World Mental Health Day: Do you also think anxiety and depression are the same?
Most people use the terms ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’ in a synonymous way, but they are not interchangeable. Although there is a similarity, there is a marked difference between the two. Emotions are not conscious and can only be felt through the emotional experiences they give rise to. They manifest in the unconscious or subconscious mind. Feelings emerge from both physical sensations and emotional experiences. They are a conscious experience and may be based on thoughts and perceptions. Similarly, anxiety and depression are two different mental health issues.
Mental health issues: All depression is not anxiety
The most common mental health concerns people suffer from are depression and anxiety. While these two share several key signs, all depression is not anxiety. For instance, irritability is a common symptom of anxiety. Some people with depression are also more irritable than sad.
What is depression?
It is normal to feel low, sad or hopeless in situations that are painful or difficult. However, if the feelings of emptiness or sadness persist for more than two weeks, they are signs of depression, especially when positive events or improvements in the environment are unable to uplift the mood.
This mental health disorder is characterized by a loss of interest in activities, restlessness, irritability, anger, a sense of feeling slowed down, lack of energy, changes in appetite and weight, gastrointestinal concerns, sleep problems, etc. Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of suicide, dying or death.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized by persistent and excessive fear and worries about day-to-day operations. One often experiences rapid breathing, fast heart rate, sweating and tiredness when anxious. The mental health condition is part of one’s response to stress. The main signs of ongoing anxiety include physical restlessness, irritability, sleep problems, a sense of dread, panic, or doom, persistent fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty managing fear and worry.
The overlap between anxiety and depression
At times, depression and anxiety can co-exist. Depression can be triggered by a panic disorder or constant anxiety, and anxiety can be a symptom of depression. Although not everyone with anxiety, depression, or both conditions will undergo the same set of symptoms, there are several overlapping symptoms of the two.
The symptoms one can experience with depression or anxiety include changes in energy level, stomach issues without a clear cause, pains and aches, increased irritability, difficulty with memory, focus, and concentration, and changes in sleep patterns.
Depression vs anxiety: How are they different?
Depression and anxiety are types of mood disorders. The core symptoms are the major differentiators between the two conditions. Depression brings a persistent feeling of sadness. One tends to lose interest in the activities one once loved, and there is a lack of energy. Some people with depression even desire to hurt themselves.
Also, read: Hypnosis for anxiety, depression and fear: Does it work?
Anxiety constitutes severe, uncontrollable worry or fear. Depending on the degree of anxiety and type of disorder, one can experience worry during everyday activities like meeting new people.
5 tips to cope with depression and anxiety to maintain positive mental health:
Things that help one live well can improve physical and mental health. Self-care helps reduce stress, lower the chances of illness, and increase energy. Setting aside a little time for self-care in daily routine can leave a significant impact. Some activities for self-care include exercising regularly, prioritizing sleep, practicing gratitude, focusing on positivity, etc.
Meditation produces a tranquil mind in a deep state of relaxation. During meditation, one eliminates all jumbled thoughts crowding the mind and causing stress by focusing on breathing. The activity improves physical health and emotional well-being.
3. Maintain a journal
A journal is a helpful tool to manage mental health. It helps to deal with overwhelming emotions by expressing them in written form. Journaling helps to control symptoms and uplift the mood by prioritizing problems, concerns, and fears, identifying negative thoughts and behaviours, and indulging in positive self-talk.
Mindfulness, as a tool, helps to manage mental health and overall well-being. It is a way of paying attention to the present moment with the techniques of yoga, breathing, and meditation. Through such mindfulness practices, one can become more aware of feelings and thoughts and instead of getting overwhelmed by them, become more capable of managing them.
5. Mental health experts
If symptoms are severe and distressing, one must seek professional help. Support groups, psychologists, and psychiatrists work with individuals, groups, families, and communities to assess the problems. One must honestly share their feelings and emotions with the experts to receive the appropriate therapy and medication for treating the mental health disorder.
The bottom line
Depression and anxiety can feel overwhelming, especially if one lives with both conditions or doesn’t know which one is causing the symptoms. But it is easy to find relief and support for the distress that lasts more than a few days or impacts daily life. One can start with self-care, meditation, and mindfulness practices and schedule a meeting with a specialist if there is no improvement.