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What’s The Cure For Depression And Anxiety?

Ever wonder about a cure for depression and anxiety? You should! Depression and anxiety are often misunderstood. And both are more common than you might think.

Depression affects more than 16.1 million American adults age 18+ in a given year. Struggles with depression can develop at any age, yet 32.5 years old is the median age of onset. According to the the National Center for Health Statistics, depression is most common in people ages 18 to 25.

Worldwide, 322 million people live with depression, according to the World Health Organization. Yikes! That’s a lot of people.

Speaking of a lot of people… Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the U.S. They affect 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. Yikes again!

The ways to cure depression and anxiety overlap.

Depression

What is depression?

Woman sitting on floor appearing depressed

Most people feel sad at times. It’s part of being human.

For people with depression, though, sadness is more intense, far reaching, and persistent. And is sooooo much more than “just” sadness.

Depression negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. When depressed, you may question if you’ll ever feel better. Sometimes there’s a triggering event, but not always.

Depression is clinically categorized by type. The most commonly diagnosed clinical form is Major Depressive Disorder.

Other symptoms of depression may include:

  • lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • feeling down or sad
  • trouble concentrating
  • low motivation
  • sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep, sleeping too much and still feeling tired)
  • appetite/eating changes
  • thoughts of death – your own. someone else’s, or in general
  • feeling badly about yourself – like you are a failure or disappointment
  • walking/talking more slowly than usual, or the opposite – walking/talking more quickly

How about some good news: Depression is treatable.

“Treatable” means symptoms can be alleviated. However, there is no clinical cure for Depression.

Depression can go into remission, though. Definitions of remission vary. They have to do with no longer having symptoms. In other words, the disorder is “at rest”.

Please hear this: Clinically speaking about depression is one thing.

But how you live your life and feel is another thing.

Treatment options for depression include (among others):

Some treatment approaches require working with a professional. There are also many things you can do on your own.

A Catch-22 with depression is that the very things you know would be helpful are the same things you have a hard time motivating yourself to do.

Lifestyle Changes

Start small. What can you do? The more your lifestyle is geared toward a healthy mind and body, the better you’ll be able to cope with symptoms of depression. And with life in general.

Examples of lifestyle changes:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Social connection
  • Caring for a pet
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation or yoga practice
  • Time in nature
  • Meaning and purpose in the everyday
  • Eliminating use of alcohol, tobacco, and other ‘ vices’
  • Gratitude

One of the best lifestyle changes you could work on is to ditch dieting. In my experience, quality of life soars when you’re no longer held hostage by Diet Culture rules. Try Intuitive Eating instead.

Psychotherapy

There are many different forms of therapy. And lots of experts to choose from. Providers vary in their credentials and theoretical approach.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a common and effective psychotherapy to treat Depression (and anxiety, Eating Disorders, and other things).

CBT focuses on changing a person’s thoughts and beliefs. It also highlights the impact of thoughts and beliefs on mood and actions. (More information on this is below.)

Support Groups

Participating in a support group can be an excellent way to help you feel better.

People with depression meet as part of a psychotherapy group to talk about their experiences. Usually there is a mental health professional who’s the group leader. Group members provide each other encouragement, understanding, and support.

Being in a support group is different from talking with supportive friends and family. People who have had similar experiences often have a deeper understanding. They know firsthand what depression feels like,

The main benefits of joining a depression support group: include:

  • Ongoing social contact with people in a similar position
  • Opportunities to share struggles and solutions
  • Advice from mental health professionals/co-facilitators

Medications

Depression medications are grouped into categories based on how they work.

The most common antidepressant categories include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiters (SSRIs), Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibiters (SNRIs), and Atypical antidepressants.

  • SSRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples: Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac
  • SNRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Examples: Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq
  • Atypical antidepressants work by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Examples: Trazodone, Wellbutrin XL, Remeron

Every person’s body is unique and metabolizes medications differently. Often, trial and error is needed to find a medication that works. A good place to start is with a medication that a first degree relative has had a good response to.

People often ask about side effects. As with every medicine, there may be some. The most common side effects are constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headache, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, difficulty sleeping and drowsiness.

Another common question is how long a medication will take to work. If it works, you’ll know within a month or so. Even when you find the “right” medication, you might not notice an improvement right away in how you feel.

What about Anxiety?

What is Anxiety?

Woman standing sideways with arm on wall appearing to have anxiety and wondering about a cure

Most people know what anxiety feels like because at some point they’ve felt anxious.

Anxiety is a natural human emotion that includes worry, tension, and changes within your body, such as increased pulse. As a species, we’re wired to respond to fear (by our fight, flight, or freeze response). That’s how we’ve survived as a species.

So anxiety can be a good thing! It helps you recognize potential threats and keeps you alert.

For some people, anxious feelings quickly come and go. For other people, not so much. They may have an Anxiety Disorder, for which more formal treatment is available.

So, anxiety is normal, not a flaw. However, people may get into patterns of coping that make anxiety feel like something is very wrong.

Especially when anxiety is persistent and overwhelming. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, it’s considered a disorder.

Anxiety can take different forms. Symptoms of anxiety, for example, exist as part of several mental health conditions, such as mood disorders and eating disorders.

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. How sad is that?

The seven most common “official” Anxiety Disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Phobias

Are there treatments for Anxiety?

Yes! As with depression, the treatments include (among others):

The specific type of anxiety is part of what determines the treatment approach.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES:

There are things you can do to help manage anxiety. They are useful to consider, and many are common sense. Things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, having a mindfulness practice, and eating foods that benefit the brain.


Psychotherapy is another effective way to manage different sorts of anxiety.

One of THE best approaches to help with anxiety is Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Thoughts affected by depression or anxiety are often negative. You may not even realize the way you are thinking is problematic. Even though the negative thoughts bring you down and interfere with your daily life, you may think of them as facts.

We commonly take our thoughts as facts. But they aren’t necessarily facts. They are cognitive distortions, aka thinking mistakes that you can correct.

Examples of cognitive distortions include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: “I have to be perfect, or I suck.” or “I ate a ______ so now I can not eat the rest of the day.”
  • Filtering: “No one ever compliments me” (disregarding the times people have complimented you.)
  • Catastrophizing: “My friends did not invite me to join them. They hate me.”

There are more categories of cognitive distortions. When you know how to identify distortions, you can more easily identify them in your self-talk. In other words, name it to tame it!

Once you recognize distortions, you can reframe them so that the thoughts are more neutral and realistic.

Reframing is not about being Pollyanna. Nor is it toxic positivity.

Depending on the type of anxiety, medication may be prescribed.

While meds don’t cure anxiety, they can help with symptoms so you can function well and feel better in your day-to-day life.

Many types of medications are available. Because every person is different, your doctor may have to prescribe several different medications before finding the one that is right one for you.

Common medications to treat anxiety include:

SSRIs -to help improve symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

Fluoxetine (Prozac) is used to treat OCD, Bulimia, panic, and depression

Escitalopram (Lexapro) is used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Sertraline (Zoloft) is used to treat OCD, PTSD, Social anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression

Fluvosamine (Luvox) to treat OCD, PTSD, Depression

Paroxetine (Paxil) to treat OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Depression.


ANXIOLYTICS – to relieve anxiety and promote sleep.

Buspirone (Buspar) to treat anxiety. It works as well as benzodiazepines but with fewer side effects. Also, it is not habit-forming like benzodiazepines. It can also be used in addition to an SSRI.


BENZODIAZEPINES – to help calm your mind

Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat different types of Anxiety Disorders, including panic disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.  

Examples of Benzos include:

  •  (Xanax) alprazolam
  •  (Librium) chlordiazepoxide
  •  (Klonopin) clonazepam
  •  (Valium)/diazepam
  • (Ativan)/lorazepam

A downside of benzos is that they can be habit forming. They also tend to increase drowsiness and worsen balance and memory.

Other resources for you to learn more about a cure for anxiety and depression:

Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to people living with mental illness and promoting overall mental health.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a national peer-oriented mental health organization. Their mission is to provide support and education.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America is geared toward improving quality of life for people with anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD through education.

Chances are you or someone you love has been or will be affected by depression and anxiety. So learning more is important. Awareness and knowledge are empowering and provide a solid basis for getting help. Whether it is for you, a friend, loved one, or colleague.

Depression and anxiety can (and do) happen to anyone. Sometimes it’s obvious when someone is struggling with depression or anxiety. Many people hide it well though. They may deny anything is wrong – even though their struggles are beyond what other people deal with. Stigma can make it harder for people to be honest about feeling depressed or anxious..

While there’s no clinical permanent cure yet, the way you deal with anxiety and depression can cure you. And, even as you read this, clinicians are working to find a permanent clinical cure. It’s just a matter of time.

In the meantime, you have resources within you to help you through.

If you are feeling unsafe, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255) — it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls are confidential.

I am Dr Elayne Daniels, a private practice clinical psychologist in MA, specializing in helping people develop skills to navigate life’s ups and downs.

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