It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious or depressed occasionally, especially in response to life’s stressors. However, when these feelings become prolonged, disproportionate or apparent for no significant reason, they need to be addressed. Thankfully diagnosis and treatment methods have come a long way, with many public health campaigns working towards bringing mental illness ‘out of the shadows’.
The co-occurrence of anxiety and depression is a noted feature of these disorders. While behavioral and emotional symptoms may differ within the two, the fact remains they are both an unnatural and unwelcome state of mental health. Characterized by a constant overwhelming state of fear or worry, anxiety can be debilitating in its physical manifestations too. The symptoms of depression may be similar to unrelenting feelings of sadness or despair.
The exact cause is still unclear; however, changes in brain chemistry, genetic factors, and hormone function are all believed to play a role. Irrespective of the cause, mental illness requires and generally responds to professional treatment.
Our understanding of mental illness has evolved over time, yet it still presents certain difficulties. Diagnostically speaking, depression and anxiety primarily affect the way an individual thinks and feels, and in most cases subsequently behaves; therefore we generally rely upon patients to identify these changes themselves and seek help.
In some cases, family members or close friends may be able to identify vulnerable individuals and assist in requesting attention. Once diagnosed, however, treatment can be quite successful using a variety of approaches; the most common of which are psychological therapies or ‘talking therapies’. Such therapies are generally administered by a qualified psychologist and involve either behavior modification (Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT) or examination of intrapersonal and interpersonal patterns and behaviors.
Generally, work will be done to identify and address key triggers and ways of managing future events. Such therapies are often combined with a focus on improving nutrition and encouraging regular exercise, which itself can actively promote a healthy mental state.
Indeed, a safe and effective first step towards self-empowerment is taking control over one’s diet. The benefits are both psychological and physiological. Reducing or eliminating spikes caused by sugar-laden foods and stimulants, such as excess coffee, cigarettes, etc., will help in reducing the debilitating feelings associated with general anxiety.
Children and Adults Can be Affected
Young people and children, unfortunately, are just as vulnerable to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. While often harder to detect, once diagnosed, applied therapies specifically designed for children can usually assist the child in living a happier and more fulfilling childhood. A happier childhood better prepares the child for dealing with the stresses of teen years and young adulthood. The healthy and safe transition of young adulthood enables the individual to prepare for and live a life feeling in control, empowered and able to deal with everyday challenges.
Finally, and hopefully, after exploring other options, the use of antidepressant medication may be required. This depends on the severity of the illness and is most often used in conjunction with psychotherapies. Antidepressants can be very effective in some situations. As in any medical case, treatment is ideally specifically tailored to suit the individual, based on a thorough study of a personal history of symptoms, responses, and environment.