Anxiety and Depression

Written by Clinical Research Associates staff

Do you know someone who is a worrier? More often than not, they are tense, nervous and on edge. They cannot turn off their constant fretting. They are overly anxious about everyday problems that do not warrant the amount of worrisome energy they expend. For instance, if they cannot get in contact with a loved one they may automatically think there must be a horrible accident.

This consistent anxiety and inability to stop worrying may be indicative of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Now think of someone you may know who seems unhappy much of the time. Are they down for a reason, or have they been unusually pessimistic or hopeless for weeks or months? Do they have a day where they don't feel like stepping out of their pajamas, or are there long periods of time where they don't care about anything but lying on the couch? In other words, are they just a little gloomy? Or could they be clinically depressed?

The Difference Between Anxiety Disorders and Mood Disorders

Anxiety disorders (like GAD) and mood disorders (like depression) are the most common types of mental illness. In a given year, anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults. Mood disorders affect nearly 21 million people. Often these disorders occur at the same time. In fact, studies have shown that they may coexist as much as 60 percent of the time.

Why is there such a high rate of coexistence? For one thing, the symptoms of anxiety and depression are sometimes similar. The criteria for diagnoses can overlap. This makes it hard for mental health professionals to to distinguish the diseases. Shared symptoms include:

  • sleep disturbances
  • difficulty concentrating
  • forms of obsessional thinking or worry
  • avoiding situations that cause fear (which prevents the individual from learning to cope)

Throw in the depression or anxiety sufferer's favorite coping mechanism— substance abuse— and you can have one more diagnosis to contend with.

The Good News

Fortunately, the medications prescribed for anxiety and depression are usually the same. Whether a patient has depression, anxiety, or both, SSRIs and SNRIs are presently the typical course of treatment. Classes of medications like SSRIs (e.g. Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft) and SNRIs (e.g. Cymbalta, Effexor) have both antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. There are also new classes of drugs currently being studied that are similar in their ability to treat a spectrum of mood and anxiety disorders. In fact, if a new drug is being studied in clinical trials for depression, it is very likely that it will be evaluated for anxiety disorders too.