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Depression and Anxiety: Identifying the Signs, and How To Cope.

You can experience depression and anxiety at the same time, and sometimes this can be hard to pull yourself out of alone. Working with your LSC therapist can help you find the right tools for you and work through ways of coping with both.


Image of a woman lying on their back on a white rug, dark hair contrasts to the rug, both hands are covering their face. A small gold ring on the middle finger of each hand. The person has a small arrow tattoo on their wrist, and is wearing a light grey t-shirt.

Depression and Anxiety are different mental health conditions, but they commonly occur together, and can turn your world upside down. Depression; feeling sad, low and having a bleak outlook, can feed into anxiety; feels like problems with sleep, brain fog, and difficulty with worrying or overthinking. Together they create a feedback loop to each other that can pull us down and keeps us down.


Common risk factors for developing anxiety and/or depression can be significant life events, like traumatic events, neglect, parenting styles, current stress exposure, and adversity in early life. Genetics can also play a part in a person developing depression and anxiety, as research suggests there is a moderately heritable risk (about 40%) (1).


So lets take a closer look at what exactly Depression & Anxiety are, and how therapy can help you develop ways to cope and even pull you out of your deepest depressions and worst anxieties.


What Is Depression?


It's pretty normal for us to experience changes in mood, experience happy and sad times, to be excited or bummed out from time to time. However, Depression is marked by persistent low feelings over a long period of time. You may experience:

  • a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, or feeling worthless

  • lack of energy, fatigue, sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)

  • aches, pains, gastrointestinal problems (including IBS)

  • changes in weight and appetite

  • anger, irritability or restlessness (heightened frustration over minor things)

  • difficulty concentrating

  • guilt

  • alcohol or drug abuse

  • thoughts of dying, death, or suicide.


If you are experiencing some or all of these signs and find they linger for a few weeks or more, speak to your GP about Depression.


There are two common categories when it comes to diagnosing depression:

Major Depressive Disorder is a depressed mood that lasts for a two-week period, it can occur as a one-off or recurrent experience.

Persistent Depressive Disorder is depressed mood that occurs almost every day for at least two years.

Whilst having this diagnosed doesn't solve any of these issues, it can help identify and name your experience. Sometimes just knowing there is a name for what you're going through can help alleviate the weight of the problem. Seeking further support through counselling to figure out what to do next, how to cope, and how to come out of your depression should be your next steps.


 

Help is Out There:


If you're having thoughts of suicide or self harm, there are people here to support you right now.


If you're feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts or feelings, compassionate and caring counselling support can help.


  • Crisis support and Suicide Prevention, call LifeLine Australia on 13 11 14 or txt 0477 13 11 14

  • for LGBTQ+ support, call QLife on 1800 184 527

  • Free emergency mental health support, call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

 

What is Anxiety?


Anxiety, in a nutshell, is fear. The fear system of our body and mind makes you vigilant in anticipation of a threat, bad outcome, or response to fear. The mind might start worrying about what to do, how to act, prepare or behave, and the body might start pumping the heart faster to oxygenate the blood in preparation for fight or flight, resulting in a heightened heart rate, breathing, and sensory experience. And usually, this is a pretty good response to an actual threat, and helps you be better prepared. But what about when there is no threat but they body and mind start acting like there is? This is anxiety.


There are 6 major types of anxiety*, but just like depression, you may experience some signs across many domains. These are:

  • Generalized Anxiety - Worry about life and pretty much everything in it. The worry is usually disproportionate to the likelihood of there being a bad outcome. It may prevent you for doing normal daily activities due to the heightened worry of something bad happening.

  • Social Anxiety - Worry about being in social setting or events. Our evolution tells us that being social creatures is good for our health, but sometimes people may fear negative social judgement, have a fear of being perceived by others, or have had bad experiences in social settings that are the foundation for this anxiety.

  • Separation Anxiety - Usually experienced by young children when separated from parents or caregivers. It can manifest in fear of being kidnapped, never seeing parents again, or about people close to you dying. This can develop into adulthood with people being extremely uncomfortable or have heightened anxiety when left to their own devices. They may develop co-dependency on their partners or significant people in their life.

  • Panic - Intense burst of anxiety. This might feel like tingly fingers and toes, racing heart, fast breathing, racing thoughts, and last usually 20 mins, but can last longer. Some people describe this as feeling like they're having a heart attack or going to die (which leads to further panic). Call an ambulance if you're having this experience or seek safe people around you who can get medical support for you.

  • Phobias - Fear based on a specific object or specific situation where the fear is so intense and sudden that it brings on a panic attack.

  • Agoraphobia - Fear of not being able to escape or get help. This is focused on being in large open spaces like bridges, fields or outdoors, or enclosed spaces like elevators, crowds, shops, concerts. It might even be just being outside of the home or your "safe space".


*Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) used to be included under Anxiety disorders, but have been shifted to their own category due to their uniqueness that differs from anxiety (2) . So we won't go into detail about these two today.


Treatment.


Depression

At LSC, we know that you hold the solution to your experiences, and we are here to guide you to find these solutions. The most powerful thing you can do is understand your experience. We've found that shining a light into the dark robs it of it's power to scare us. Psychoeducation about your experience, understanding your triggers, thoughts, feelings and behaviours helps you to find ways to navigate your way forward.


Therapy for Depression can involve a lot of therapy modes. At LSC, our aim is to help you make sense of your experience, to identify the underlying emotions and uncover ways of regulating and soothing them. We make use of the Emotions Wheel to help identify nuanced emotions that might be laying deeper within. We also include Art Therapy as a way to express emotions if they have no words.


Take a look at this emotions wheel and see if you can find new ways of describing a primary feeling.


Anxiety

Some practical ways to prevent a your anxiety from escalating to a full blown panic attack is to regulate your breathing. Panic attacks cause your heart to race and your breath to become short and tight. Deep breathing can unlock the tightness in your chest and slow your heart rate back down. Try 4-square breathing:

Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.

Hold for 4 seconds.

Let the breath out through you mouth for 4 seconds.

Hold for 4 seconds.

  • repeat 4 times!


We know that when a panic attack is rising, your mind starts racing. It might feel like you're thinking a million thoughts a second. So let's refocus the mind and stop that panic attack in its track with the 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Method, and name:

5 things you can see

4 things you can hear

3 things you can feel

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste.

  • I sometimes shorten this into a quick 3x3 grounding exercise when I'm on the go (usually if I space out when I'm driving): 3 things each I can see, hear & feel.


Medication for Depression and Anxiety

LSC supports the use of prescribed medication to aid your mental health recovery, we also support using natural remedies that work for you, as well as spiritual aid that is culturally safe for you to engage in.


The brain can experience deficiencies when exposed to injury or chronic stress, which may lead to depression. Studies have shown that serotonin can support the repair of these functions, and medication can enhance this repair (3). Talking to your GP about what may work for you is an essential step in holistic support of your mental health.


Natural remedies can always be considering when looking to improve your mental and physical well-being. Turmeric, lavender, ginger, chamomile, herbal teas, prioritising a nutritious diet, moving your body through exercise and calming your mind through meditation are all fantastic ways to fortify your body and mind from the inside out.


The Last Word.


Ultimately, Depression and Anxiety is difficult to tackle alone. When you're ready, LSC are here to support you in finding your way through, by whatever means works best for you. Finding ways to cope can help you to lessen the negative impact depression and anxiety is having on living your best life.


Book a free consult to speak to your LSC therapist to start you on your pathway to your best well-being.





(1) Guffanti G, Gameroff MJ, Warner V, Talati A, Glatt CE, Wickramaratne P, Weissman MM. 2016. Heritability of Major Depressive and Comorbid Anxiety Disorders in Multi-Generational Families at High Risk for Depression. Am J Med Genet Part B 171B: 1072–1079.


(2) Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., & Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19(2), 93–107. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow


(3) Vahid-Ansari, F., & Albert, P. R. (2021). Rewiring of the serotonin system in major depression. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 802581.

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