Depression and Anxiety
We tend to think of depression and anxiety as two quite separate states but actually there are strong links between them. Many people suffer from what could be described as “agitated depression” or “anxious depression” which is made up of roughly equal amounts of helplessness (anxiety) and hopelessness (depression). And just as you can think yourself into anxiety by assessing your situation as precariously out of control, so can you ponder your way into the depths of depression by telling yourself that your situation leaves no room for hope.
Both depression and anxiety deal similarly with stress. In relation to the “fight-or-flight” reaction to some perceived threat, it’s clear that anxiety and depression are part of “flight” whereas anger is “fight”, going into attack mode, confronting the enemy. On the contrary, feeling anxious or depressed in the face of perceived danger stems from your concluding that you can’t successfully defeat your adversary, which, of course, catapults you into retreat mode.
More than anything else, anxiety is characterised by avoidance. After all, if you’re afraid someone will attack you and you won’t be able to adequately counterattack or defend yourself, you’ll naturally seek to stay away from them. If that’s not possible, you’ll try to refrain from doing anything that might provoke them. Likewise, if you’re afraid you’ll fail at some project, it’s probable that you’ll back off from undertaking it. And if you’ve already begun the activity or pursuit, any fears you may have about successfully completing it will increase the chances that you’ll decide, prematurely, to abandon it. This could include a bad experience when you’ve been public speaking and so avoiding ever being put into that situation again, or having a really turbulent flight on an aircraft and feeling that you never want to go in a plane again.
Depression isn’t so much avoidance as complete “withdrawal”. You stop doing anything that could possible threaten to make you feel worse about yourself. The unfortunate result of such withdrawal is that this kid of passive coping response is likely to make you even more depressed, just as the greatest cost of anxiety-induced avoidance is that it only leads your fearfulness to spread and deepen, thereby creating even more avoidance.
Both depression and anxiety have the potential to be debilitating. Individuals with severe anxiety sometimes get to the point where they literally can’t leave their house and likewise those who are severely depressed, can’t get themselves out of bed. And in both instances such physical paralysis can lead only to further demoralisation.
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Other related articles on depression: Beat Depression Fast!, What is Depression? Managing Anxiety, Anxiety Symptoms