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Symptoms of Severe Anxiety and Depression

by
author image Jennifer Olvera
Jennifer Olvera has been writing since 1997 for publications and websites such as "Chicago Sun-Times," Orbitz, "Chicago Tribune" and Priceline. A four-time author with books that include "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago," she is a recipe columnist for Serious Eats. Olvera received a Bachelor of Arts in English from DePaul University.
Symptoms of Severe Anxiety and Depression
Young man biting his nails. Photo Credit Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images

Overview

It’s normal to worry: Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree, be it when speaking in public, prior to a first date or at a job interview. However, when worries and fears get in the way of life—or when they lead you to feel profoundly sad and forlorn—it’s likely you’re experiencing something on a larger and more serious scale. Because anxiety and depression can exist separately or occur together, it’s important to understand how the disorders manifest themselves.

Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Irrational and excessive fears are among the leading signs you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder. But you also may feel unusually apprehensive, dread situations that otherwise wouldn’t have bothered you and have trouble concentrating. Beyond feeling jittery, someone with severe anxiety is both irritable and restless, while tending to anticipate worst possible scenarios will happen. Depression results in many of the same symptoms (and can lead to them); it’s also coupled with feelings of hopelessness and a tendency to experience pervasive negative thoughts.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression aren’t just in your head: These disorders result in an array of symptoms—from sweating and upset stomach to dizziness, fatigue and insomnia—that mistakenly can be attributed to a medical illness. Other common symptoms include headache, muscle tension, shortness of breath, a pounding heart and frequent diarrhea and urination as well as loss of appetite and feelings that life is not worth living and completely unpleasurable.

Connection Between Anxiety and Depression

There’s a close connection between severe anxiety and depression—especially in adults. According to a study by the National Comorbidity Survey, both occur simultaneously 58% of the time. A person who is depressed and anxious not only feels sad but also loses the ability to take pleasure in life while feeling tense, irritable and agitated. Sleep difficulties—including trouble falling or staying asleep—are common occurrences among those who are both depressed and anxious. Moreover, medications used to treat the disorders commonly overlap, and complementary treatments—which include exercise, relaxation techniques and hypnosis—may be recommended in both cases.

Other Possible Symptoms

Those suffering from severe anxiety—and, by proxy, depression—might experience panic attacks, marked by overwhelming panic, heart palpitation or pain, hyperventilating and shaking. Other symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack can include feelings of losing control, trouble breathing or feeling as if you’re choking. These attacks generally are treated with a combination of medication (such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants), cognitive-behavioral to challenge problematic thinking patterns and exposure therapy to confront fears in a controlled environment.

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