Why Does Someone with Anxiety also Struggle with Depression?

Today, we’ll talk about anxiety and depression, two common mental health disorders. Knowing how worry and sadness affect each other in the brain is key to effective treatment. Understanding the connection gives you and your healthcare provider valuable information on how your brain adapts.

When Anxiety Meets Depression

Mental illnesses seldom exist alone. A lot of mental disorders go together. The American Psychiatric Association points out that anxiety and depression often happen together. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports 50% of people with major depression also have anxiety.

Why do these happen at the same time? Let’s look at some of the reasons.

Shared Symptoms, Basic Biology

Generalized anxiety disorder and major depression are mental disorders. They have similar symptoms.

These include:

  • feeling restless impairments in daily living
  • irritability substance abuse
  • sleep disruption overthinking
  • difficulty focusing loss of interest

Anxiety and depression share symptoms, so that someone can have both. This sharing of symptoms shows how the two mental health conditions share many things.

Anxiety and depression have chemicals that get mixed up in the brain, affecting our feelings. The chemicals serotonin and dopamine in your brain affect your moods.

Some genes in your body are shared. Your body can also share and feel worried and sad at the same time.

Our Brains and Psychotherapy

The medical world thinks the way the mind works is a vital link between anxiety and depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) recognizes that fear (anxiety) causes worry about the future. At the same time, depression keeps us focused on the past. Constant movement from anxiety to depression leads to a pattern of mental illness. The mind begins with you feeling worried. The side effect of worry is that it makes you tired and lowers your morale. Which leads to feeling hopeless, a classic symptom of depression. Major depression can make anxiety worse. The mind becomes trapped in a loop of anxiety and depression. An effective treatment for this loop is Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Shared Triggers

Anxiety and depression often share environmental triggers, including traumatic events, high-stress environments, and chronic illnesses. For example, a car accident might provoke a fear response, giving rise to anxiety symptoms. If unaddressed, this fear could evolve into a sense of despair, characteristic of major depression.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization recognizes the prevalence of mental health disorders among individuals with chronic medical conditions. Constant worry about one’s health can lead to anxiety, while the physical limitations and lifestyle changes imposed by the condition may trigger symptoms of depression.

Facing the Challenge of Having Two Diagnoses

Having both generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder presents challenges. Having two disorders can create more problems than having just one. It can worsen your physical symptoms, impact daily life and make effective treatment more difficult. Sometimes, mental health professionals find it hard to know which signs belong to which condition. It can take time to figure out the right diagnosis and effective treatment.

Good mental health care is vital when two conditions are present. People can live a good life with the right mental health services in place. Mental health experts use the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for correct diagnoses. This information creates an effective treatment plan.

Doctors of psychiatry may prescribe antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs to manage both conditions. These medicines can be helpful in treatment. Side effects are manageable with the help of healthcare professionals.

CBT can help with anxiety and major depression by changing negative thoughts. Support groups are a way to share your experience with others of like mind. Mental health professionals may also recommend psychotherapy sessions.


Many people experience anxiety and depression at the same time. Understanding how they work together creates effective treatments. It is a sign of strength to reach out for help. If you or a family member are looking for answers to your struggles with anxiety or sadness, call or email us. At Grace Counseling, you’ll find timely and effective care.