Many people who have depression also have an anxiety disorder. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, and they can cause near-constant worry, overwhelming fear, and even panic attacks. “I alternated between feeling completely helpless, hopeless, and disconnected, and feeling startled and jumpy at the smallest noise,” remembers Helen, a woman with rheumatoid arthritis who was diagnosed with both depression and generalized anxiety disorder. “I was constantly terrified of anything new. Computers, learning a new program, being given responsibility…all these things would send me into a complete panic.”
Depression and anxiety disorders share some symptoms, which often makes diagnosis difficult. As Helen remembers, “I didn’t realize that I could actually have both depression and anxiety, so I just told myself to carry on and stop grumbling. I thought what I was feeling was a side effect of one of my medicines.”
An anxiety disorder can worsen depression and pain, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment if you think you may have an anxiety disorder. Common symptoms include persistent feelings of worry, fear, or panic, sleep disturbances, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sweating, and nausea. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, taking an antidepressant may help to reduce symptoms. A class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which include alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), can also help to relieve anxiety.