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Do I have depression or anxiety? Can I have both?

This is not an uncommon question – you most certainly can have both depression and anxiety at the same time.

They are, however, different conditions, even though it’s common for them to happen together. It’s been reported that up to 45% of people who have one mental health condition actually meet the criteria for more than just that one – half of all people with anxiety have depression, and vice versa. The thing with these two disorders is that they share similar symptoms (and treatments). So let’s try to break down both and how to tell between the two.

Depression is more than just feeling a little down and out now and then. Depression carries with it a host of symptoms that manifest physical and emotionally, like aches, pains and cramps; changes in appetite or an increase or decrease in weight; difficulty sleeping; decreased energy levels and severe fatigue; insomnia or hypersomnia; loss of interest in things one used to love; anger, irritability or pessimism; persistent sadness or emptiness; anxiety; thoughts of suicide or death; and in the most severe cases, actual suicide attempts.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is fear and worry that’s more than just the “usual” – it’s when these fears and worries become so debilitating they actually begin to interfere with daily living. When one is anxious, they might feel like their heart is racing; they might grind their teeth; they might feel persistently tired; they may complain of muscle aches or tension; they may not be able to sleep well at night. At the same time, they might be restless, irritable or angry; they may have a hard time controlling that sense of dread in the pit of their stomach; they may have panic attacks.

There are quizzes and self-help tests online, and they’re a good start. Regardless, however, of what the results are, it’s best to seek professional assistance for an assessment.

Whether you’re already in therapy, taking medication, or just now starting to address your symptoms, there are many ways to help you find relief from your symptoms. None of the tips here, again, are a replacement for what your doctor and therapist can provide for you, but they’re a great way to learn how to manage your symptoms in between appointments.

1. Being depressed or anxious is not a flaw.

You are not broken because you’re depressed. You’re not a bad person because you have anxiety. Depression and anxiety are medical conditions you did not cause.

2. Eat well.

When some people are depressed or anxious, they eat. When others are depressed or anxious, they “can’t” eat – they lose their appetite.

But when you’re feeling any symptoms of anxiety or depression, it’s so important to make sure you’re on top of your health. It’s really tempting to go for comfort foods, and it’s okay to do that, as long as you balance it out with nutritious options like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

3. Sleep well.

We know; this one is tough. But do your best to adhere to a strict sleeping schedule. Make sure you’re in bed by a certain time each night, and set your alarm for the same time each morning. Don’t be tempted to scroll on your phone all night long. There are also products out there that help you get a better night’s rest, like blackout curtains, red lights (if you absolutely need some light in your room – red lights are said to be better than blue lights, which might keep you awake), or noise machines that help lull you to sleep.

4. Create a routine.

Knowing what you’re supposed to do, day in, day out – and sticking to it – helps give a sense of normalcy, which provides comfort. Structure is so good for people with anxiety and depression, because so often when we’re anxious or depressed, we feel out of control of our feelings, so knowing what we have to do and where we have to go, every day, balances that out.

5. Work it out.

Exercise is an amazing treatment for depression and anxiety because it’s a natural mood booster. Your feel-good hormones are released with just a quick stroll around the block, or up and down some stairs! If you’re up to it, find a yoga or dance class, where you may even meet other people and develop friendships – which is another mood booster.

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