Anxiety and depression are two mental illnesses that go hand-in-hand.
One half of all people diagnosed with anxiety will also be diagnosed with depression.
The real tragedy behind those statistics is that anxiety and depression are highly treatable.
I know what I'm talking about, because I suffer from both disorders, and in order to stay alive I have had to do my homework. If you're anxious and depressed, you probably do too.
Despite how common they are, only one third of people diagnosed with anxiety and depression ever seek medical help. That's disastrous, because people who suffer from both conditions are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons than others.
Anxiety and depression can be caused by genetics, brain chemistry, or life events. Facing the two disorders together can feel doubly daunting, but it isn't impossible — I'm going to say that again because if you've made your way to this article it's important you hear it — it isn't impossible.
You can do this.
It's hard to explain to people who aren't anxious and depressed simultaneously just what it's like to have these two disorders battle it out in your brain.
Because it's so hard to talk about, you might find the very notion of explaining how you're living day to day an impossible feat, even to family and friends.
Below I've shared eight common struggles people who are both anxious and depressed face every day.
1. Sleep is a real challenge.
When you have anxiety and depression, sleep problems are really common. For some it's insomnia, for others it's sleeping too much! My anxiety can make it really hard for me to sleep at night because I start thinking about how one day I will die and that triggers a panic attack. Then in the morning, because of my depression, getting myself to wake up can be a major struggle.
2. It's hard to keep up with friendships.
When you have anxiety and depression, your personal relationships can really suffer. As a person with depression, I have to work very hard not to fixate on irrational fears like the fact that I'm not "good enough" to be anyone's friend.
As a person with anxiety, however desperate I might be for companionship, I find myself repeatedly cancelling plans because the idea of having to leave the house and interact is sometimes more than I can handle. It's easy to write off a person with anxiety and depression as a "flake" or someone who isn't interested in your friendship, but sufferers of anxiety and depression know this couldn't be further from the case. Sometimes we just can't do it.
Don't beat yourself up about this if it's something that happens to you. Your real friends will understand if you're honest with them about what's happening. Just make sure you continue to communicate. Better to be honest and risk embarrassment then to stay quiet and potentially lose a friend.
3. Managing work stress is incredibly hard.
Because as a depressed person it is hard to be excited about anything. As an anxious person having a job is great because the routine can feel really stabilizing. What doesn't feel so great is the constant panic that you aren't doing your best work or that you're a fraud and any second you could be fired.
The goal is to find a job you love and you'll have to work really hard to convince yourself that you even deserve it.
I struggle with this one on a daily basis. I love my job! And I love the people I work with! But I constantly worry that I'm not working HARD enough or being enough of a team player or that my endless array of typos will have me filing for unemployment. I remind myself when these feelings come over me that depression and anxiety LIE. I do my best work, and if I'm concerned about something ACTUAL I talk to my boss about it.
4. Getting motivated enough to work out is rare (but so important).
When you have depression and anxiety, exercise can be really beneficial. Studies have shown the positive effects of exercise on emotional well-being. My anxiety makes me desperate to find a way to burn off the jittery "bad" energy, but my depression can make me feel too lethargic to even think about getting up, let alone hitting the gym.
One way to combat this feeling to do small exercises at home. Even simple stretching can make you feel better. For me it's about separating shame from the equation and remembering that exercise doesn't have to be a crazy treadmill session, it can be something small that makes me feel good.
5. Visiting the dentist is terrifying.
Because of my anxiety, I constantly grind my teeth. I do it while working, I do it while sleeping, I do it at the gym, I do it going for a walk, it's a terrible habit. I should go to the dentist. But because I'm a person with depression I feel a lot of shame about going to see a dentist. That's because during my depressive episodes I seriously ignore taking care of my teeth. Add anxiety to the equation and I'm sure my dentist will judge me for my failings, a thought that is more than my anxious self can bear.
I immediately confess my panic to my dentist now whenever I go to see her. Being scared of the dentist isn't an uncommon thing, and yours would much rather talk you through your panic than have to do mountains of work because you have skipped years of visits. Take it from someone who has skipped years of visits.
6. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself.
My depression makes me rip myself apart. I can stare in a mirror and seriously think I'm too ugly to exist. This can lead to a lack of self-care. I neglect myself, don't take showers, don't wash my clothes.
When my anxiety can't take it anymore, I'll try to pull myself together but even that can seem so totally overwhelming. Breaking your routine down into baby steps can help with this a lot.
7. Being in a messy house affects me in a huge way.
My anxiety makes me want to clean, it makes me want to fix everything. That should be good, but it can actually keep me from getting real work done, which in turn leads to stress which in turn leads to MORE anxiety.
My depression can immobilize me altogether. Feeling really uncomfortable in a dirty space but being physically unable to rally the energy to do anything about the mess is a brutal mixture of emotions.
Instead of arriving late or canceling plans or not getting work done because you HAVE to clean remove yourself from the situation and get some place where you can feel comfortable. Don't reward your anxiety by giving in to it. Normalize cleaning the way you work to normalize everything else in your life.
8. It hurts when people don't take my feelings seriously.
As a person with anxiety and depression, it can be hard to handle everyday confrontations without your mental illnesses being used against you. If you express annoyance at a roommate for not buying new milk, or ask a coworker if they can hurry up and file that report, you might be met with eye rolls and comments like "what, are you off your medication or something?"
My anxiety and my depression don't make all of my feelings and complaints invalid. Stop gaslighting me.
9. I'm constantly afraid something will happen to the people I love.
Because of my anxiety I am constantly worrying about different members of my family. Anxiety replaces normal love with worry and fear. My depression makes talking on the phone difficult for me to do, and my family lives all over the country. Checking in with them is hard and can strangely make me seem like I don't care at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is another case of communication saving the day. Let your family know why the phone is hard for you and I bet they can find other ways of communicating. In my family we're big FaceTime fans.
10. Finding the right medication combinations takes time (and patience).
Oh boy, this is a big one. Finding a combination of drugs that work for you can be a lifelong struggle. The pill you take to make you happy might exacerbate your anxiety. The pill that stops your anxious brain from running in circles might make your depression worse.
It sucks. Luckily, it's a process and there are doctors and therapists who can help get you through it.
11. Sometimes I feel alone ... and like things will never get better.
Anxiety can make you feel like you are running in circles and not getting anywhere. Depression can make you feel like it doesn't matter because nothing matters anyway. This is turn makes you anxious. It's a snake eating its own tail, a horrible seemingly endless vicious cycle.
It was hard to sit down and write these things out. That's because I am (knock wood) in a pretty good place. I manage both my anxiety and my depression with medication and therapy as needed. I've come a long way. But it's shockingly easy to access these feelings and emotions, easier still to pulled back into the way they feel when you're having — which is miserable to the extreme.
You don't have to go through this alone, and that vicious cycle I mention as number 11? It's one you can break. For every "friend" who doesn't get what's wrong with you, there's another ready and waiting to support you. 40 million people suffer from anxiety and depression in the United States alone, and like you they are fighting every single day.
If you feel alone, remember that you aren't. If you feel like you need help, it's there for you. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is a great resource if you think it's time to find help and break the vicious cycle.