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What is the link between depression and anxiety disorders?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, often co-exist with depression. But anxiety problems do not always go hand in hand with depression.

"Anxiety disorder is common with depression," William Marchand, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, says. If you have it, it's important to establish that upfront, since some antidepressants can initially worsen anxiety. Treatment for anxiety and major depression may include medications, psychotherapy, or both. For people with less severe symptoms, medication isn't always necessary. Talking through feelings of sadness and anxiety with a skilled therapist is sometimes enough to alleviate the condition. "The brain changes in response to our experience," Marchand says. A new experience changes your brain function. In this way, psychotherapy can help you find constructive ways of coping with the stress that brought on the depression or anxiety, and help you feel more like yourself again.

Almost two-thirds of those diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) will suffer from major depression. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is diagnosed after one or more depressive episodes (each lasting at least two weeks). The most common symptoms are depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and changes in weight. Those with GAD are more likely to develop MDD after a stressful life event. Often, antidepressant medications are prescribed when a patient is diagnosed with both GAD and depression.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.