At first glance anxiety and depression are very similar, they feel different; anxiety being fearful and worried whilst depression is feeling miserable, but you can have both at the same time. They are in fact interestingly similar and in this article we going to have a look at some of the similarities and differences both in the way they develop and in the way they are cured.
How they develop
Both anxiety and depression are the result of negative thinking causing your mind, which doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, to believe there is some sort of crisis, emergency or danger in your life. In the case of anxiety, that negative thinking comes in the form of worrying and what if-ing about the future, using your imagination to negatively predict bad things are going to happen. In contrast, depression usually comes from negatively introspecting about yourself, your life or even your past, again often hijacking your imagination to conjure up things that aren’t real or trying to figure out what other people were thinking or why they did or said the things they did. Of course, we can be negative about both the future and the past which is why anxiety and depression co-exist in so many people.
Although anxiety and depression are the same in that they come from forms of negative thinking, how they affect the chemicals in your body and mind differ. Worrying about the future will create two significant stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. You probably recognise adrenalin and no doubt feel it in your stomach as it floods your system getting you ready for flight or fight whilst cortisol, although less physically apparent when your system is flooded with it, can create a status in your body called a positive feedback loop explained in the article ‘Where does anxiety come from?” which becomes chronic causing more anxiety. On the other hand, depression just creates cortisol giving the impression that there is a long terms crisis and so you must hide inside your cave until the danger passes.
How they feel differs; anxiety feels fearful, you can feel it in the pit of your stomach (that’s the adrenalin) and often there are physical symptoms such as a tight chest or difficulties breathing, a racing heart, neck, shoulder or back tension and tightness, headaches and often affects your digestive system and bowels, whist depression feels miserable, as if there’s no hope, nothing works, no one is interested in your or cares, you have no motivation and just want to disappear under the duvet and push the world away.
How they are cured
Curing anxiety and depression, because they are so similar, both coming from negative thinking, is strikingly similar
Positive Thinking – this will directly counteract the negative thinking and it is worth investing some time in both understanding what negative thinking is, it might not be as obvious as you think, and then learn how to think in a positive way and develop some strategies that will help to nudge you back to thinking positively when you’ve lapsed. Anxiety and depression don’t develop overnight, they come from often years of negative thinking, so you have to first become aware you’re doing it and then practice thinking in a positive way.
Positive Activity – this includes both physical activity as well as doing hobbies, ticking things off your to do list and is particularly important for people with depression as they will slowly do less and less as the depression develops
Positive Interaction – important for both anxiety and depression. Spend time with people you enjoy being with, having a laugh and taking you outside your own thoughts for a while. In both conditions, as they develop, there is a tendency to withdraw from other people, however, we need to be with others, even if you think you don’t right now! So say ‘yes’ to invitations instead of thinking of ways to get out of social events.
Both anxiety and depression will benefit from the three positives above, but they also differ slightly. People with anxiety will be constantly on the go, filling their life with distracting things to do. Paradoxically, this being on the go all the time as a way of coping with anxiety is making the mind believe there is some sort of crisis, emergency or danger. It is not natural to be doing stuff all the time – slow down, take time out, have less packed into your diary and learn how to relax for a while. Your system needs to slow down in order to switch off the feedback loop which is causing the condition. Conversely, people with depression need to do more, doing little things that they are pleased about having achieved and exercise will have an enormous beneficial effect for people with depression.
In summary, anxiety and depression are the same in that they are caused by negative thinking and it’s easy to develop both when you have a tendency to think in a negative way, negatively forecasting the future and negatively introspecting about the past but fortunately both will be helped by learning how to think in a positive way, act in a positive way and interact in a positive way.
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