Can Anxiety Cause Depression?

Depression and anxiety are something many people will experience in their lives. Indeed, between a fifth and quarter of people in western societies are estimated as experiencing these conditions at some time in their lives. Many sufferers experience both conditions simultaneously, showing that there is no clear delineation to mark where one begins and the other ends.

Over half the people diagnosed with depression in the USA, for example, also suffer symptoms associated with anxiety. Symptoms of depression include low mood, low self-esteem, and an inability to see anything positive in life, including in activities which are usually enjoyable. Anxiety is where a normal stress reaction to issues in life becomes exaggerated. This can lead to intense feelings of fear, worry, panic and being ‘frozen’ into tense inactivity. Anxiety can be triggered by a stressful situation, or it can suddenly manifest itself with little warning.

Influence of Stress and Trauma

Some recent studies have suggested that over-exposure to stress chemicals during childhood and adolescence may create conditions in the brain which make some people more prone to depression and anxiety. Genetics also plays a part, while the conditions of a person’s life can also trigger depression or anxiety. Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example, often suffer many of the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, often to extreme levels.

The two conditions, while often discussed separately, are experienced simultaneously for many sufferers. It is often hard to tell which of the conditions has occurred first. Many sufferers of anxiety, who report little or no depressive symptoms, are often treated using anti-depressants. Equally, many depressives will use treatments and techniques for anxiety to help ease their symptoms. The same neurotransmitters in the brain may play a part in the two conditions, according to some researchers.

Intimately Linked Conditions

Some people experience symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, as a result of feeling depressed. Others become depressed in the wake of an episode of anxiety. Suffering the symptoms of anxiety can make it harder to cope with and treat depression, as the sufferer becomes too panicked to be able to complete therapeutic tasks, or think rationally enough to benefit from talking cures and therapies. It is therefore important for both sufferers and their therapists to take a more holistic attitude to treatment, rather than treating either condition in isolation.

The answer as to whether anxiety can cause depression is therefore ‘yes’, but with some caveats. The two conditions are intimately linked, and will often occur simultaneously or consecutively to each other. The complexity of the two conditions suggest that asking whether one causes the other is something of a false question. The focus should rather be on looking to mitigate the symptoms of both disorders. Research suggests that treatment for one can often work for the other.

What is important for people diagnosed with either condition is to know that it is treatable, and that they can get better with the right help. The key to coping with the condition is to find the right help, and not to become isolated. Medication, talking cures and other therapies are available to make sure that you can come through the challenge that the conditions offer, and emerge at the other side feeling better.