Depression and Chronic Anxiety: 3 Key Truths to Keep in Mind

Key Truth #1: Depression and chronic anxiety are real.

Depression and chronic anxiety are medical illnesses -- no less real than other illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. So let's begin by putting some of the myths about them to rest.

What depression and chronic anxiety aren't

  • The ordinary "blues" we all feel from time to time that pass relatively quickly
  • The fleeting worries and stresses of everyday life
  • Signs of personal flaw, weakness or failure
  • Just something you can snap out of, forget about, or will away on your own
  • Rare conditions that affect only one gender, or people from particular walks of life
  • Anything to be ashamed of
  • Something you have to live with

What depression and chronic anxiety are:

  • Medical illnesses that have often lasted for many years
  • Common -- affecting men and women from all walks of life
  • Caused by a variety of factors
  • Treatable conditions

Real Illnesses, Real Suffering

Depression and chronic anxiety are also very real in terms of the suffering they cause when they aren't treated.

Here are some real personal experiences...

"I didn't want to go out to see friends or family, and I couldn't motivate myself to face work... I thought they'd all see how pathetic and empty I was. Nothing mattered anymore... it was a struggle just to get out of bed."

"Total exhaustion took over, but I could never sleep for more than a few hours. All my energy went into worrying... I couldn't concentrate on anything else..."

"For me, a panic attack is almost a violent experience. I feel disconnected from reality. I feel like I'm losing control in very extreme way. My heart pounds really hard, I feel like I can't get my breath, and there's an overwhelming feeling that things are crashing in on me."

Real Illness, various possible causes

Although depression and chronic anxiety can sometimes seem like they've come out of the blue, they usually develop through a mix of factors such as; genetics, biology, life events and personality styles. Let's take a closer look at each one:

Genetics -- Depression and chronic anxiety disorders tend to run in families. That's why your doctor will want to know about your family history.

Biology -- Some people with these illnesses are thought to have an imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It's believed that this imbalance leads to many of the emotional and behavioral symptoms.

Life events -- Going through a number of stressful life events, or traumas (such as serious illness, abuse, divorce or losing a meaningful job) can make some people more vulnerable to depression or chronic anxiety disorder.

Personality styles -- Traits like being self critical or having low self-esteem can also put people at greater risk.