At first glance, depression and anxiety may seem at odds with each other. The former is typically a sedate form of mind while anxiety is busy, badgering the patient about worries and daily stressors. In reality, the two problems often present together.
Rick Nauert, Ph.D., studies the biological basis of the two emotions. He cites research by Stephen Ferguson, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario, publishing in Nature Neuroscience, noting a connection between stress, anxiety and depression.
“Our findings suggest there may be an entire new generation of drugs and drug targets that can be used to selectively target depression, and therefore treat it more effectively,” Ferguson said.
He discovered these findings using a “behavioral mouse model” and a series of experiments to reveal a pathway between the aforementioned emotions in the brain. A drug developed by Ferguson and his colleagues is developed to specifically target this connection.
Anthony Phillips, the scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, finds research like this important as depression and anxiety are among the most prevalent mood disorders in the world.
Hara Estroff Marano discusses depression and anxiety as not separate, but two sides of the same disorder. He finds 60 to 70 percent of depression patients present with anxiety as well. The coexistence of these conditions raises difficulties at work and school while increasing suicide risk.
David Barlow, Ph.D., director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, agrees with Ferguson in that the genetics, biology and psychology vulnerabilities overlap when it comes to depression and anxiety although he defines depression as a “shutdown” and anxiety as looking to the future for danger.
Marano says many of the same treatments work for both anxiety and depression, streamlining solutions for a complicated, crippling cocktail of conditions. Cognitive behavioral therapy works to find the connections between thoughts and feelings for betterment of coping with depression, anxiety and many other mental dysfunctions.
Exposure therapy, more specific to anxiety treatment, is difficult to move forward when depression is present, according to Joseph Himle, Ph.D., associate director of the anxiety disorders unit at the University of Michigan. Depression suppresses desire for effort, which is a necessary aspect of exposure therapy.