Short Term and Long Term Disorders: Increasingly, health professionals and the general public have recognized the importance of seeking professional help for the onset of severe depression, panic attacks, or other anxiety disorders. However, there may often be a strong temptation to stop treatment prematurely. You may begin to feel a little better and stop taking prescribed medication or stop attending counseling sessions. Sometimes, after several months of feeling better, the depression, anxiety, or panic may return. In some cases, people simply begin to believe that they have to learn to live with long-term, chronic feelings of depression or anxiety. This is not the case.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression and Anxiety: It is important to recognize signs of clinical depression and anxiety. Some of the symptoms include:
Persistent feelings of sadness, or frequent crying spells
Disruption in sleep, such as trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently, or having trouble getting out of bed.
Difficulty with concentration and short term memory.
Lack of energy and motivation
Constant worry to the point it disrupts daily activities.
Frequently avoiding people or situations because of the stress.
Panic attacks are a sudden, intense onset of extreme fear.
Physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweats, shakiness, or heart pounding.
People at High Risk for Chronic Depression and Anxiety: Recent research from a group at UCLA showed that a significant number of people who do not meet full criteria for major depression or a clinical anxiety disorder still experience long term difficulties. Often, these people are referred to as having subclinical disorders. Sadly, less than one-third of these people were receiving any type of treatment, either medication or counseling.
Groups at highest risk for long term problems with depression and anxiety included:
People with at least one chronic medical problem (for example, diabetes or heart disease)
People with previous diagnosis of mental health disorder, who no longer meet full diagnostic criteria.
Over 50% of people with chronic, subclinical levels of depression or anxiety reported recent thoughts of suicide.
Treatment for People with Chronic Depression and Anxiety: The most important message from research like the UCLA study is that depression and anxiety continue to be significantly undertreated. Psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both have been shown again and again to help people with depression and anxiety feel better and have a higher quality of life. One significant worry in the health professions is that people will simply “get used” to feeling depressed or anxious, and not use effective treatment.
Don’t think you need to have debilitating depression or anxiety to get treatment: One common belief is that you need to have severe symptoms that stop you from functioning in order to get treatment. Like any health problem, treating depression, anxiety, or panic is easiest if you begin when the problem is small.
If you have received previous treatment, don’t be afraid to get treatment again: Don’t be afraid to return to counseling or ask about medications if you are having problems, even if the symptoms are not as severe as the last time.
Just because a medical illness is part of the problem, don’t avoid treating depression or anxiety: People with chronic medical problems are at high risk for significant depression and anxiety. However, it is important to treat both the mind and the body. Adequate treatment of depression and anxiety makes the impact of many medical conditions less severe.
American Psychological Association Help Center: www.apa.org
Acadia Hospital: www.acadiahospital.org