Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression: This May Surprise You

I think everyone would agree that anxiety, depression, and stress all tend to work together to get the best of you and deteriorate your mental health. In my journey towards overcoming anxiety, I have learned that there are actually 7 forms of anxiety and depression that exist. According to psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, I have learned about these 7 types:

1. Pure Anxiety

This results from too much activity in an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia (responsible for setting the body's idle/anxiety level, combining feeling and movement, shifting and smoothing fine motor behavior, and suppressing unwanted motor behaviors). The most common symptoms are panic attacks, pessimism, conflict avoidance, excessive fear of being judged, and high levels of shyness or nervousness.

2. Pure Depression

This is from excessive activity in an area of the brain called the deep limbic system (serves as the brain's "mood center" and helps set the emotional tone of the mind, directly processes sense of smell, stores highly charged emotional memories, and promotes bonding with others). The most common symptoms include persistent sad mood, restlessness, irritability, feeling worthless, pessimism, sleeping too little or too much, and low self-esteem.

3. Mixed Anxiety and Depression

This is basically a combination of both pure anxiety and pure depression. Thus, both the basal ganglia and deep limbic center tend to be overactive. Both symptom clusters are also present on a consistent basis.

4. Overfocused Anxiety/Depression

This results from high activity in the brain's anterior cingulate gyrus (area of the brain that serves as the "gear shifter" and contributes to shifting of attention, cognitive flexibility, adaptability, and helping the mind going from one idea to another) in addition to an overactive basal ganglia and/or deep limbic system. Common symptoms include excessive worrying, upset when things are out of place or don't go the way you planned, tendency to hold grudges, to hold on to own opinion and not listen to others, and a need to have things done a certain way ("my way or the highway").

5. Cyclic Anxiety/Depression

This is from extremely high focal activity in the brain's basal ganglia and/or deep limbic system. This is a cyclic condition much like Bipolar Disorder in that you can never know when you'll have an episode of increased activity in the basal ganglia or deep limbic system. What really makes this type unique is the cyclic pattern of depression or anxiety. Symptoms will include at least four Pure Anxiety symptoms and/or Pure Depression symptoms plus at least four of these symptoms: periods of delusional/psychotic thinking, periods of irritability/aggression, periods of inappropriate social behavior, periods of marked increased energy, periods of elevated/depressed/anxious mood, and periods of grandiose notions/plans.

6. Temporal Lobe Anxiety/Depression

This results from either too much or too little activity in the temporal lobes (serves as the brain's "memory manager"; also helps with understanding and processing language, memory formation, decoding tone of voice, emotional stability, and temper control) along with too much activity in the basal ganglia and/or deep limbic system. Symptoms usually include short fuse, periods or rage with little provocation, misinterpreting comments as negative, dark thoughts that might involve suicide or homicide, or periods of spaciness/confusion.

7. Unfocused Anxiety/Depression

This is from high activity in the basal ganglia and/or deep limbic system in addition to too little activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex (serves as the brain's "executive center" and helps with attention span, impulse control, organization, problem solving, perseverance, forward thinking, and learning from experience). Symptoms will usually include trouble staying focused, overwhelmed by tasks of daily living, procrastination, always losing things, chronic boredom, and easily distracted.

Chances are you've been taught that you can either have anxiety or depression but not necessarily both. According to Daniel G. Amen's work, it is possible to have some combination of both. This info can come in handy if you feel either you or someone else may be struggling to overcoming depression/anxiety. In another article, I'll cover possible treatments for each type.

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