Stress can manifest after being fired from a job, going through a divorce, or losing a loved one. Even positive life events like getting married, starting a new job, or having a baby can be stressful. Everyone experiences stress at some point.

Many people classify stress as either good or bad, but it’s neither. Stress is an event perceived as beyond your control, typically occurring outside your daily routine. Your reaction shapes your ability to cope with these and future events.

When people struggle to cope with stress, depression and anxiety become more apparent.

Anxiety and depressive disorders are common, affecting more than 40 million adults in the U.S., or about 18% of the population, each year. The World Health Organization estimated a 27.6% increase in depression and a 25.6% increase in anxiety disorders worldwide in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common anxiety disorders include:

  • Specific Phobias: Fears related to animals, natural environments, medical procedures, or specific locations.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of social situations.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Worry about various things.
  • Separation Anxiety: Fear of separation from attachment figures.
  • Panic Disorder: Sudden surges of intense fear or discomfort.

Common depressive disorders include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder: Depressed mood lasting at least two weeks.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: Depressed mood occurring almost daily for at least two years.

It’s common for those struggling with anxiety to also experience depression, and vice versa. Close to 10% of the global population suffers from both. While these disorders are highly treatable, only a small percentage receive treatment.

How are stress, anxiety, and depression connected?

Anxiety and depression can be caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental exposure
  • Personality
  • Life events

Early signs of anxiety and depression

Avoiding things once enjoyed is an early warning sign.

Other signs of anxiety include:

  • Shakiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing thoughts

Signs of depression include:

  • Isolation
  • Frequent negative thoughts
  • Recurring sadness

Advanced signs of anxiety and depression

Advanced signs of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Excessive worry for at least six months
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Social or occupational impairment

Advanced signs of major depressive disorder include:

  • Persistent depression most of the day
  • Diminished interest in activities
  • Significant weight changes
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death
  • Social or occupational impairment

Coping with anxiety and depression

To cope, try these tips:

  • Diaphragmatic and square breathing techniques: Focus on your breath rather than the stressful event.
  • Challenge your thoughts: Focus on your emotions and identify what’s in your control.
  • Ask yourself: What am I feeling? What are the facts?
  • Set small goals: Work towards your desired outcome without negative assumptions.

When to seek professional help

Talk to a healthcare professional if:

  • You find it difficult to function daily.
  • You stop participating in activities you once enjoyed.
  • You struggle to get out of bed.

Treatment for anxiety and depression

Medications and psychotherapy are effective for many people. Your primary care provider or psychiatrist can prescribe medications. Outpatient therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, can also help.

Additional treatments may include lifestyle changes, using social supports, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and joining a support group.

For severe cases, use crisis resources like hotlines, emergency departments, or inpatient/outpatient programs.

Why it’s important to address your mental health

Addressing mental health is crucial for a fulfilling life. Acknowledging and treating mental health issues build resilience and better coping mechanisms, preparing you for future challenges.

Stressful situations are inevitable. Your reaction determines their impact. Many resources are available for anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk to your healthcare team if you have concerns about your mental health.