You're noticing some changes lately. Maybe you feel sad, hopeless, or can't get any joy out of activities that used to be fun. Sounds like depression, right?
Maybe that's not all. Sometimes you're worried, afraid, and just plain uneasy. Isn't that a sign of anxiety?
The two conditions are flip sides of the same coin, says therapist Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD. "Being depressed often makes us anxious, and anxiety often makes us depressed."
There are lots of ways to get help when they strike together.
A professional therapist can develop a plan to treat your anxiety and depression at the same time.
Some types of therapy that can help are:
- Cognitive behavioral (teaches you to adjust your thoughts and actions)
- Interpersonal (shows you how to communicate better)
- Problem-solving (gives you skills to manage your symptoms)
You can find a therapist who specializes in these through the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
Your doctor may prescribe a drug called an SSRI. It affects serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood. Some examples are:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Symbyax)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
It's important to mention all your symptoms to your doctor so he can decide which is best. Tell your doctor if you're taking any natural supplements.
Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks or months for your medicine to work. You may have to try a few different kinds before you find one that's best for you.
Research suggests regular physical activity can boost your mood. Exercise also raises your self-esteem and confidence and can improve your relationships.
"Even a brisk walk can jump-start the endorphins," Irwin says -- chemicals in your brain that help you feel good.
High-energy and frequent exercise is best. Try to do it at least 3-5 times a week. If you need motivation, go with friends or join a group, suggests psychiatrist Ken Braslow, MD.
Give yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises a try.
Meditating for just 2-5 minutes during the day can ease your anxiety and lighten your mood, says psychiatrist Sheenie Ambardar, MD. She suggests trying any of these simple strategies:
- Focus on your breath
- Make a picture in your mind of a beautiful image
- Repeat a simple word or mantra, like "love" or "happiness"