Anxiety & depression

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Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health concerns in our society. They are often experienced as a complex set of emotional and functional challenges. The science of mind-body medicine helps us understand the ongoing connection between the mind and body and see how anxiety and depression may be triggered by a variety of factors. These can include nutritional, psychological, physical, emotional, environ mental, social, and spiritual factors, as well as genetic tendencies or brain disease.
While we often hear about a biochemical cause, meaning that certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters are out of balance, it is not clear if the level of neurotransmitters is the actual cause of anxiety and depression, or simply a symptom that a person is anxious or depressed. Anxiety and depression are not the same, but they often occur together. It is not uncommon for people with depression to experience anxiety and people with anxiety to become depressed. There is also overlap in some of the treatments, so it is beneficial to learn about both conditions.
Depression is a common disorder, affecting over 350 million people worldwide. It is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work, or school life; sleeping and eating habits; and general health. In the United States, the incidence of depression has increased every year in the past century, and now, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of ten people report experiencing a depressive episode.
Depression is typically characterized by low energy and mood, low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Symptoms include:
Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime. Men and women experience depression differently-while women tend to experience sadness and guilt, men often feel restless or angry and are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope. Only 50% of people actively seek conventional treatment for depression, although a majority of people do find some relief through treatment.
Depression causes unnecessary suffering and is a risk factor for suicide. Women and adults between the ages of 45 and 64 are most likely to meet the criteria for major depression; however, over 3% of youth ages 13-18 have also experienced a debilitating depressive episode.
Anxiety may be a normal reaction to stress, and it can serve as a prompt to deal with difficult situations. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is characterized by emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms that create an unpleasant feeling that is typically described as uneasiness, fear, or worry. The worry is frequently accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.
Emotional symptoms include fear, racing thoughts, and a feeling of impending doom. People suffering from anxiety often withdraw and seek to avoid people or certain places. While generalized anxiety disorder is the most common, there are other anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While depression and anxiety are usually categorized as mental illnesses, we find it more useful to think of them as disruptions in brain health, which is directly related to the physical makeup and mechanisms of the brain, as well as emotional and relational issues.

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