Understanding the links between anxiety and depression can be really helpful if you’re on the recovery path.
Please note, I’m no health expert nor teacher. I simply share these posts from my own experience. I write them in the sincere hope they might help someone else take a step closer to finding their own true relief too.
What came first, anxiety or the depression?
If you suffer anxiety and depression, have you ever considered which came first?
From all I have read and researched, I’m unable to find any medical or scientific evidence that confirms what actually links anxiety with depression. It’s commonly agreed there is ‘a‘ relationship, but anxiety is considered a high-energy state and depression a low-energy state, so the complex link(s) just aren’t understood.
What is clear; we are all individual human beings sharing similar physiology and biology. Is it fair to assume then, that we might exhibit similar responses to life’s stresses, risks and threats? Broadly speaking, I believe it is.
Generally, when we’re exposed to pressures, stress and naturally anxious situations in daily life, we nearly all respond the same way. First, we mentally process the situation and then we react emotionally. Finally, our body physically responds, releasing appropriate chemicals to manage our primitive survival functions.
It’s easy to see how extremely complex this can become as situations change and individual sensitivities evolve.
So, in this post, following on from Get Rid Of Anxiety & Panic I’d like to confine things to just the practical links that I came to understand through my own experience.
Understanding the links between anxiety and depression help you prioritise your recovery efforts. – Spike
Before I can explain the link between anxiety and depression, I have to get this off my chest. I feel driven to define ‘anxiety‘ and ‘depression‘ in a no bullshit way. The words seem so widely used, misused and confused today.
I am extremely sensitive to the thoughts, feelings and emotions of anyone reading this who feels low, down, sad, bereaved, hurt, angry, lost, uninspired, demotivated, oppressed, lonely or bullied. Please don’t think my definition excludes you in any way, your feelings are powerful pre-cursors that can lead to deeper suffering over time.
It’s never too soon to let someone know about changes in the way you feel or think, especially if you don’t know the cause. Talking moves the issue out of just your own head and that’s a really positive step forward.
MIND in the UK is a wonderful charity that can help you gauge your needs and it has resources to point you in the right direction. If you live outside the UK please reach out to family, friends, charities or health care providers.
It’s never too soon to let someone know about changes in the way you feel or think. In fact, the sooner, the better – Spike
An ex-sufferers definition of anxiety
So, my definition of panic & anxiety (panxiety, I call it). In a nutshell, it’s pure sheer fear itself!
It is, to often sense impending doom without rational cause or reason. To be unable to socially interact without the physical nerve tingling sensations that accompany any life-threatening terror. Combine this with relentless overthought, so exhausting, you physically feel the daily damage it is doing to your mind, body and soul.
The English language limits our ability to describe this in a word, hence why I accept ‘panxiety‘. This still falls woefully short of helping those who suffer perpetually. Perhaps one day we may better define this condition and the ‘A’ word will be used less freely to describe otherwise predictable, natural emotions.
A definition of anxiety led depression, maybe..
Defining depression is less straightforward. With many different potential root causes including complex mental and physical health conditions, I am simply too inexperienced to speak about it broadly. My definition, therefore, is strictly limited to that associated with someone inseparably suffering panxiety too.
As an ex-sufferer, my honest definition of the depression associated with panxiety? I can’t find one..
I look back now and the panxiety was so overwhelming, depression just felt like a looming shadow, waiting to pounce should panxiety ever give way. Depression wasn’t a problem I associated with, nor had room for.
When asked directly what my primary problem was, I would answer “panic and anxiety..” never depression.
See, depression didn’t cause panic attacks and that felt like the mountain I had to climb.
Did you know?
It’s impossible to be anxious & depressed at the same time.
The links between anxiety and depression
With anxiety being the first physical symptom I could recall and also the primary problem I associated with; could anxiety actually be the whole of the problem? Somehow, might the shadow of depression be a consequence of the highly anxious daily life I was enduring?
I soon realised medication didn’t work for me. Anti-depressants just made me care less about daily life than I already did, and sedatives very quickly stopped being effective at the low dosage I was prescribed.
I believe a significant contributory cause of the depression was the constant stream of Adrenaline, Cortisol and Norepinephrine flooding through my body. I don’t understand the science, but what goes up, must come down, right? I’m simply balancing high-energy anxiety vs low-energy depression here. It’s certainly how it physically felt.
There have been many reputable studies on the prolonged effect of the major stress hormones. In order to better understand the physical links between anxiety and depression, the following reference is a good start.
Adrenaline Levels and Depression • Mental Health Daily
Cortisol is Public Enemy No. 1 • Psychology Today
Norepinephrine A Key Player In Depression • reset.me
There’s no wonder I was considered clinically depressed. Frankly, it would have been more shocking if I wasn’t!
So, there was one very important link to conclude from this jumble. The thoughts that fuelled the anxiety-emotion led to the frequent release of powerful stress hormones. My body could not recover from one release before the next was triggered. So I concluded, anxiety was fuelling the associated depressed state.
If I fixed the anxiety would it erase the depression? In fact, that is exactly what happened!
Could it be the same for you too?
Hopefully, you’ll investigate this over the coming weeks. Truly understanding where you are right now, and where you would like to be, is the essential groundwork. This will gradually unfold as you build your practice.
What I must add is that I believe there are different forms of depression involved here. For now, let’s just call them pre-anxiety and post-anxiety depression. I’ll talk about these in more detail at a future time maybe.
The sad and somewhat scary reality
What truly shocks me, is… I had to work this out for myself, no one even pointed me in this direction.
Doctors freely offer medication to mask symptoms or alter body chemistry. Specialists offer coping strategies, with further advice should that fail. We even receive advice on what to do if we can no longer cope!
So, to me, it just felt like a text-book attempt to classify my symptoms and feed me into the care machine.
It appeared to be a problem no caregiver had experienced themselves nor fully understood. The options were; mask it with medication and/or try to better cope with it. No one ever told me, you can actually dissolve this thing!
I do understand though!
The problem is of such scale and complexity, medication and coping are seen as the least cost, most effective treatments for the masses. With continued government austerity, resource pressures everywhere and the growing social culture of self-first, it’s easy to grasp why providing tailored care just isn’t practical.
Regardless, I am so sincerely grateful for all the human compassion, true kindness and best endeavours. It all led to my realisation that true relief from the cause of this suffering, well, that comes 100% from within.
The happy and somewhat positive truth
I battle with these words simply to let you know, there is a way through. It takes time, consistent effort and an open-minded desire. But, you can recover! No one ever told me this – so I tell you now – YOU CAN RECOVER!
Let me be clear. I define recovery as free from all irrational anxiety, panic and associated depression.
So this is my best endeavour to try and reach anyone suffering as I once did.
I’ll continue to share my experience and introduce exercises you can practice between each post. In time we’ll get to very specific steps, but first, we must identify the issue(s). We must be crystal clear about what we’re trying to resolve. Where are we, right now? and where do we want to be?
Where you are at this very moment, is everything. – Spike
So, homework time – in the somewhat longer post than planned (sorry again!). Note what came first for you? If it wasn’t traumatic, perhaps try going back to think if depression and anxiety were both present back then.
Next, do a little self-study. Research how the human body handles prolonged anxiety, high-stress and the hormones that are responsible for the overwhelming sensations we are all too familiar with.
Study up to the point where you begin to realise how incredible and important this mechanism is. YOU are truly amazing! These biological processes (despite feeling like a curse) are actually what makes us, well, us!
When you begin to appreciate your own nature just a little bit more, your work here is done.
You really can find a way through this!
Please read on with The Alternative To Anxious Living