Are Anxiety and Depression Related? 4 Steps to Take if you Have Both.


Are you suffering from anxiety or depression? Or both? It's helpful to figure out how anxiety and depression are linked. Anxiety and depression can both have genetic, environmental, situational, emotional, and cognitive causes. Many times anxiety is focused in the future (what will go wrong?) and depression is focused in the past (everything has gone wrong.) It can be helpful to start with the cognitive, or thought-based, causes of anxiety or depression. 

Sometimes anxiety can lead to depression. For some people, anxiety is like a train, climbing a hill. Even though going uphill, the train goes faster and faster, as anxious thoughts stoke the fires of the engine. Only when this train reaches the top of the hill, it runs out of track and crashes. Or, in the other words, all the fears, what-ifs, and worries give way to the inevitability that you can't control everything, and this leads to thoughts like "bad things always happen to me" or "I've failed at everything in life." Which in turn leads to feeling depressed. 

If this describes the cycle you go through when anxiety turns to depression, the best way to fix it is to lay down railroad track in a flat valley with no hills ;) And the good new is, with practice, this is something you are very capable of. A few steps are helpful in this process-

1. Recognize when your anxiety train is ramping up. What does anxiety feel like for you? Tightening in the chest? A weight on your shoulders? Upset stomach? What does anxiety look like? Lashing out at family? Unable to concentrate? Make sure you know what your anxiety triggers are. 

2. Work on lowering the flames. When you recognize you are anxious, try keeping a thought log to record your thoughts. Notice if you are using any cognitive distortions, and find replacement thoughts that can help neutralize some of your anxiety. 

3. Lay that flat track. Use meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, etc. to help keep your anxiety low. 

4. Prepare for impact. If you become depressed, have a plan. What helps you get our of your depression? What can you do? Who can you call? Keep a positivity journal that you can refer to when depressed. 

With the right treatment, anxiety and depression are both very manageable. If this train metaphor is helpful, or if you have another metaphor that describes your situation, please let me know!