Depression and anxiety are a serious problem for millions of Americans. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 17 million adults suffer with depression in America, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of American reports that more than twice as many (40 million) suffer from anxiety disorders. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., with approximately one out of every 75 people experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks. Fortunately, both depression and anxiety can be treated and managed with therapy.
Anxiety and Panic Disorder
Anxiety is a feeling that most people experience in response to daily stresses and concerns. But ongoing anxiety can cause a serious condition that interferes with day to day life and manifests itself with physical symptoms. Although it is most commonly associated with times and stages of life that are particularly stressful, anxiety can strike anyone at any age. Symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder include:
- Sudden overwhelming fear that appears for no obvious reason
- Changes in heartbeat, such as palpitations or a rapid beat
- Tightening in the chest or throat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty breathing
- Left untreated, anxiety can lead to insomnia, phobias and depression.
Depression is more than feeling sad or upset. Often it is confused with healthy and natural feelings associated with unhappiness or grief over specific events or circumstances, such as the death of a pet or failure to achieve a goal. Usually, sadness begins to dissipate after a few weeks, resulting in an improvement in mood. But when sadness lingers more than two weeks, interfering with daily life and relationships, it could be a sign of depression.
There are many reasons why depression can set in. An inability to process and express feelings and emotions in a healthy way can trigger depression in many individuals. For some, a genetic predisposition to depression results in a lifetime battle with the disease. For others, the condition can be related to hormonal changes or imbalances, such as during menopause or following the birth of a child.
There are many symptoms of depression. Some are more obvious than others, and most patients only exhibit a few characteristics. But accurately pinpointing depression in oneself or in a friend or loved one can be the first step toward recovery. Some of the most common signs of depression include:
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Chronic fatigue
- Unwillingness to socialize
- Loss of appetite
- Significant changes in weight
- Difficulty focusing or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Unlike the flu or other types of illnesses, anxiety and depression do not respond to a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, a combination of therapy and medication is often used, with each treatment customized to the patient’s needs and symptoms. Usually, treatment begins with a consultation with a licensed professional who can help identify anxiety or depression in a patient. Education is essential for overcoming both illnesses, as patients who learn to identify symptoms as they are occurring may better manage their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.
If anxiety is the problem, a therapist may work to identify sources of stress in a patient’s life and provide tips for minimizing pressures and constant worry. Patients learn to disassociate certain thoughts and triggers with the physical symptoms of anxiety, which often minimizes instances and significance of attacks. Patients also learn relaxation techniques to stabilize themselves in stressful environments, effectively breaking down tense situations into manageable steps.
Patients who struggle with depression require professional attention as soon as possible. Depression can become a dangerous illness when left untreated, as depressed individuals often experience a worsening of the disease when feeling isolated. By seeking therapy, a depressed patient can express feelings and learn how to regain control of their own lives in a healthy and productive way. Furthermore, they can also learn skills that will help them avoid future instances of depression too.
If you have questions about therapy for depression or anxiety, please give us a call. We are happy to answer any questions you might have.