How are anxiety and depression related?
Jun 02, 2022
Depressive symptomatology and anxious symptomatology are frequently linked. Thus, a high percentage of subjects who show symptoms of depression also show anxiety, and vice versa. But in addition, it can be said that beyond the statistics, anxiety and depression reinforce each other in several of the experiences of people with mental health problems.
In this article we will talk about the relationship between depression and anxiety, so that it is easier for you to understand both psychological alterations and the aspects in which they overlap.
- Related article: "5 signs of poor mental health that you should not overlook"
What are depression and anxiety?
Anxiety is, mainly, a state of high activation of the nervous system that is triggered by situations that we perceive as dangerous or potentially dangerous. threatening, either because they can lead us to problems (some of them material, others more abstract and based on life in society) or because they can make us lose opportunities.
Normally, in anxiety the subject usually shows fear towards a stimulus, situation or event, and it leads to a state of anguish and intrusive thoughts that arise again and again and disturb the person. Physical symptoms also appear, such as muscle tension, increased heart rate or sleep or appetite dysregulation, tremors, or an increased feeling of tiredness. All of them
Of course, it should be noted that although anxiety is not a psychopathology and in fact it is usually useful to us, in In some cases, if we do not manage it properly, it leads to anxiety disorders, which are health problems. mental.
Depression is defined as a mood disorder characterized by a state of apathy, lack of motivation, anhedonia and loss of interest in activities or socialize in spare time. Linked to pathological sadness, other symptoms can also be observed, such as changes in hunger and sleep, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, anguish for not finding meaning in what is done, feeling of constant tiredness and fatigue, obsessive thoughts and thoughts linked to death or even the suicide.
Despite observing different symptoms, as you can see, symptoms that that are shared, such as feelings of anguish or constant worries based on in recurrent and intrusive thoughts, which “invade the mind” of the person frequently.
- You may be interested: "How to prevent obsessive thoughts from causing insomnia?"
What is the relationship between anxiety and depression?
Psychologists Anna Clark and David Watson proposed a model in which they try to relate anxiety to depression. In it, they propose three main elements to be able to define both pathologies: negative affect, positive affect and physiological hyperactivation. Two of them are linked to only one of the disorders, but one of them is shown in both, thus outlining the relationship between depression and anxiety.
1. positive affect
This element includes affective states such as: excitement, energy, happiness, enjoyment, interest, confidence, and pride. In this way, this element is present only in the depression, but in a reduced way; that is, people with depression show low positive affect, which is accompanied by sadness, loss of interest, psychomotor inhibition, feeling of loss and low activation of the nervous system sympathetic. This dimension is mainly related to hopelessness.
- Related article: "Types of depression: their symptoms, causes and characteristics"
2. physiological hyperarousal
Physiological hyperactivity, which is characterized by an increase in body activation, presents symptoms such as: palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and tremors. Likewise, this distinction is typical of anxiety, in which we observe a high physiological reactivity with symptoms such as fear, panic, increased sympathetic arousal, hypervigilance, perceived threat or fear, and avoidance. This element is especially linked to the feeling of uncertainty.
3. negative affect
The negative effect shows affective states such as discomfort, sadness, anxiety, anger, hostility, fear, guilt and worries. This dimension is present at a high level in both depression and anxiety., generating symptoms such as: irritability, worry, guilt, insomnia and low self-esteem. This element is linked to the feeling of helplessness.
- Related article: "Distress: Symptoms, Causes and Possible Treatments"
How do both forms of psychological distress reinforce each other?
We understand the factors of negative affect and positive affect as independent, that is, they are not extremes of the same dimension, but are part of different dimensions. In this way, high or low positive affect and high or low negative affect are valued. In other words, having a high negative affect does not mean having a low positive affect, it is not the reverse, one does not depend on the other; the range of possibilities on the emotional side of being human is too rich and nuanced for our experiences to work that way.
In this way, negative affect supposes a greater sensitivity towards negative stimuli. A high score on this dimension is often associated with a greater tendency to experience negative moods. Given the symptomatology similarities that both disorders, anxiety and depression, can show, they are usually observed in a joint, being more frequent to experience agitation and anxiety before and later to develop despair and depression.
But… How is this link between depressive symptoms and high anxiety reflected in people's daily lives? Mainly, in the fact that both experiences lead to a state in which we believe we are paralyzed, unable to cope with what happens to us. Being depressed, we assume that we have no role to play in life, and that makes us perceive everything through an existential void, in which we can only limit ourselves to suffering the lack of meaning that everything has for us.
Being anxious, the idea that there are too many “fronts” to attend to and that every decision we make will surely be the wrong one, leads us to a state of blockage in the one that we assume that the only thing we can do is anticipate our failure, which also leads to a kind of existential emptiness: whatever we do will be insufficient. That is why the stages of pure emotional stagnation and anguish when anticipating the bad thing that will happen alternate in people who present an anxious-depressive picture, something very common. In these situations, it is important to go to psychotherapy as soon as possible.
- You may be interested: "Emotional management: 10 keys to dominate your emotions"
Do you want professional psychological support?
If you want to start a psychotherapy process to learn to manage your emotions, enhance your self-knowledge and connect with what gives meaning to your life, get in touch with us.
In Adhara Psychology We work from humanistic psychology to help people of all ages, couples and families in the face of forms of discomfort such as depression, excess anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem, and more. We can assist you in person or online.