What To Do When Depression Treatment Makes Anxiety Worse
I once heard an exasperated man lament, "My depression treatment makes my anxiety worse!" He's not alone in this frustration, and neither are you if you've found that treating depression worsens your anxiety.
Depression is a mental health disorder that can make life and the living of it difficult. The symptoms of depression can range from mild to debilitating and can seem to bring life, and the enjoyment of it, to a screeching halt.
The good news is that there's hope for recovery. Many effective depression treatment options exist. However, what happens when depression treatment makes anxiety worse?
It's Common to Experience Both Anxiety and Depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America1, almost half of all people who are diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Both are highly treatable conditions, but sometimes treating depression can worsen anxiety.
Living with both depression and anxiety can be a swirling, exhausting mess. While feeling fatigued, unmotivated, and disinterested in activities that were once pleasing--some of the hallmarks of depression--one simultaneously can feel wired, agitated, worried, and fearful--some of anxiety's hallmarks. Imagine being so worn down that it's hard to go anywhere or do anything yet feeling the full-body arousal that happens when the brain's anxiety sends you into panic.
Treating Depression Can Make Anxiety Worse
One important part of depression treatment is building social connections and support networks. Further, depression recovery involves increasing activity in the world. These treatments, among others, lead to renewed energy, increased self-esteem, the return of pleasure, and a sense of hope and optimism.
However, these depression treatments can be brutal for anxiety. These techniques that are so effective in overcoming depression can worsen anxiety. The thought of socializing can seem daunting for someone living with anxiety (What Is Social Anxiety Disorder [Social Phobia]?). Further, getting out and becoming more active--components of depression treatment--can be highly stressful for someone simultaneously living with anxiety. It's disheartening when depression treatment worsens anxiety.
What to do When Depression Treatment Makes Anxiety Worse
Is it too much to ask to improve both depression and anxiety? No, it absolutely is not. Depression treatment doesn't have to make anxiety worse, and both conditions can improve. It's possible to once again enjoy life to its fullest.
How, though, does one recover and improve both depression and anxiety? Some tips include:
- Rather than thinking of depression and anxiety as separate issues, think of them as equal partners in crime, villains who team up and work together to erode mental health.
- Now you can tackle both at once (as opposed to trying treatments for depression and separately employing techniques for anxiety). Make a list of all of the mental health issues you want to overcome.
- Next, rank (or scale) the items on the list. What is the most bothersome and thus the problem you want to work on first? What is next? And so on. Now you've built a prioritized list and a system of improvement.
- Employing the foundations of solution-focused therapy, consider each issue that's holding you back. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst, how much is this issue interfering in your life? In what way? What will it take to move that number just one or two places up the scale toward a 10? What little steps can you take every day to get there? Repeat for all of the items on your list, and go at pace that works for you.
When you treat depression and anxiety together, it's possible to find a balance. When you have this holistic balance, it's less likely that depression treatment will make anxiety worse.
1 Facts & Statistics | ADAA. (2014, September 1). Retrieved September 30, 2015.
NCC, T. (2015, October 1). What To Do When Depression Treatment Makes Anxiety Worse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/10/when-depression-treatment-makes-anxiety-worse
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
It really is frustrating when you try things that end up not working. Finding what works is a process that takes time because it's so complex and there are so many individual differences. That doesn't mean that you have to stick with something for a long time if it's not working. If you aren't happy with your medication, it's okay to go back to your doctor to discuss options. Many different kinds are available, and you might need something different. Also, medication doesn't help everyone. Perhaps working with a therapist would be more helpful to you. Just know that you have options. Be patient with yourself!
It's common to experience both depression and anxiety together. You're not alone! Perhaps addressing them together and identifying big-picture problems to work on might help you improve both. It's not always easy, but feeling better is definitely possible.
You and your son aren't alone! Anxiety and depression often go together. I'm glad you found this post helpful, and I'm glad for your comment. I'd be happy to write more on depression and anxiety in the future.