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Depression and anxiety have been called “first cousins” in the mental health world, and it’s a fitting term. The co-occurrence of depression and anxiety is very common, and the relationship between the two disorders is even more tangled than professionals first had believed.

People who show signs of the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety will often suffer from symptoms of both of these disorders. Symptoms can be from either the anxiety or depression, which can make it difficult to identify without professional diagnosis. Some depression symptoms include feeling tired more often than usual, wanting to “shut down”, feeling tense, irritable, worthless or helpless, difficulty maintaining concentration and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Anxiety symptoms include unusual feelings and emotions, feeling stressed about the future or other people, having an impending sense of doom, tension, irritability,  difficulty sleeping and feeling as though you lack control.  Overlapping symptoms, such as irritability, tension, sleep disturbance, feeling helpless or out of control contribute to the difficulty distinguishing anxiety from depression.

It has been speculated that the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety exists for a large percentage of people that suffer from either disorder. It is now thought that anxiety and depression could be thought of as two sides of one coin, and some doctors are working to combine these to include terminology for anxiety and depression as one combined disorder. These discoveries are relatively new, but there enough research to justify the consideration of a new diagnostic category called “Mixed Anxiety and Depression”. We also know that anxiety and depression can occur together (called co-occurrence) at the time of onset or one disorder can be added to the other over time. These two types of mixed depression and anxiety can be differentiated, but are generally not treated in the same manner. It should also be noted that there are many different types of both depression and anxiety, but any type of either can be paired with the other.  Untangling which came first can often aid recommendations for treating the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety, but in other cases, treating the symptoms that are the most distressing is usually best.

In a 40-year study some surprising figures were found about the co-occurrence of depression. Either anxiety or depression was shown at an incidence ratio of about 5% of the population. For every man that showed these disorders, three women were affected by ratio. Incidence happened generally among the young rather than the old. Consistent research from many other studies shows that anxiety and depression are both incredibly prevalent. Results could be skewed, however, due to the fact that this does not account for cases involving the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety. However, depression has been proven to be the leading cause of disability in the US for the set of individuals from age 15 to 44. More than 21 million Americans are diagnosed with depression. Anxiety disorders are also incredibly prevalent; there are over 40 million US citizens over the age of 18 that suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. Of people in this age group, about 18 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety during a given year. One study linking depression to anxiety showed that 85 percent of those with depression also have some sort of anxiety disorder. Other studies show a slightly lower number, claiming 60 to 70 percent of those with depression also show signs of anxiety.  While the exact figures vary, it is clear that in the majority of cases, the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety are very common.

Chemical imbalances can sometimes cause both anxiety and depression.  However, both depression and anxiety can stem from traumatic experiences in the past or a particularly stressful life change.  In fact, stressful life changes, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship losses, financial stress, job pressures, and other environmental changes are the leading causes of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression.  Long-term physical illnesses can also cause depression and anxiety about the future. Some anxiety and depression can be situational, occurring only as long as a life problem persists, while other types are chronic and last for longer than just one given situation.

People who are suffering from the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety often deal with more severe symptoms due to the compounding effects of each disorder. Their lives are generally more impaired by these problems than they would be with just one of these disorders alone. The impact on the person’s life often makes everyday activities a struggle, and family members will generally notice that something is not right. Instead of suffering from just one set of symptoms, they are often hit full force with both. This can lead to a considerable rise in the rate of suicide for those that are dealing with both depression and anxiety.

Suicide rates increase immensely with the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety. Studies show that over 90 percent of suicides are attempted by those with some kind of mental illness, including depression and anxiety disorders.  More than 60 percent of those who commit or attempt suicide are classified as depressed. Suicide rates are quite high for both anxiety and depression even when not working in co-occurrence. One study showed that 92 percent of depressed individuals who had attempted suicide also had some type of anxiety disorder. You can see that the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety can be even more fatal than either depression or anxiety alone.

Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety in peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our programs provide services to those with the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.