To someone who doesn’t live with depression and anxiety, it may sound counterintuitive that these conditions often coexist. One is associated with heightened alertness while the other is associated with a dullness or numbing of the senses.
While experts may not have a clear-cut answer for this relationship, the connection itself is undeniable. Research even suggests that up to half of people with anxiety experience depression and vice versa. Furthermore, the chances of developing depression increase when anxiety is already present. And those with PTSD (a form of anxiety) are particularly prone to developing depression.
So what’s going on?
The Anxiety/Depression Cycle
One theory involves cyclical behavioral tendencies. Someone with anxiety may struggle to not be anxious. They may recognize that their feelings are irrational but still be unable to change them. This can cause feelings of failure, guilt, and hopelessness – all of which can lay the groundwork for a depressive episode.
Conversely, someone in a depressive episode may already have those feelings of failure, guilt, and hopelessness. They may then begin to feel anxious or panic when thinking about being unable to escape these feelings.
And while anxiety and depression may seem noticeably different, the two actually do share some of the same symptoms. Both conditions can involve excessive negative thoughts, sleep disturbances, irritability, thoughts of death/dying, as well as physical symptoms like pain and digestive issues.
With such an overlap in both thoughts, behaviors, and physical symptoms, many experts believe that anxiety and depression have a biological connection as well.
The Biological Connection
Research from the University of Ontario found an interaction between CRFR1 – a receptor important in regulating the stress response, and certain serotonin receptors (5-HTRs). The study found that “CRFR1 works to increase the number of 5-HTRs on cell surfaces in the brain, which can cause abnormal brain signaling.”
Because CRFR1 activation has been linked to increased anxiety and 5-HTRs have links to depression, this research suggests a potential biological explanation for why anxiety can lead to depression.
Another study, conducted by the University of British Columbia, compared the brain activity of healthy individuals to those of people diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder.
They found a link between people with an anxiety or mood disorder and low activity in parts of the brain important for emotional and cognitive control. These regions are also responsible for switching from one mental activity to another, which could indicate why ruminating thoughts is a symptom in both anxiety and depression.
Furthermore, researchers also found hyperactivity in parts of the brain that process emotional thoughts and feelings, suggesting a connection to anxiety disorders.
Anxiety and Depression Treatment
Most research still focuses on treating one condition at a time rather than coexisting conditions. This means that finding a treatment plan for anxiety and depression may require a more personalized mixture of interventions.
If you’d like to learn more about how Neurocore can help treat anxiety and depression through counseling, heart rate variability training, and neurofeedback, give us a call at 800.600.4096.
University of British Columbia. “Patients with mood, anxiety disorders share abnormalities in brain’s control circuit.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2019. .
University of Western Ontario. “Biological link between stress, anxiety and depression identified.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2010. .
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