Whilst anxiety and depression are two different conditions, it is quite common for people to experience both at the same time. This fact sheet outlines the different types of depression and anxiety, and treatments that may help manage these conditions.
Please seek the support of your GP in diagnosing and managing any mental health condition.
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
There are many types of depression, and everyone experiences them a little differently. Whilst different types of depression have particular symptoms, they may also appear at different times in our life. For example, postnatal depression occurs with women around childbirth. Some examples of depression include:
MAJOR DEPRESSION (also known as clinical depression or depression)
This is when you feel down, sad and flat most days, have experienced this for more than two weeks and it interferes with your daily activities across work and social relationships and with your ability to care for yourself.
BIPOLAR DISORDER (previously called manic depression)
This involves extreme shifts in mood from emotional highs (mania) to lows (depression) that are unpredictable. When you become depressed you may feel sad, hopeless or lose interest and pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania you may feel full of energy, frustrated and irritable, have racing thoughts and talk quickly. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, judgement, and behaviour. Some people with bipolar experience multiple episodes of mood swings in a year while others experience mood swings only rarely across their lifetime.
POSTNATAL AND ANTENATAL DEPRESSION
During pregnancy, around 10% of women experience depression. In the first three months after birth, this increases to 16%. There are specialised resources available within NSW Health to help identify and treat antenatal and postnatal depression.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)
SAD is quite rare in Australia since it relates to variations in light exposure across different seasons. As a result, this condition is more common in the Northern Hemisphere where winter is marked with short days and long periods of night/darkness. SAD is usually diagnosed when the same symptoms of depression are experienced over consecutive winters.
TYPES OF ANXIETY
Anxiety is our body’s response to danger, but when anxiety is persistent or excessive it can be a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Anxiety can be different for different people, but some common types of anxiety include:
GENERALISED ANXIETY DISORDER
This is a persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. Often the worry is focused on everyday events such as work tasks and responsibilities, family health and daily routines.
The core symptom of panic disorder is recurrent panic attacks. These are an overwhelming feeling of physical and psychological distress. The symptoms of a panic attack can often be so severe that the person believes they are having a heart attack and attends hospital. Panic attacks can be anticipated, for example in response to a feared object or event or unexpected or can occur for no apparent reason. During a panic attack, people may experience some of the following symptoms at the same time:
- Palpitations, pounding of the heart or rapid heart rate.
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath, feelings of being smothered or choked.
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
- Numbness or tingling
- Chills or hot flushes
- Nausea or abdominal pains
- Feeling detached
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER (previously called social phobia)
People with this condition are worried about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in a social situation. As a result, they avoid the situation they are worried about or endure it with great discomfort. Examples of these situations include public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public.
People with this health condition have excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful and, whilst the person knows the fear is excessive compared to the risks, they are unable to overcome it. As a result, they go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Some examples include fear of flying, fear of heights and fear of spiders.
There are a range of effective treatments that can be used to treat anxiety and depression. Once your GP/mental health professional has diagnosed you with anxiety and depression they will prescribe a mental health treatment plan that is matched to your symptoms and your lifestyle. If you have mild depression, simple changes to your lifestyle such as regular exercise, reconnecting with friends and family and avoiding alcohol may be enough to help increase your mood. For moderate to severe depression, your health professional may also recommend psychological treatments and medical treatments (such as medications). Treatments that are used to treat anxiety and depression include:
1. TALKING THERAPY
Reaching out to a qualified health professional face to face, over the phone or via a computer program, is proven to assist in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most effective treatments available for anxiety and depression. It can help you change the thoughts and behavioural patterns that are making you depressed and anxious or are stopping you improving. By identifying these patterns and replacing them with ones that promote good mood and better coping mechanisms, CBT achieves consistent long-term results.
Behaviour Therapy: This focuses on increasing the level of activity and pleasure in your life. Unlike CBT above, it does not focus on changing beliefs and attitudes but teaches you how to be more active. This helps to reverse the patterns of avoidance and withdrawal that increase depression, replacing these with enjoyable experiences that reduces depression.
Interpersonal Therapy: This focuses on problems in your personal relationships and helps you to build skills to deal with any related problems.
There are a range of medications that your doctor can prescribe to treat your depression. These are called antidepressants. Whilst different antidepressants work in different ways, all act on the chemicals in the brain related to emotions and motivation. Antidepressants take time (at least 2 weeks) to work, and you will probably start to feel symptoms improve after 4-6 weeks. It is therefore important that you receive support when you commence medications and are waiting for them to take effect.
The health benefits of good work are shown to assist with all mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing a mental health condition, it is important that you share your condition with your employer to ensure that the work they are providing you is protective and supports a mentally healthy workplace.
4. SOCIAL CONNECTIONS
Keeping yourself connected with your community and activities that you enjoy and feel safe completing is an important part of treatment and recovery as well as a protective factor to prevent mental illness.
5. EXERCISE AND DIET
Exercise and diet impact most parts of our lives and contribute to our mental health. Keeping active and eating a healthy balanced diet will assist with any mental health treatment plan prescribed for you.
To help you understand if your symptoms are likely to be Anxiety and Depression, Beyond Blue has a Mental Health “Check-in”. This is a 10-question survey that examines how you have felt over the past 4 weeks. The results are anonymous and will provide recommendations on how and what kind of support you may benefit from:
Beyond Blue – Mental health check-in
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/mental-health
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, visit https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/emergency-help/
If you want to talk to someone for free you can