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How to Cope with Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

9 mins
stress

We do not talk enough about practical ways to handle symptoms of anxiety and depression. Do we?

On the 18th of July 2022, a Nigerian actress, Adah Ameh died after battling many years of depression.  In her last interview before her death, she said “people don’t understand when you say you have mental issues”. Sadly, this is true for a lot of people. 

Many people don’t take mental health issues like anxiety and depression to be serious health issues.

Anxiety and depression are common mental health illnesses globally. According to the  World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that about 280 million people in the world have depression. Also, the World Economic Forum estimated that about 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorder.

Anxiety and depression are serious mental issues that need to be properly addressed and treated. If not, it will affect other areas of one’s life, such as physical health, work, and social lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and Depression

anxiety and depression
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Although anxiety and depression are two different types of mental health disorders, they often coexist just like the flip sides of the same coin. This may be because both of them have some overlapping causes and symptoms. These two mental health disorders can occur separately, but it is not unusual for a person to suffer from both conditions at the same time.

Anxiety is the feeling of dread or fear of what is about to happen or the outcome of a particular situation. It is a natural way our body responds to stress. 

It is normal to feel anxious when you are about to try something new or something you previously had a bad experience with.

However, anxiety becomes a mental health or emotional disorder when this feeling of fear or dread persists for a long time to the extent of affecting your day-to-day activities. 

Depression is the constant feeling of emotional pain, grief, loss, or helplessness that can interfere with a person’s everyday life. 

Grieving the loss of a loved one or feeling sad over a tragic or traumatic event is quite different from depression, as one can get over the feeling and move on with his/her life. A situation is only termed as depression when the feeling of pain and sadness persist, making the person lose hope or lose their self-confidence and even hate themselves to the extent of having suicidal thoughts or actually committing suicide. 

READ: Facts and Fictions about Depression

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression 

As mentioned earlier, anxiety and depression are two different conditions, and each has its own signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms can vary in each individual. 

Symptoms of Anxiety:

anxiety and depression
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The main signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

●  Difficulty dealing with your fear and worry

●  Irritability, restlessness, or being nervous

●  A sense of impending doom, or panic

●  Problem sleeping

●  Extreme and persistent tiredness

●  Spacing out and not being able to pay attention to the task at hand

●  Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, muscle tension, diarrhoea, and unexplained pain and aches.

READ ALSO: Common side effects of stress

Signs of Depression:

Apart from feeling low and sad, other symptoms that come with depression include:

●    Losing interest in the activities you normally enjoy

●    Feeling of hopelessness and lack of confidence

●    Constant negative thoughts 

●    Anger, restlessness, and irritability 

●    Lack of energy or the will to carry on

●    Sleeplessness and tiredness

●    Changes in appetite and weight

●    Finding it difficult to concentrate or remember information

●    Having a hard time making a decision

●    Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death 

Overlapping symptoms

anxiety
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Overlapping symptoms you could experience with either anxiety or depression include:

●    Changes in sleep habits

●    Changes in energy and activity level

●    Increased agitation 

●    Difficulty concentrating or remembering

●    Aches and pains or gastrointestinal problems with no obvious cause

●    Constantly having dark, sad, or other negative thoughts.

Tips on How to Cope with Anxiety and Depression

There are two main ways to deal with anxiety and depression: 

1.    Clinical methods, which involve talking to a professional therapist, undergoing therapy, and/or seeing a doctor to prescribe medications for you.

2.    Non-clinical methods involving changes to your lifestyle that could make a positive impact on your mental health.

Clinical methods of dealing with Anxiety and Depression 

1.    Talk to a Therapist

One of the ways to deal with anxiety and depression is to seek the help of a professional therapist. A professional therapist can help treat your mental health condition by creating a plan that you have to stick to so as to learn how to cope with the factors that caused your anxiety or depression.

Some types of therapy that your therapist may recommend are

●    Cognitive behavioural therapy

●    Interpersonal therapy

●    Problem-solving therapy

●    Light therapy

2. Medication

You can also see your doctor to prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs that can help treat both symptoms of depression and anxiety. Medications that can be used for treating anxiety and depression include;

●    selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), e.g., Citalopram, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, and Fluoxetine

●    serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI): e.g., Duloxetine, Venlafaxine, and Levomilnacipran

●    Bupropion: e.g Aplenzin, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL

●    Mirtazapine.

Note that the prescribed medication may take a few weeks or months to work. You may also need to switch from one medication to another until you get the one that is more effective for your condition.

Medical disclaimer: The above prescription should never be taken without the prescription and supervision of your healthcare provider.

Lifestyle changes

1.    Exercise

Exercising is one of the best non-clinical methods of dealing with anxiety and depression. Exercise can improve your mood by stimulating your brain to release endorphins which are known as the happy hormone.  

Although anxiety and depression may make you lack the will to participate in any physical activities, exercising can help to treat mild to moderate depression by boosting your self-esteem and confidence and improving your relationships. 

READ: What You Should Know When starting A New Exercise Regimen

2.    Eat right

Anxiety and depression can make one crave carbs and snacks packed with sugar. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, healthy fat, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help to improve your symptoms by providing your body with the nutrients it needs and keeping you full and calm.

You also need to avoid or cut down your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol consumption as they can trigger anxiety and depression or worsen the symptoms. 

READ: Reasons Junk Food is Bad for You: 12 Healthy Alternatives to Consider

3.    Try to get a good night’s sleep

Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of good night’s sleep every night. Lack of good sleep can worsen symptoms of both anxiety and depression. To help you get a good night’s sleep, you can try the following tips:

●    Stick to a particular bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.

●    Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.

●    Make your bedroom relaxing and comfortable by ensuring it is clean, cool, dark, and quiet.

4.    Talk to someone

Friends and family are always a great support system, especially when someone is going through a rough patch. Tell your friends and family about how you feel and what you are going through. They can help you by being there for you and encouraging you. 

Joining a support group, where you can meet people experiencing some of the same issues as you, may help out a lot.

5.    Take time off to rest and relax

Anxiety and depression can sap your energy and make you lack the motivation to do anything. Instead of worrying about things that need to be done, take time off and participate in activities that can help you to rest and relax. You can;

●    go for a massage

●    Watch your favourite movie or TV show

●    Read a new book or re-reading one of your favourite books

●    Listen to music

●    Go out for a stroll or hang out with friends

●    Cook your favourite dish or bake snacks.

●    Try meditation and breathing exercises

6.    Get active by trying something new and meaningful

You can learn that new skill you’ve always wanted to learn or travel to a new place. You can also volunteer to participate in an activity or a cause that feels important to you. This will keep you busy and take your mind off most of your problems.

Conclusion

When you are not feeling yourself emotionally, and you are having endless cycles of dark thoughts and worries which drain your energy with any other symptoms that may make you feel overwhelmed, it is advisable to see a doctor for proper diagnosis as you may be suffering from anxiety or depression or even both.

Your doctor will ask all the necessary questions and run some tests to diagnose what the problem may be. Suppose you are diagnosed with anxiety or depression. In that case, your doctor may recommend a therapist, prescribe medications for you and advise you on some lifestyle changes you can make on your own to help deal with the condition. 

Do you feel anxious or depressed? Talk to a doctor today.

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Ms. Blessing is a content creator with special interest in healthcare and lifestyle improvements.

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