Anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses in the US, and their prevalence is rising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of people in America exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression since 2020.
Anxiety and depression can each have a profound impact on work, school, relationships, and personal life, so it can be valuable to receive a proper diagnosis to take steps to manage your mental health. One of the first steps in reaching out for support may be understanding whether your symptoms align with those commonly associated with anxiety and depressive disorders.
The Differences Between Anxiety And Depression Symptoms
Anxiety and depression-related symptoms may take different forms depending on age, gender, socialization, cultural background, and personal differences unique to each individual. For example, in men, anxiety and depression can manifest as anger, irritability, and reckless behavior. Women might be more likely to exhibit symptoms like feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and persistent fatigue. Symptoms can vary in children and young adults from separation anxiety and clinginess to defiant behavior and trouble in school.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression
While mental illness varies from person to person, there are a few common signs of depression in men, women, and non-binary individuals, as well as psychosomatic symptoms to look for. The following are common symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Excessive worrying can be a common symptom of anxiety which may also occur with depression. While some worry may be a regular part of everyday life, people going through anxiety experience excessive worry, including about subjects that others might not find significant. These worries are often intrusive and can affect your thoughts and emotions even when you try multiple techniques to avoid them.
Feeling Restless Or On Edge
Feelings of unexplained restlessness and tension can be another common symptom of anxiety. Restlessness can include a sense of impending doom or disaster, sometimes accompanied by fear or panic. These feelings can be concentrated on a specific event, like the loss of a job or a natural disaster, or they can be abstract. If you feel like you're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, you may be living with an anxiety disorder. These feelings can also occur with depression when an individual feels bored or struggles to complete tasks they may have once enjoyed.
Muscle tension is a physical symptom often accompanying mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. This constant tension can leave you feeling sore and physically exhausted, even when you haven't been physically active. This prolonged tension can often be the source of chronic pain and other recurring illnesses. Consult your primary care physician for support if you're concerned about your muscle tension.
Feelings Of Worthlessness
People living with depression and anxiety often experience a persistent feeling of worthlessness and low self-esteem. This feeling can be general or related to a specific area, such as work, school, or personal relationships. While many people go through periods of self-doubt and uncertainty, the symptoms experienced by those coping with depression tend to be more intense and persist regardless of external factors.
Like feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt can be another common symptom of depression. People may feel guilty for actions they have or haven't taken, often dwelling on past actions to an unhealthy extent. People can also feel guilty about their mental illness and how it affects their personal and professional lives.
These feelings of guilt can be 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 may be valuable to reach out to a licensed therapist if you're experiencing it.
Withdrawing From Family And Friends
If you withdraw from relationships with friends and families, you could be going through depression. Those living with depression often remove themselves from otherwise happy, healthy relationships and struggle to form new connections with others.
These individuals may feel like a burden to those who care about them or feel too exhausted and overwhelmed to manage more social interaction. Lack of close relationships can also be a factor that leads to depression. Regardless, social withdrawal can often further exacerbate existing mental illness because humans biologically need connections with others to stay healthy.
Mental illness often accompanies reckless behavior, including increased substance use and unsafe sex. Symptoms might also include risk-taking activities like reckless driving or getting into physical conflicts. More common in men than in women, these behaviors can often be dangerous in addition to acting as a warning sign of mental health issues. Consider seeking support if you find yourself drawn to reckless behaviors regardless of the consequences.
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
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 negatively impact your professional and personal life. While chronic fatigue can have other medical causes, including autoimmune disorders and other issues, it can be worth having a professional check to ensure you aren't experiencing a mental illness.
Changes In Sleep Patterns
Another frequent symptom of depression and anxiety is a significant change in sleep patterns. These changes might mean you're getting more sleep than in the past and finding it challenging to stay awake throughout the day. It can also manifest as persistent difficulty sleeping and insomnia.
Other common sleep-related symptoms could be trouble falling asleep or waking up earlier than usual. After a stressful or traumatic life event, it can be common to experience disruptions to your sleep. If these symptoms persist, however, you might be living with a mental health condition. Difficulties with sleep can also have an outsized impact on the rest of your day, making it a beneficial symptom to combat.
Changes In Appetite
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 like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, which can be dangerous.
Anger And Irritability
Anger and irritability can be common symptoms of major depression and anxiety, often among men. These symptoms can also significantly impact your relationships with others, potentially making it more difficult to seek support.
While depression and anxiety are mental illnesses, they can often have persistent physical symptoms. Physical pain, including headaches, cramps, and muscle soreness, may accompany 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 health condition.
While it may be normal to experience sadness and melancholy after significant life events, feeling constantly sad could signify a more serious concern. Whether you find yourself in the throes of despair or feel like you're in a bad mood all the time for no apparent reason, you could be experiencing depression or anxiety.
If you're struggling to concentrate on the task at hand and instead find yourself constantly worrying about other topics 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 tasks like preparing meals or completing household chores.
One of the most serious symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety and depression can be suicidal ideation. This symptom can take the form of persistent suicidal thoughts or plans to attempt suicide.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also offers an online chat for those with an internet connection.
What Does It Mean If You Have The Above Symptoms?
While any of these symptoms taken individually may or may not be a sign of mental illness, if you're experiencing several of the above symptoms, consider taking an anxiety or depression screening with your doctor or a therapist.
While these mental health conditions are common, they are also treatable through various methods, including anxiety or depression therapy and medication. The American Psychiatric Association notes that most individuals treated for depression experience a reduction in their symptoms.
When you're struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression, leaving the house or organizing appointments can be difficult. In these cases, it may be beneficial to reach out to a therapist online through a counseling platform like BetterHelp. With an online platform, you can specify your needs upon signing up and get matched with a therapist unique to your preferences. In addition, you don't need a diagnosis to get started.
Online-based therapy interventions have grown in popularity in recent years. They can be utilized to manage a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression. One study found that an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy program successfully treated symptoms of anxiety and depression, reducing their prevalence and severity similarly to face-to-face therapy.
Consider seeking support from a professional, like a licensed online therapist, if you struggle to cope with mental health concerns. A therapist can offer you new techniques for coping with depression that may help you develop lasting symptom remission.
What are five symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms often emerge differently in frequency, length, and severity for each person. Five of the more common symptoms of anxiety disorders, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), include:
- Overwhelming Fear/Worry
- Sleep Disturbances
- Trouble Concentrating
- Muscle Tension
Is depression a side effect of anxiety?
Just as an anxiety disorder isn’t the same thing as “being stressed,” depressive disorders aren’t simply a “sad mood.” Depression isn’t considered a side effect of anxiety; however, the two are typically interrelated, and often, anxiety and depression affects individuals in tandem. Factors that facilitate the relationship between major depression and anxiety may include genetics and heritability, psychological factors, and environmental circumstances. It is important to note that people who experience depression don’t always have symptoms of anxiety, and vice versa.
How do I know I have anxiety?
Because the terms are often used interchangeably, some people experience severe anxiety for months or even years but don’t get help until something happens that they can’t dismiss as stress. There are some telltale signs to signal that your symptoms may be caused by more than stress:
- Your worry is severe enough to interfere with daily life.
- Your worry extends to things unrelated to conflicts you may be experiencing at the time. For example, you may be worried that you’re running late for work— but at the same time, you’re also worried that you’ll be excluded from the weekend gathering your friend is organizing.
- You’re having difficulty concentrating, or your mind keeps “going blank.”
- You’re having difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- You can’t shake the preoccupation with worry and fear, even when engaging in activities you once found relaxing.
Remember that anxiety is a severe condition that should be diagnosed by a mental health professional. If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, reach out to a therapist for help.
What is the main cause of anxiety?
For most, there is no singular cause of anxiety— it’s typically a combination of factors. It may be caused by a physical condition (particularly if there’s chronic pain), traumatic or stressful events, substance abuse, and heritability.
How to calm down anxiety?
While therapy is the front-line treatment for anxiety, It is possible to learn coping skills, reduce symptoms, and effectively manage anxiety on your own. Some of these include:
- Take care of your physical health by getting regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and eating a healthy diet.
- Try relaxation activities like guided meditation and yoga.
- Spend time with supportive friends and loved ones.
- Engage in creative activities you enjoy.
- Learn something new. Learning to play an instrument, speak a foreign language, or hone a new skill can be calming and rewarding.
- Participate in social events in your area or engage in volunteer work. This can be through a meetup group, continuing education opportunities, the faith community, or social activism.
Can anxiety make you dizzy?
Yes, dizziness can be a symptom of anxiety. Common anxiety symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and blood pressure changes can all result in light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, and tingling in the feet and hands.
Can I heal my anxiety without drugs?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective method for treating anxiety, but in severe cases, mental health professionals may recommend pharmaceutical intervention. However, treatment with medication isn’t always the best option for some people. In these cases, there are some proven ways to help manage symptoms of anxiety without medication.
For example, there is ample research to indicate that exercise is an effective way to manage anxiety symptoms. In a 2019 article, the American Psychiatric Association outlined the benefits of exercise in treating and preventing anxiety. In it, the APA states that not only does exercise reduce anxiety symptoms for people with the disorder, but regular exercise is also associated with lower rates of new symptom onset.
Dietary habits can have an impact, as well. A 2021 review of 1,541 studies published in the National Library of Medicine reports that “there is evidence of an association between healthy eating patterns and reduced anxiety symptoms.”
Numerous studies point to meditation as an effective way to treat anxiety without medication. One such study published in 2022 measured symptoms of 276 participants diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Half the participants received medicinal intervention, and the other half engaged in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. At the end of the study, researchers found that each group reported the same reduction in symptoms.
Is anxiety a form of mental illness?
Yes, anxiety is considered a mental health condition. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and selective mutism.
Can lack of sleep cause anxiety?
There is ample evidence of a bi-directional relationship between sleep and anxiety— meaning that anxiety can lead to sleep disruptions and sleep problems can cause anxiety in some individuals.
Who is at risk for anxiety?
Anxiety affects people from all walks of life, but there are risk factors that may increase an individual’s chances of developing the condition. A few examples include:
- Exposure to physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events during childhood
- Having blood relatives with depression or anxiety.
- Having a history of family attempting or committing suicide.
- Having another mental disorder.
- Exposure to a traumatic life experience such as the death of a loved one, witnessing extreme violence or combat, living through a natural disaster, or divorce.
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