Depression & Anxiety : A Medical Perspective

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 18 percent of adults are affected by anxiety, while The World Health Organization has stated that 19 percent of Americans will suffer from depression in their lifetime. Depression and anxiety might seem like opposites, but they often go together. More than half of the people diagnosed with depression also have anxiety. Either condition can be disabling on its own. Together, depression and anxiety can be especially hard to live with, hard to diagnose, and hard to treat.

The truth is, one of the most difficult parts of a healthcare provider’s job is having to listen to patients reveal heart-wrenching problems and the strong negative emotions that accompany them. Psychiatrists are alone among medical doctors in that hearing and treating emotional problems is precisely their line of work. They sometimes deflect the difficulty by asking canned diagnostic questions, explaining biological causes, and prescribing medications. In such encounters, it is hard to imagine that the depressed patients — who typically feel alienated and vulnerable to begin with — are being listened to as if their human experience mattered. And that is troubling.

Depression can make people feel profoundly discouraged, helpless, and hopeless. Anxiety can make them agitated and overwhelmed by physical symptoms — a pounding heart, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing. People diagnosed with both depression and anxiety tend to have:

  • More severe symptoms
  • More impairment in their day-to-day lives
  • More trouble finding the right treatment
  • A higher risk of suicide

While depression and anxiety are usually categorized as mental illnesses, we find it more useful to think of them as disruptions in brain health, which is directly related to the physical makeup and mechanisms of the brain, as well as emotional and relational issues. A new concept of the brain is emerging. Instead of being a static organ that doesn’t change after adolescence, the brain is now seen as having a lifelong dynamic ability to change in response to its environment. The brain as an organ (like the heart) needs to experience a “brain-healthy” lifestyle. Ways to start to take care of your brain (and the rest of your body).

  • Breathe………..slow exhalation helps relax the body
  • Move your body
  • Spend time in nature
  • Get regular, replenishing sleep
  • Spend time with supportive friends/family
  • Accept imperfection
  • Eat real/functional foods and drink lots of water
  • Meditate (sitting or moving) or take regular time for self-awareness practice
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Practice gratitude daily

Many people have concerns about seeking treatment for a mental health problem. You may think it’s a sign of weakness, or you don’t want people to know about it. It’s important to overcome these reasons for not seeking treatment. Treating depression or anxiety is good for your health. Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders. No matter which type of condition you may have, it is important to know that most people with anxiety/depression disorders can be helped with professional care. It can be difficult to handle anxiety/depression symptoms on your own and they can get worse if not addressed.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and