Saturday, September 26, 2015

Life with an anxiety disorder - Part IX: Anxiety and depression

You know, I may have dropped a hint here and there, but I never really talked about depression past anything but a hint in this blog. Yet, while I don't know the statistics, from my personal observations I have been under the impression that everyone who is diagnosed with an anxiety also seems to be diagnosed with depression, and vice versa. So in a series about life with an anxiety disorder it is a subject that seems unavoidable.

Depression, of course, is the most diagnosed mental disorder on the planet, and I reckon everyone who reads this either has this diagnosis him- or herself or knows someone who does. Probably more than one someone. And what do you know? It's been on my list of diagnoses for a long time, as well. My latest one is "recurrent depressive disorder, current episode moderate", from when I was in therapy a few months ago. So apparently that means I have ups and downs in life. Everyone kind of does, but I have it on paper. And could get antidepressants for it if I was interested in those.

Personally of course I have never really seen myself as a person who suffers from depression per se. For me, the symptoms that lead to the diagnosis are all directly related to my anxiety disorder, specifically the social anxiety and the agoraphobia with panic disorder things, because if you don't leave the house and don't talk to people, life does get kind of bleak. And on the other hand, the more time I spend outside and among people, the less I feel any sorts of symptoms that could indicated a depressive disorder. So it really is more of a side-effect that any sort of illness I have. People who actually do suffer from depression do so no matter how much time they spend outside the house or with other people. They're just depressed. The bleak mood I get when I spend too much time alone in my four walls is not something I would classify as such.

I've met a lot of people who just seem to be miserable no matter what they do, and don't find any enjoyment in anything. I do not really know what causes this, and from what I've learned doctors really are clueless, too. For those people, from the other side of the spectrum, it seems that anxiety always comes as a side-effect. As they grow more and more detached from life, they become more and more scared by even the smallest things. Like I wouldn't consider myself as someone suffering from a depressive disorder, I wouldn't consider these people as suffering from an anxiety disorder, for them, the anxiety symptoms are a side-effect of their depression as the depressive symptoms are a side-effect of my anxiety. But through these side-effects, these two issues always seem to be linked. The ethics of doctors turning the side-effects into a full-on separate diagnosis of course are questionable, but generally symptoms seem to be related.

What I do know about treatment is that anxiety is always the best starting point because it is very straight-forward to treat. Face your fears and learn to live with them. That of course is ideal for me as someone with mainly anxiety issues who only gets depressive symptoms on the side, but I think it is also a good starting point for those who mainly suffer from a depressive disorder and only get the anxiety symptoms on the side. Get rid of the latter, even if your depression might be unaffected. There's actually a good chance that it will be affected. Positively. Anyone with anything in the anxiety spectrum, whether it be the main thing or a side-effect of something other, should always work on that first, because it's the most effectively treated when backed up with the will to do so. Lesson one: Learn to not be scared. Everything else you can deal with afterwards, and will be a lot easier to deal with at that point.

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