When Depression and Anxiety Occur Together
It is possible to have both depression and anxiety at the same time. Many people with anxiety go through bouts of occasional depression.
Depression and Anxiety
Symptoms of depression and anxiety often co-occur in certain disorders. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health,1 major depression often accompanies panic disorder and other anxiety disorders. While depression and anxiety have distinct clinical features, there is some overlap of symptoms. For example, in both depression and anxiety, irritability, decreased concentration and impaired sleep are common.
It is not uncommon to experience occasional and brief periods of feeling down and anxious. These episodes are not usually a cause for concern, and once passed, you are able to resume life as usual.
If you suffer from depression and anxiety and your symptoms are present for more than two weeks, frequently recur, or are interfering with how you live your life, it’s time to get help.
We’ve all felt “sad” or “blue” at one time or another. Rare bouts of depression2 that last only a few days are usually not a problem for most people. But, clinical depression—the type that people seek help for—is a different story. The DSM 53 uses the term “major depressive disorder” to classify and diagnose clinical depression. Major depressive episodes are the hallmark features of this type of depression. These episodes are characterized by extreme symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.
Clinical depression, or a major depressive episode, can include any of the following symptoms2 :
feeling sad most of the time
feeling tired or having low energy most of the day
loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
changes in appetite, weight loss or weight gain
feeling helpless or hopeless
unexplained headaches, stomach problems or muscular/skeletal pain
thoughts of death or suicide
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Clinical Depression: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Anxiety is a normal human experience. In fact, it is considered a beneficial response in certain situations. For example, dangerous situations trigger anxiety in the form of a fight-or-flight stress response that is necessary for our survival. Or, sometimes anxiety gives us the necessary push we need to get things done.
While it’s pretty clear that anxiety is normal and even beneficial, for some people it becomes a problem. And, when anxiety becomes a problem, the effects can be physical, emotional and behavioral. Your symptoms may lead to an anxiety disorder if they are1 :
severe or last a long time
out of proportion to the situation at hand
causing extreme behaviors (i.e., avoidance) to reduce the anxiety
It should also be noted that anxiety can be a central aspect of depression, causing an anxious or agitated depression.
Tips for Coping and Living Well With Anxiety
Symptoms of depression and anxiety are treatable. Studies1 show that medications and/or psychotherapy (talk therapy) are effective for most individuals.
As the name implies, antidepressants are used for the treatment of depression. It is now clear that in addition to improving one’s mood, antidepressants also have an anti-anxiety effect. Antidepressants are believed to affect certain (chemical messengers) in the brain, resulting in a better mood and less anxiety. Today, antidepressants are the usual choice of medication intervention for major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be successful in treating depression and anxiety disorders. CBT combines the fundamental concepts of behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy.
The term “cognitive” refers to our thought process and reflects what we think, believe and perceive. Put together, CBT4 focuses on our behaviors and thoughts and how they are contributing to our current symptoms and difficulties.
MedlinePlus. Anxiety. December 3, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. February 2018.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington (D.C.): American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.
Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJ, Sawyer AT, Fang A. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognit Ther Res. 2012;36(5):427-440. doi:10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1