Anxiety and depression are both maintained by ways of thinking that magnify events and change how the brain works so that the longer one sits with the emotion, the less it takes to occur in the future.
Studies show that up to 70 percent of people with depression also have an anxiety, and half of those suffering anxiety have symptoms of clinical depression.
Overactivity of the stress response system sends areas of the brain into overdrive so that negative events make a disproportionate impact and hijack rational response systems. Basically you can’t think straight. You continually think about about the difficulties and disappointments you encounter until that’s all you can focus on.
Some people react with anxiety to stressful life events, seeing danger lurking ahead everywhere—in applying for a job, asking for a favor, asking for a date. And some go beyond anxiety to become depressed, a kind of shutdown in response to anticipated danger.
People who have either condition may overestimate the risk in a situation and underestimate their own resources for coping. Sufferers avoid what they fear instead of developing the skills to handle the kinds of situations that make them uncomfortable. Fear of a social situation often lies underneath.
Therapy can help. Medications most commonly used against depression have also been proven effective against anxiety disorders. Although medication and therapy are both effective in reducing anxiety and depression, therapy may be better at preventing a return of the disorder. People like it better, too, because they are responsible for their own success. What’s more, developing coping techniques encourages new brain circuits that go around the dysfunctional response pathways creating lasting change.
Therapy often lasts weeks, while medication is typically recommended for months, if not years.
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