Hand and hand, they walk together, invited by heredity, magnified through experience; they intrude on our nights and invade our peace. These two demons of wellness ruthlessly turn beauty into sorrow and quietness into catastrophe, disrupting lives, and clouding our futures. Anxiety and depression are common allies, each giving strength to the other and weakening the unsuspecting host.
Anxiety and depression are different maladies, each with their own criteria for diagnosis. However, they share many symptoms. Early detection assists with treatment. We are often fooled into thinking we are depressed when in reality we are anxious—and vice-versa. Anxiousness pushes for immobilization, escaping fears of failure, leaving victims cowering in helplessness to the vicissitudes of life.
Depression saps energy, dulling motivation to act. Both diseases can debilitate leading to inactivity, entering life draining practices that are self-perpetuating.
“We are often fooled into thinking we are depressed when in reality we are anxious—and vice-versa.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Anxiety and Depression Often Linked
In numerous studies, anxiety and depression have been linked. Many scientists argue that anxiety and depression may be part of the same underlying disorder (Kendler, Neale, Kessler, Heath, & Eaves, 1992; Kendler, 1996; Barlow, 2000). However, the emergence of these psychological diseases don’t typically co-occur. In adolescent and child development studies the symptoms of anxiety typically arrive prior to symptoms more associated with depression. (Cole, Peeke, Martin, Truglio & Seroczynski, 1998; Wittchen, Kessler, Pfister, & Lieb, 2000).
Science has brought many wonderful insights, but often we see in modern discoveries shades of the past. The famous studies of classical conditioning conducted by Ivan Pavlov discovered much more than dogs salivating at the sound of a bell. He also documented different personality types by the manner the dogs responded to the experiments. Some of the dogs learned quickly while others were stubborn to adopt new association, while other dogs were open and engaged while still others were fearful and withdrawn. Basically, some of the dogs were extroverts while the others were introverts (Robinson, 1996, p. 7).
We enter life with biological tendencies. Many are more sensitive to experience. The sensitivities impact our learning. The fearful child withdraws from excitement that overwhelms their sensitive systems. They pull away from engagement in social play to protect their sensitivities. This small adaptation has a snowballing effect, creating a greater discrepancy between the shy child and the more confident personalities. The introvert is more likely to be the target of peer rejection, loneliness, and poor-self-image (Gazelle & Ladd 2003; Hymel, Rubin, Rowden, & LeMare, 1990).
Early Biological Beginnings of Anxiety and Depression
The powerful trajectories beginning in the womb carry forth in family dynamics and larger social contexts, creating the individual from the small propensities of the mind. For the child the progressions are natural, unseen and automatic.
Healthy adults assist the child to approach life with growth promoting skills, helping the child to engage rather than withdraw, soothe rather than escape. However, for the adult, they must seek new dynamics that can intervene, changing the flow of emotion.
The natural tendency of the anxious individual is to avoid the stimulation. Subsequently, the avoidance contributes to greater fears and debilitating absence of necessary connections. Fears overrun action and depression gladly moves in.
While science continues to search for the exact cause of psychological disorders, we common folk can learn from the emerging science. Both anxiety and depression invite unhealthy adaptation that to self-perpetuate the diseases, by disengaging in life we succumb to the saddening impact of loneliness. Facing disease is a difficult task, facing disease alone is impossible.
We can’t fight anxiety or depression alone, locked in a dark room, with only tools of thought to combat the intruders. We need action. Often guided assistance is necessary. We need the support of others. Sunshine, exercise and connection become the weaponry of choice. With guided assistance, proper medication, and friendly others, we can improve. We may never escape our biological limitations but can enjoy a productive life within those boundaries.
Barlow, D. H. (2000). Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the perspective of emotion theory. American Psychologist, 55, 1247-1263.
Chaplin, T., Gillham, J., & Seligman, M. (2009). Gender, Anxiety, and Depressive Symptoms. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 29(2), 307-327.
Cole, D.A., Peeke, L. G., Martin, J. M., Truglio, T., & Serocynski, A. D. (1998). A longitudinal look at the relation between depression and anxiety in children and adolescents.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 451-460.
Gazelle, H., & Ladd, G. G. W. (2003). Anxious solitude and per exclusion: A diathesis-stress model of internalizing trajectories in childhood. Child Development, 74, 257-278.
Hymel, S., Rubin, K.H., Rowden, L., & LeMare, L. (1990). Children’s peer relationships: Longitudinal prediction of internalizing and externalizing problems from middle to late childhood. Child Development, 61, 2004-2021.
Kendler,K.S., Neale,M.C., Kessler, R. C., Heath, A.C., & Evans, L.J. (1992). Major Depression and generalized anxiety disorder: Same Genes, (partly) different environments?Archives of General Psychiatry, 49, 716-722
Robinson, D.L. (1996) Brain, Mind and Behaviour: A New Perspective on Human Nature. Kindle Edition
Wittchen, H. U., Kessler, R. C., Pfister, H., & Lieb, M. (2000). Why do People with anxiety disorders become depressed? A prospective-longitudinal community study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia Supplementum, 406, 14-23.