Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in America? About 40 million Americans have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Depression is also common, affecting about 20 million adults in this country. Despite being so common, anxiety and depression aren’t often talked about. Here are some inspiring and surprising facts about anxiety and depression you may not know.

1. Both anxiety and depression affect how you feel and think. And how you handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

Most of us feel overwhelmed and even panicky at times. Especially lately, with the global pandemic.

Uncertainty tends to cause unsettling feelings. So does focusing on bad things that could happen in the future. I call future oriented thinking “What if’ing”. “What if’ing” easily leads down a rabbit hole of negative, catastrophic thoughts. And can cause anxiety or depression to skyrocket.

For our cavemen and cavewomen ancestors, “what if’ing” had major survival benefits though. It allowed our species to continue! Assuming or predicting the worse possible outcome kept our ancestors safe. As in better safe than sorry.

2. For some of us, anxiety or depression is temporary. For others, episodic or constant.

Another fact about anxiety and depression is that they show up in different forms. Examples of anxiety disorders include OCD, Phobias, Post traumatic Stress, Generalized Anxiety, Social anxiety, or some combination of any of them. Depression can be chronic and low grade, intense and episodic, related to a medical condition, or some combination thereof.

3. The good news is anxiety disorders and depression are completely treatable. Unfortunately, only about a third of people receive treatment.

Depression and anxiety are different, but symptoms of both can easily overlap. Feeling irritable, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, and being nervous are common in both.

Depression or anxiety don’t cause the other, but many people suffer from both.

Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both are effective ways to treat anxiety and/or depression. Certain lifestyle behaviors, such as spending time in nature, help with anxiety or depression.

4. So what are the facts about anxiety or depression that are surprising or inspiring?

Well, anxiety can actually help to keep you safe. (Kind of like it did for our ancestors.) For example, say you go for a run alone in the park. Anxiety helps keep you alert to any threat in your surroundings. So if a large, unleashed dog were to run toward you, for example, anxiety would kick in and help you stay safe. Another example is when you are preparing for a presentation, exam, or concert, feeling anxious motivates you to prepare.

As for depression, a benefit may be in what it is communicating to you. For example, maybe it is telling you that something in your life needs to change. Feeling miserable due to work or in your relationship alerts you that it’s time to make some changes.

Be aware though that there is no such thing as a geographic cure. Sometimes the cause of depression is not due to something outside of you, like a job or relationship, but due to pent up feelings.

Anxiety and/or depression are also a normal, understandable response to stressful events – like with what is happening in the world right now with the global pandemic. Anxiety doesn’t have to take over though. Nor does depression. Healthy outlets to express anxiety and depression keep them from festering.

5. Is it anxiety or ‘just stress’? Is it depression or ‘just sadness’?

Distinguishing between normal, everyday feelings and more serious conditions is not easy. Especially if feeling anxious or depressed seems like it’s just who you are.

One way to tell the difference is to keep a feelings journal for at least two weeks. Look back on it and see if there are any themes or indicators to help you recognize patterns.

If you have a family history of anxiety or depression, you’re more likely to experience either or both. However, you don’t necessarily have these conditions, nor are you are destined to suffer.

There are things you can do if you have anxiety and/or depression to help yourself feel better. Exercise, yoga, having a pet, time in nature, and being in therapy are ways people help themselves out of the abyss of depression or the whirlwind of anxiety.

Finding the balance between recognizing all feelings are normal and welcome can be tricky. Feeling anxious or depressed is a natural reaction to what life has in store at times. If however the anxiety or depression last more than two weeks, cause problems in your relationships, health, and/or career, please seek professional help.

You deserve to feel better and live a higher quality of life.

For more information about anxiety or depression, please contact me.