-Mental health should be prioritized and viewed by our society just like physical health. Did you know that 264 million people live with depression worldwide? Or that 40 million adults over the age of eighteen in the United States have anxiety disorders? Depression and anxiety, although often brushed over or hushed, are some of the most common, relatable, and widespread diagnoses in our society. But the truth is, with mental illness comes mental ability. So why is there any stigma associated with them?
Hi, my name is AnnaLea, and in this video, I’m going to tell you there absolutely shouldn’t be. We’re gonna talk about anxiety and depression, and the resilience and strength shown by people who struggle with these diagnoses. First, let’s start with the basics.
What are depression and anxiety? Depression and anxiety are blanket terms for different types of disorders. Overarching depression is classified as a mood disorder that affects feelings, thoughts, and daily activities. It can happen to anyone at any age, and can be caused by any one or combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and/or psychological factors. Anxiety disorders are classified by persistent worry that does not resolve itself, which can also disrupt daily activities and relationships. This anxiety can regard health, work, social life, and any other aspect of life.
The most common types of anxiety and depression are Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, which is basically just clinical depression, and General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, which is excessive worry about everyday life for no reason in particular. Two-thirds of people with MDD have GAD. And similarly, two-thirds of people with GAD have MDD. Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand, but they don’t always. Anxiety and depression are highly personal conditions, which look different for every single person. It’s just like physical health. Just like how a bone can be broken in a million different places and ways, every person with anxiety and depression, although they might present similar symptoms, has a different experience and a different story.
But what are these symptoms? And what exactly do anxiety and depression look like? The most common symptoms of depression can include: a sad or anxious mood; feelings of hopelessness; pessimism; irritability; guilt or worthlessness; a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and a loss of energy; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; difficulty sleeping, or oversleeping; changes in apatite or weight; headaches, or other aches or pains; and on the very extreme, thoughts of death or suicide. People with depression can experience any of these symptoms and any combination of them. Symptoms can also vary depending on the stage of depression and the type of depression.
The most common symptoms of anxiety can include: restlessness; feeling on edge; feeling easily fatigued; having difficulty concentrating; a blank mind; irritability; difficulty controlling feelings of worry and your thoughts; and difficulty sleeping. Another common symptom of anxiety is panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden spells of extreme anxiety which can come unexpectedly or can be triggered by certain things. Symptoms of a panic attack can include: a really fast heartbeat; sweating; shaking; feeling out of breath, and out of control. Those who experience panic attacks quite frequently have a specific kind of anxiety called Panic Disorder. People with anxiety who experience panic attacks often worry about when the next panic attack will be, and will change their day-to-day lives in an effort to prevent them or avoid having panic attacks in public. Panic attacks are the worst, and it’s really easy to forget it in the moment, but it’s super important to remember that they will always pass.
I wanna re-emphasize that anxiety and depression look different for everyone, and just because you might experience some of these symptoms and not others, doesn’t mean that your story and your experience isn’t valid and important.
You might have recognized that some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety overlap. Anxiety can even be a symptom of depression. This is because the two are sometimes wrapped up in each other chemically. Psychology specialists believe that lower levels in a specific neurotransmitter called serotonin is a major factor in both anxiety and depression. Serotonin is a chemical hormone that stabilizes mood and happiness. Also, anxious and depressed brains handle the neurotransmitter and stress hormone called norepinephrine, which plays a part in energy and attention levels, very similarly. Anxiety is generally and frequently characterized as helplessness, while depression is generally characterized as hopelessness.
But both are just different flight responses. Fortunately, there is lots of hope for people with anxiety and depression. There are many, many resources available that can truly help people with these diagnoses. Both are commonly treated with medication and/or psychotherapy. Electroconvulsive therapy and other brain stimulation therapies can also be used in certain circumstances. Just like there is no one presentation of anxiety and depression, there’s no one medication or type of therapy that works as a treatment. It takes trial and error, and it depends on the individual. While both diagnoses are incredibly difficult, both also provide tremendous opportunities for strength and growth. And some individuals have even noted positive outcomes from their diagnoses. Commonly, people with depression and anxiety learn to detect when other people are struggling very well, and understand how to show compassion and empathy. Many people with these diagnoses have incredible resilience and courage as they continue to show up for themselves and others despite their struggles. People who have been diagnosed with depression have claimed that their experience led them to better understand why it’s important to be grateful for the little things in life.
Many popular celebrities that you know of struggle with anxiety and depression: Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Katy Perry, Wayne Brady, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, Janet Jackson, the list goes on and on. Even historical figures and great artists too, like Hemingway, Freud, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Dickens, and more. These people are living evidence that anxiety and depression do not take away from a person’s value, talent, and even the fullness of their lives, but could rather make these things stronger with the proper support and hard work.
People with anxiety disorders can often channel those feelings into heightened observation, motivation, preparation, fight-or-flight self-protection, and leadership. Many people with anxiety are also particularly aware of the ways that things could potentially go badly or harm them. Although this makes many aspects of life quite difficult, it’s important to understand how anxiety can be used as a strength: whether it’s thinking and acting more cautiously, being an extra-informed problem solver, picking up on other people’s personal struggles, reacting faster to and protecting from danger, and more.
People with anxiety and depression thrive in careers that are therapeutic for them. For example, Frank King, a comedian and public speaker with Major Depressive Disorder and chronic suicidality, says that a disproportionate amount of comedians he knows have a mental illness. He says that his best comedy students are the mentally ill. This is because comedy can be incredibly therapeutic for those people. Comedy also does a lot to reduce the stigma around mental health, just by its very nature. Another example is that many successful artists, be it visual artists, musicians, dancers, and more, have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Many times, art of any form helps people cope with anxiety and depression. These diagnoses are not a choice that leads to success but can be a great cause for success.
Oftentimes, depression and anxiety are not situational. They can be triggered by situations but certainly they don’t have to be. People with depression and anxiety have to actively work against the thoughts that stem from these diagnoses every single day. With that comes strength, self-awareness, and believe it or not, happiness. Healing is possible, and is so worth it.
In summary, anxiety and depression are two of the most common and debilitating mental health diagnoses in our society. And yet somehow, for some reason, have a stigma surrounding them. This needs to be dissolved immediately. People who have battled anxiety and depression have certain strengths that others might not. If you are struggling in any way, please do not feel any shame, and please reach out. Just because these diagnoses might be telling you differently, you deserve help and support.
You deserve to be, and you can be, happy.