Experiencing A "Depression Attack?" How To Cope with Sudden Depression And Anxiety

By: Tanisha Herrin

Updated January 29, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley

Things have been going great for you and feel like you're in a great place in your life right now. But recently, something unexpected happened that left you feeling awkward. Suddenly, you've been hit hard emotionally because whatever happened still bothers you. It's like downfall of mixed emotions came out of nowhere triggering the worst depression episode you've ever experienced.

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Sometimes things happen and you may not expect them to affect you the way that they have. Maybe you're at a point in your life where you're making changes to your lifestyle or taking a new career path. Perhaps your mood takes an abrupt downturn and you feel like things are unbalanced. You've noticed more changes with your mood and experience anxiety at times you didn't in the past.

You try to move forward but feel like your emotions are not getting better. You feel tired, alone, lost and lacking the willpower needed to get things done. You want to stay home and don't want to face anyone. You feel overwhelmed just thinking about completing small tasks. So what happened and what should you do to help yourself cope? The above could be signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety.

First and Foremost: Things Can Improve

It is okay to express such feelings and emotions and you're not the only one to experience sudden onset depression and anxiety. Dealing with emotional highs and lows is a part of life, and it is okay to admit when you're struggling. It can be overwhelming if this is the first time you've experienced such an episode. Even if you don't know what triggered your emotions to go downhill, avoid being hard on yourself. Keeping your emotions hidden from others typically makes things worse.

Have hope that people recover from depression and learn to manage anxiety. Even when you don't feel like doing anything and you feel like your emotions are all over the place, remember these feelings won't last forever. Don't ignore your feelings but choose to do something about them such as journaling, talking to a friend, or seeking professional support. Managing abrupt emotions includes acknowledging what you are feeling and how it's affecting you.

Assess and Identify Your Symptoms

What is a depressive episode?

Assess your symptoms by noting what emotions you experience and when they occur. Keeping a journal of your feelings helps you have an outlet, but also you have details about what you experience as it happens to share with others. In order to see progress dealing with your emotions, be honest. It is okay to admit that you don't know why you are experiencing these symptoms, but it is important to note what you feel and how they affect you.

Symptoms of depression to notice include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Feeling low on energy most of the day or very tired
  • No interest to engage in fun activities
  • Weight gain or loss with appetite changes
  • Unable to focus
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or helpless
  • Aches and pains with no physical cause (like exercise)
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Anxiety symptoms may accompany depression or exist on their own. Those with anxiety may experience behaviors such as:

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  • Irritability
  • Thinking the worst will happen
  • Feeling tense
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Looking out for potential danger

Some physical symptoms of anxiety that may accompany depression or be experienced beforehand include sweating, muscle tension, diarrhea or upset stomach, insomnia, pounding heartbeat, shaking, and shortness of breath.

You'll also want to notice how often your symptoms occur. It is common for people to experience a bout of sadness for a brief period. You'll want to try to recall when symptoms initially started and what you were doing before they set in. How long did the episode last? If you're continuing to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, which symptoms concern you the most? What part of your life has experienced the most disruption because of these symptoms?

Understand How Your Symptoms Affect Daily Living

Think about when you initially noticed depression and/or anxiety was affecting your life. Understanding this aspect is important because it gives a starting point for how your symptoms progressed. How have things changed in your life socially, physically, and emotionally? These details will help you learn actions to consider so you can start feeling better. You'll also get a sense of how to bring up what you've been experiencing when talking with others.

Why Did These Feelings Happen So Suddenly?

So how does depression start? There are possible reasons why depression occurs seemingly suddenly. It may be due to experiencing a traumaticevent, sudden loss of a job or loved one, or while going through a significant change. The brain may experience increased production of certain stress hormones, which allow symptoms to set in slowly until you notice something is different. The symptoms seem sudden, but in reality, your brain chemistry may have been changing in response to stress over time.

Some people may not have a clear trigger event for how depression started. Many notice a difference between who they were before the symptoms and what has changed once they became aware of them. Many can complete daily activities and communicate with others until they feel dragged down. It is important to take action when noticing such changes, especially if they last for a prolonged period of time.

Learn Potential Triggers Of Depression In Yourself

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Sometimes sudden changes in your mood are a result of lifestyle changes or an abundance of stress. Making healthy lifestyle changes may bring stress, such as dietary changes or quitting smoking. Women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) could experience depression symptoms, and since hormonal changes occur during this time,theymay affect the duration of your symptoms. Some people experience depression along with a chronic physical illness.

Changes in personal situations such as divorce, a death in the family, or job loss may also trigger depressive symptoms. Weather patterns are known for affecting people's moods when there is a lack of sunshine or during cold months. Some may experience seasonal affective disorder during spring or fall when sunlight exposure varies and disrupts sleep patterns.

Talk About Your Feelings

Share what you're experiencing with someone you trust. As hard as it may be to open up to someone, it may bring some relief to get support for your feelings. Getting insight from another person puts your situation into perspective. You never know, they may have had something similar happen to them, and they can share what they did to help them move on. If you don't know someone, consider talking to your doctor or therapist. Be open to receiving feedback about your feelings. Think about what they are sharing with you before you respond.

If you talk with a doctor or therapist, you may have questions such as how long depression symptoms can last and what are the most effectivetreatment options. Ask as many questions as you need to help you understand your treatment options and what you can do to cope effectively.

Treatment Options And How To Cope

Research has shown medication and therapy are effective options for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy helps individuals understand their feelings and what causes them. Antidepressants provide relief by improving your mood and reducing anxiety. They help the brain establish chemical balances to prevent or alleviate your symptoms. Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options

Different forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective by assessing personal thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs to provide an understanding of how they directly affect your symptoms.

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No matter the type of therapy that ends up working best for you in your fight against depression, a licensed therapist can develop and implement a plan that fits your circumstances. Online therapy is a convenient choice, and research shows it can play a significant role in reducing depression symptoms. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. On the other hand, individuals in the face-to-face group showed “significantly worsened depressive symptoms” over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment compares to regular face-to-face therapy.

If you're looking for a therapist that fits your busy lifestyle or if you have trouble finding the motivation to attend in-person therapy sessions, consider BetterHelp. BetterHelp’s online counselors are available anytime, anywhere, making it extremely convenient to quickly connect with a licensed professional from the comfort of your own home. You’ll be connected with a counselor who matches your objectives and preferences and has experience treating the type of issues you are living with. Below you can read some reviews from people like you who have been helped by BetterHelp counselors.

“Kate has been a huge help to me this year! She has helped me through a couple of scary life events and has been there for me when I need extra sessions at short notice. I would totally recommend her! I have never felt judged by her. She only gives helpful and practical advice and helps you to find solutions that work for you.”

“This is the first time I really clicked with a therapist! Julia has been a phenomenal help during the uncertainty and stress of 2020. She is supportive, asks great questions, and creates a space where it’s easy to open up. I also appreciate her availability to message on the app. She has been a steady, positive support this year, and I would highly recommend her services!”

Depressive episodes may occur unexpectedly, but there are things you can do to help yourself move forward productively, such as counseling, support groups, therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and exercise. It is important to learn how to tolerate your symptoms and to give yourself time to heal.

Understand the effects of symptoms you're experiencing from depression and anxiety and have a plan in place to help you cope. Don't be afraid to experiment with new ideas to build your coping skills and know you're not alone. Being honest and open with your feelings to others and yourself will put you in a good place to start feeling better again.

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