cycle, so it's important to seek help before you're caught in the spiral.
If you find yourself withdrawing from relationships with friends and family, you could be going through depression. People with depression often remove themselves from otherwise happy, healthy relationships, and struggle form new connections with others. They can often feel like a burden to those who care about them, or may simply be too exhausted and overwhelmed to deal with more social interaction. Lack of close relationships can also be a factor that leads to depression, so that social withdrawal can often further exacerbate existing mental illness.
Depression can often manifest itself in reckless behavior, including drug and alcohol misuse and unsafe sex. This can also include risk-taking activities like reckless driving or getting into physical conflicts. More common in men than in women, these behaviors are often dangerous in and of themselves in addition to acting as a warning sign of mental health issues. If you find yourself drawn to reckless behaviors regardless of the consequences, consider seeking help.
One of the most common symptoms of depression and anxiety is fatigue, lethargy, and constant tiredness. If you feel like it's a struggle to get out of bed each morning or do anything other than the bare minimum, it could be a symptom of depression and anxiety. These feelings of tiredness and exhaustion can encompass both physical and mental sensations, and can often have significant negative impacts on your work and life. While chronic fatigue can often have other medical causes, including autoimmune disorders and other issues, it's worth having a professional make sure that you aren't dealing with mental illness.
Here are some questions you can ask your doctor:
Another frequently occurring symptom of both depression and anxiety is a significant change in sleep patterns. This can mean that you're getting much more sleep than you normally would and find it difficult to stay awake throughout the day. It can also manifest as persistent difficulty sleeping, and even insomnia. Other common sleep-related symptoms are trouble falling asleep or waking up earlier than usual. After a stressful or traumatic life event, it's pretty common to deal with disruptions to your sleep. But if these symptoms persist, you could be dealing with a mental health issue. Trouble with sleep can also have an outsized impact on the rest of your day, making it an especially important symptom to combat.
If you find yourself constantly overeating or eating much less than you used to, you could be experiencing another common symptom of anxiety and depression. Changes in appetite often accompany other symptoms like restlessness or fatigue. Anxiety and depression can also occur alongside eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, making them an especially dangerous combination.
Feeling angry all the time even without a clear reason? Anger and irritability are a common symptom of depression and anxiety, especially among men. These symptoms can often also have a significant impact on your relationships with others, making it more difficult to seek help or get support when you need it.
While depression and anxiety are mental illnesses, they can often have persistent physical symptoms. Physical pain, including headaches, cramps, and muscle soreness often accompanies other psychological symptoms. If you're in pain and can't identify a clear physical cause, it could be a symptom of an underlying mental issue.
Another hallmark of depression is a persistent feeling of sadness. While it's normal to experience feelings of sadness and melancholy after significant life events, feeling sad constantly can be a sign of something more serious. Whether you find yourself in the throws of despair or just feel like you're in a bad mood all the time without knowing why, you could be dealing with depression.
If you have trouble concentrating on the task at hand, and instead find yourself constantly worrying about other things or losing focus completely, it could be a sign of anxiety and depression. This symptom can negatively affect work, school, and other areas of performance, and can make it more difficult to perform even basic tasks like preparing meals or completing household chores.
One of the most serious symptoms of mental health issues, suicidal ideation can take the form of persistent suicidal thoughts or even plans to commit suicide. If you're experiencing symptoms of suicidal ideation, be sure to get in touch with a mental health professional right away. You can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline online, or call them at 1-800-273-8255.
While any of these symptoms taken individually might not be a sign of mental illness, if you're experiencing several of the above symptoms, you could be going through anxiety or depression. The good news is that these illnesses are common and treatable through a variety of methods, including medication and therapy.
Are you experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety? Whether you're looking for professional counseling or just need someone to talk to, BetterHelp offers a diverse selection of online therapy services that can provide you the help you need to manage your mental health. Get in touch with us today to learn more.