ANXIETY IS ADRENAL, DEPRESSION IS EMOTIONAL
Anxiety and depression often get talked about together. So much so that the two frequently get confused as being the same ailment. It is true that chronic depression and an anxiety disorder can (though not always) occur together within a person with mental illness (such as myself). Yet the two conditions themselves are vastly different from one another.
We’ll begin first of all with describing what anxiety is. In my own case I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (from childhood incidents) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I also have an intense fear of the sound of a balloon bursting and experience severe panic attacks, which often stem from my autism.
Whenever a person has an anxiety episode they feel like they are in danger and/or being attacked. It does not matter whether or not their perception is correct. All that happens in nature is that when we feel like we’re in danger adrenaline is sent through our body. This causes our heart rate to soar, our nerves to be on edge, and our mannerisms become super defensive. It’s a survival mechanism, and owing to that the person acts out with their ‘fight or flight’ instincts.Phobias are fears of certain things harming us (in some way or another).
Often people get a sensation of uneasiness, other times phobias can debilitate our whole entire life. I myself have a huge fear of balloons bursting, guns, fireworks, or anything else that sounds the same. When it comes to balloons I don’t mind them safely out of reach.
But I instinctively cover my ears and run for it whenever I see a young child playing with a balloon and sitting on it. The way I react embarrasses me so much, and I also feel terrible about showing such fear in front of a two or three year old child. Though due to my autism I get a jolt in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear a balloon burst, and I don’t react well to the shock of it.
The particular example mentioned above indicates a ‘flight’ sort of reaction. Typically whenever we’re scared of something our instinct is to run away. Though this all depends on the cause and intensity of the anxiety. If a person has an extreme anxiety episode the bodily reaction moves on into the ‘fight’ stage, and all rationality is lost. This could occur when a person is having an anxiety attack, or a more severe psychotic attack.
Phobias aren’t the only experiences that raise our adrenalin. We also get fired up whenever we feel like somebody is doing us harm. This could come from a person disagreeing with us, belittling us, or threatening us with violence. All of that is a part of being human. Despite huge advances in technology, our biological selves are no more advanced than cavemen.
Though when a person has an anxiety disorder (it could be for a variety of reasons) and experiences those sensations both constantly and to a greater intensity, that’s when help is needed. In my own case I monitor my heart rate using my Apple Watch, and if I see it at an unusually high level (while feeling agitated) I stop and do exercises to calm myself down. This could be either doing a meditation, or cycling on the exercise bike. Both calm me down as effectively as Valium (which I only take in extreme situations).
Moving on to the next topic now, depression. Unlike anxiety, depression doesn’t come along with as many feelings of agitation or anger.
Whenever I’ve been depressed I’ve felt worthless, a failure and tears that were almost constant. I can’t sleep, have no energy, and it’s an effort for me to change my clothes, wash, eat, get out of bed and clean my environment. In other words it makes me feel very much like I am ill with a bad flu, except the illness I feel is from emotion.Moving on to the next topic now, depression. Unlike anxiety, depression doesn’t come along with as many feelings of agitation or anger.
Physical exercise doesn't fix the problem for me as much as it does for cases of anxiety. What helps best is to go within and find my passions and to find a direction in my life. Once I focus my mind on that, the depression goes away rather quickly.
So there we have it. In the space of a page I’ve given a brief and as thorough as possible overview of what depression and anxiety are. It’s so strange that despite their enormous differences, the two often occur regularly within the same person. Anxiety can very well cause a bout of depression. It just shows what psychologically complex beings us humans are.