Anxiety and depression are common mood disorders that occur at some point in our lives. The death of a loved one, break-up in a relationship, loss of a job, or financial ruin can can cause one to feel depressed. At the same time, one may also experience anxiety over relationships, financial problems, or even health problems.
Symptoms of depression include:
- deep, persistent sadness
- crying all the time
- fatigue, loss of energy
- irritability and restlessness
- feelings of worthlessness
- feelings of guilt
- feelings of helplessness
- difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions
- loss of appetite or overeating
- sleep disturbances
- loss of interest in sex
- physical symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and digestive problems
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- constant worry and/or fear
- inability to stay calm
- feelings of panic
- problems sleeping
- heart palpitations
- sweaty hands/feet
- shortness of breath
- muscle tension
Usually, these symptoms improve when a problem is resolved or when you take steps to cope with them. Talking to someone you trust, improving lifestyle habits, and relaxing can help you cope with these feelings. However, if these symptoms persist for several weeks and you feel that they are interfering with your work, relationships and personal life, you may need to seek help from a medical professional.
The diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety is made clinically by a doctor after evaluating your symptoms and medical history. There are no specific laboratory tests that are needed, but they may requested to exclude other possible medical conditions such as underactive thyroid gland function or heart disease. Appropriate medications may be prescribed, including antidepressants, anxiolytic drugs, sedatives, and dietary supplements to improve your health.
How to cope with depression and anxiety
One of the negative effects of feeling anxious or depressed is that people forget to take care of their health, which usually makes their symptoms worse. Some tend to overeat, stay in bed longer, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol a little more than usual. These can make you feel more tired, overweight, and unhealthy.
Some people get better just by changing their lifestyle habits. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Keeping a healthy weight through eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise often helps you get more energy to do your daily activities and improve your mood. Nutrients that are associated with relief of depression include vitamins B, C, D and E, selenium, omega-3-fatty acids, and various antioxidants from fruits and vegetables.
Exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression by allowing the body to release endorphins, our feel-good chemicals from the brain. It also helps reduce inflammation and balance the immune system. Exercising also helps you feel good about yourself, gain confidence, and distract you from negative thoughts and behaviors. You do not have to get a gym membership to do these - doing simple chores like gardening or taking your dog out for a walk regularly can be a good start.
Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, taking a walk in the park, listening to soothing music, and similar activities can help reduce negative thoughts. Experts also advise patients to get support from friends and relatives and to go out and socialize instead of just staying home alone or working late hours all the time.
If your symptoms do not get better after a couple of weeks of trying to cope with them, schedule an appointment with your doctor. You may need to take some medications in addition to these measures to improve your symptoms.
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