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Anxiety and Depression: What to Do When You Have Both

Most people feel anxious or depressed at times. Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, scared, nervous or anxious. These feelings are normal reactions to life’s stressors.

However, some people experience these feelings every day or almost every day for no apparent reason, making it difficult for them to carry on with normal, everyday functioning. These people may have an anxiety disorder, depression or both.

It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. The good news is that these disorders are both treatable – separately and together.

Read more about Understanding anxiety disorders and Understanding depression.

Which should be treated first – anxiety or depression?
A diagnosis of major depression and an anxiety disorder requires a treatment plan designed to help you cope with and reduce the symptoms of both disorders, often at the same time.

Some patients with both disorders will find one is diagnosed as the primary disorder and the other a secondary disorder, which may require one to be treated first in order to effectively treat the other. For instance, if a person experiences social anxiety and is depressed because he or she can’t go out with friends or attend family functions, the social anxiety may be triggering the depression and may need to be addressed first.

On the other hand, for example, a person who is highly depressed may not be able to begin some of the treatments for certain anxiety disorders, which require high motivation and energy. In that instance, it may be necessary to treat the depression first.

Some people can often pursue treatment for both disorders simultaneously.

Can depression and anxiety disorders be treated the same way?
Often times, yes. Certain therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (which works to replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with positive ones), are used to effectively treat depression and anxiety disorders. Other therapies are targeted to specific anxiety disorders and may not apply to depression.

Certain medications also have been proven effective in treating both disorders depending upon an individual’s symptoms. Research shows that both depression and anxiety disorders respond to treatment with medications including tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

These antidepressants also have “anti-anxiety” effects, which is why a person can have an anxiety disorder and take an antidepressant.

What other steps can I take to treat my anxiety and depression?

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