A mental health moment: Depression and anxiety affects daily life

Editor’s column: A mental health moment

Emerson Sutow is the A&E Editor at Ethic News


Depression and anxiety are both common mental illnesses that can wildly change how people live their day to day lives. As a person who is diagnosed with both these mental illnesses, I know it can sometimes make life much more difficult and many people who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety never fully understand the everyday battle that some face.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes depression, often known as major depressive disorder, as a “common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel and the way you think and act.”

Although depression is very complex, it shares a few similarities with feelings of grief, loss and sadness, but ultimately takes those emotions to a total extreme. It can also cause other effects that can significantly impact a person and their mental health, such as losing interest in hobbies, changes in appetite, insomnia, sleeping too much and an overall loss of energy. 

Another aspect of depression that is often asociated is self-harm or feelings of death and sometimes suicide. This is described by the APA as “recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation or suicide plan or attempt.”

Photo made using Word It Out, a word cloud generator, demonstrating the different words and topics associated with mental health. (Emerson Sutow/ Ethic News Photo)

Luckily, depression is treatable, most commonly with a mix of therapy and sometimes anti-depression medications; although medication does not always help and can take a while to find the right medication that helps the individual.

Anxiety is considered to be the most common mental disorder, with over 25 million Americans reportedly diagnosed and, according to the APA, is a “normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations.” Moments where anxiety can be beneficial allow the individual to feel an amplified awareness of danger, an intensified fight or flight response and a tendency to pay attention to their surroundings. 

On the other hand, the most common symptoms of anxiety include a constant fight, flight or freeze response, avoidance of situations and anxiety attacks, which can affect a person’s school and/or work life. However, many tend to mix and confuse anxiety attacks for panic attacks, which are both two different situations.

Although similar, there are a few major differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks. 

According to Dr Wendy Boring-Bray, Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, the symptoms, risk factors and treatments of both anxiety attacks and panic attacks are similar. The major difference lies in the cause.

Panic attacks are typically very rapid and can include debilitating fear, losing control, a fear of dying or a feeling of detachment from reality or one’s self. The most common triggers for panic attacks are situational stress, a rising fear or a level of discomfort that can be completely unique to the individual. 

Alternatively, anxiety attacks are more of a gradual escalation, consisting of feelings of apprehension, worry, distress, restlessness or fear that persists before and long after. 

Although they do have their differences, they share many of the same symptoms, which prompts many to unintentionally confuse the two. These symptoms often include rapid heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, numbness, headache, nausea and dizziness. 

Learning about the basics of depression and anxiety better enables people who don’t suffer from these issues to try and understand and aid peers who might be struggling with them.

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