This week we are entering the third full week of May which marks National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. This week is our country’s dedication to working towards ending the stigma against mental illness.
An initiative such as this one is deeply important as nearly one in five adults in the United States suffer from mental illness. Annually, 8.4 percent of adults experience a depressive episode and 19.1 percent of adults are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These findings make depression and anxiety disorders some of the most common mental health disorders to be diagnosed in American adults.
With the high prevalence of anxiety and depression in the United States, either you or someone you love is likely to experience one of these mental health conditions. You may have heard of these conditions nominally, but are unsure of what it means more specifically to have anxiety or depression. That is ok! Here, I will provide an overview of these classes of disorder to support you in developing your understanding of them.
Before I begin, it is important to clarify that anxiety and depression are not singular mental health disorders. Rather, they are classes of multiple types of anxiety or depressive disorders. I will describe each class of disorders below.
An Overview of Depressive Disorders
A brief description of each depressive disorder is provided below. Click on each diagnosis if you would like to gain more specific information about diagnostic criteria.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a depressive disorder that presents in childhood. Common symptoms of DMDD are extreme irritability and frequent mood outbursts of high intensity. This disorder does not describe the behavior of a child that is simply moody or angry. Children with this disorder experience impairment that requires clinical support.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a depressive disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest or pleasure. More severe MDD may lead a person to experience challenges in engaging with daily living tasks and/or thoughts or feelings of suicide.
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) is similar to MDD in that it leads to hopelessness, low productivity, and an overall feeling of inadequacy. Dysthymia is typically more chronic than MDD and is typically milder.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a more severe version of PMS. PMDD leads to severe irritability, low mood, and/or anxiety in the two weeks before menses. Symptoms typically abate two or three days after menses begin.
An Overview of Anxiety Disorders
Again, a brief description of each anxiety disorder is provided below. Click on each diagnosis if you would like to gain more specific information about diagnostic criteria.
- Separation anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that typically presents in children. Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by feeling excessive worry or concern when being separated from family and sometimes close friends or relatives. These concerns typically are related to a fear that something bad may happen.
- Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder in which a person is not able to speak in certain social settings like school or work. Selective mutism typically impacts children but can present in adults.
- Specific phobia is an irrational fear of significant intensity. Specific phobia relates to a phobia of something that causes little or no actual danger to the person who is experiencing fear.
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is an intense and persistent fear that others are watching or judging oneself. While some social anxiety is typical, a social anxiety disorder can lead a person to miss work, school, or other obligations due to the intensity of their fear.
- Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder hallmarked by repeated, unexpected episodes of intense fear. This fear is typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, chest pain, trouble breathing, dizziness, and/or stomach troubles.
- Agoraphobia is an excessive fear of specific situational experiences. This fear may lead someone with agoraphobia to avoid leaving their home or going to new places.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is described as excessive and heightened anxiety or worry about daily life events. This anxiety is not typically caused by a specific trigger. Someone with GAD may report always preparing for a disaster and not being able to stop worrying.
It is important to keep in mind that there are other alternative diagnoses for anxiety or depression besides the ones described in the diagnostic criteria above. In those cases, someone may be diagnosed with anxiety or depression otherwise specified or unspecified. Additionally, anxiety and depression can be caused by substance use, medication, or a medical condition.
How to Best Treat Anxiety and Depressive Disorders
Once someone knows that they have anxiety and/or depressive disorder, it is important to seek appropriate treatment.
To best treat anxiety and depression, it is important to utilize evidence-based treatments (EBTs). EBTs are noted as having scientific data to support the claim that they can manage the health problem they are treating.
Some EBTs for anxiety disorders include; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). EBTs for depression include CBT and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). Brief descriptions of these modalities are provided below:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a solution-focused intervention that focuses on one’s attitudes, thoughts, images, and beliefs about a certain event and one’s emotional experience.
- Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is an intervention that supports clients in directly engaging with that which causes them anxiety. The goal of ERP is to support clients in building tolerance for the sources of their fearful or anxious emotions.
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a combination of cognitive-based therapies and mindfulness-based practices to support clients in remaining calm while exploring their thoughts and emotions.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) focuses on improving mental health symptoms by improving a person’s interpersonal skills and functioning.
Though anxiety and depressive disorder are common and disruptive, they are treatable. Building awareness of these mental disorders and their appropriate treatment can help to reduce the negative impact of these disorders and promote healing.
Written By: Sarah Kelly, LSW, CADC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.