Anyone can be vulnerable to anxiety and depression

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Anyone can be vulnerable to anxiety and depression

There are certain people in this world you assume have it all together.  In other words, free from thoughts or feelings of anxiety, depression or panic attacks.  People such as super model Gisele Bundchen who gives the illusion of living in a world of happiness and joy at all times.  In other words, her life has always looked perfect. On the surface, Bundchen seems to have it all. But Bundchen reveals in her new memoir that what may look perfect on the outside can be far different on what is really going on inside. She’s brutally honest in opening up about her suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts in her early 20s. Stories such as hers remind all of us the very real and common mental conditions affecting so many people worldwide. 

She is not the only celebrity to have dealt with mental health challenges. Actress Kristin Bell and professional wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson have both opened up about their struggles with depression. Television and radio host Carson Daly has been very outspoken about his diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. To hear of these individuals tell of their battles to overcompensate with a controversial diagnosis rings so true in how society in general responds to someone with conditions affecting the mind. 

Why does society treat mental conditions differently than other health conditions?  If a person is diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, we tend to rally around them with open support.  But when someone admits they battle depression or anxiety, we often don’t know what to say or do backing away as quickly as possible.  Mental illness stigma remains strong but let’s not forget any one of us at different points in our lives may suffer from these maladies and will want and need all the support we can get.

What is the difference between anxiety and depression?

Each of our life journeys will take unexpected twists and turns with the possibility of throwing you headlong into the throes of overwhelming anxiety and/or depression.  And if that happens, you are not alone. 

Let’s begin with anxiety.  In the United States, up to 40 million adults age 18 and older – 18% of the population - have some type of anxiety disorder.  Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.  Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life and has affected all of us to some degree.  It’s not unusual to feel anxious before taking a test, starting a new job, or moving to a new home but when the anxiety does not go away and becomes worse, then it is a bigger issue.  There are many types of anxiety ranging from generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.  Here are some signs and symptoms you may experience:

·      Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge

·      Easily fatigued

·      Irritability

·      Muscle tension

·      Difficulty controlling worry

·      Sleep problems

·      Intense worries of having a panic attack

·      Anxious feelings of being around other people

·      Feeling self-conscious in front of others

·      Worry of people judging you and staying away from places where there are people

·      Blushing, trembling or sweating around other people

·      Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when being around other people

Depression is a common but serious mental disorder with an estimated 350 million people of all ages worldwide suffering from this condition.  It is a leading cause of disability with more women being affected by depression than men.  Depression affects how you think, act, feel and handle daily activities such as work, sleep, and eating. 

Depression can take various forms and can develop under certain circumstances.  These include:

·      Persistant depressive disorder – lasting for more than 2 years.

·      Perinatal depression – After delivery of a baby a woman may develop full-blown depression with feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion.

·      Psychotic depression – Where a person may have delusions or hallucinations with a depressive theme.

·      Seasonal depression – Occurs with the onset of winter months where there is less sunlight.

The signs and symptoms of depression include:

·      Persistent feelings of anxiety or sadness

·      Feeling hopeless or pessimistic

·      Irritability

·      Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless

·      Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

·      Decreased energy or fatigue

·      Moving or talking more slowly

·      Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still

·      Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

·      Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping

·      Appetite and/or weight changes

·      Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, or death

Who is at risk of developing anxiety or depression?

Anxiety and depression often begin in conjunction with major upheavals in our lives.  Either condition can begin at any age but particularly during childhood or into adulthood.  Older adults can experience these illnesses as they often will co-occur with other serious medical issues such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease.  Medications used to treat physical illnesses may cause side effects contributing to anxiety or depression.  This is where working with a skilled physician who treats complicated illnesses can work out the best treatment strategy to prevent this sort of thing from happening. 

The causes of anxiety disorders can range from genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.  The causes of depression mirror those of anxiety and can also be due to a combination of genetics, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. 

Treatment for mental illness

Of the two mental conditions, anxiety is easier to treat and is considered to be highly treatable.  Yet, only about one-third of people dealing with it actually seek out professional help.  If a person has more than one type of anxiety disorder and if they also suffer from depression, treatment can be more complicated.  Each individual case should be tailored to meet that person’s specific needs so that the treatment is as effective as possible.  Treating anxiety often will include one or a combination of the following:

·      Therapy

·      Medication

·      Complementary and alternative treatment

Treatment of depression, even the most severe cases, can also be treated.  The key is to recognize and get it treated as soon as possible making the effectiveness of treatment that much better.  Depression is usually treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. 

In conclusion

Anxiety and depression are common illnesses that need to be taken and treated just as seriously as any other physical illness.  All of us can be a victim to either or both at the same time, no matter what our status in life is.   When brave people such as Gisele Bundchen, are willing to show their vulnerability talking about their personal strife with mental illness, it gives all of us hope.   The more we become comfortable talking about these conditions making them more normalized, the more people that will end up getting the help they deserve and desperately need. 

Go to http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/treatment to find advice in seeking treatment for anxiety and depression.