Anxiety and depression never occur alone because, as we know, in almost every case we see both of them in anyone who indicates he or she is experiencing either depression or anxiety. They are what I call “the ugly twins.”
Who could say that either of these emotions would be something that anyone would want to experience, whether occasionally or on an ongoing basis? Undoubtedly, they cause more problems than we can adequately assess with our clinical tools. Anxiety and depression bring each of us our own personal level of pain, whether physical or emotional, and no scale or clinical evaluation may effectively capture the degree to which we suffer. They are as personal as physical pain; they are totally subjective.
Both anxiety and depression are viewed as two of the most common emotions and psychological disorders in the U.S. population today. This may also be true for much of the industrial world, according to agencies evaluating world psychological disorders.
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Why Anxiety and depression never occur alone.
The ugly twins outpace most other medical illnesses in terms of the cost to business when we consider lost productivity and sick days allocated to them. To place this in a broader perspective, we can look at statistics coming out of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States . Its calculations put the number of adults older than the age of 18 with a mood disorder in the millions, and the median age for mood disorders is 30 years old, which is close to the median age for the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). These statistics, however, are primarily for individuals who have received a diagnosis of depression or anxiety. The stats do not tell us about anyone who has a medical disorder and who is not receiving therapy or medications for a possibly associated depressive disorder. Therein lies the problem with statistics; they don’t always “catch” everyone in their calculations. In addition, not all clinicians look for either of these diagnoses and they may go undocumented and untreated as a result.
Statistics alone are of little use when we are considering the reason behind a mood disorder, and so they fail to tell us much about what causes depression and anxiety. We do know that these are not simple, straightforward disorders. Many people will have a genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression, but they may never end up experiencing either.
One reason may be that these individuals have learned to cope in any number of ways; some of these are counterproductive to their health and welfare such as when they use drugs or alcohol. Some people may even deny that they have either disorder, preferring to suffer in silence, but nevertheless displaying symptoms to others. Environmental factors can play a role, too.
However, we also know that in the case of panic disorder, there appears to be a neurological component where a brain hormone is involved. The causes of depression and anxiety may be genetic or learned behaviors, and now we know that there are underlying medical conditions, such as MS and other autoimmune disorders, whose first symptoms may actually be depression and anxiety.
Stress can play an extremely important role in handling depression and anxiety for people with MS. Here, it is a question of not only learning to adapt to your changed physical and psychological circumstances, but also learning new coping mechanisms to help you help yourself and to modify your psychological outlook on life. These techniques may not have been part of any prior plan. Such an oversight can lead to a distorted negative belief about self-efficacy. If, as it is believed, it is vital to learn to contain or minimize stress in anyone’s life, we know that it is of even greater importance for people living with a chronic condition because it may exacerbate symptoms of an autoimmune illness such as MS.
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