How Treatment Helps with Mixed Anxiety Depressive Disorder Symptoms
The symptoms of mixed anxiety depressive disorder, though often mild enough to not warrant a diagnosis of either specific mental disorder, can be problematic. For many individuals, these symptoms persist for months (sometimes even years) until the person finally reaches out for help. There are many ways in which seeking treatment for mixed anxiety depressive disorder helps with the symptoms of this illness and allows patients to become happier and more satisfied with their lives in general.
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What are the Symptoms of MADD?
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of this disorder in yourself or someone else. Often, those who suffer from mixed anxiety depressive disorder do not realize that they are dealing with a true mental disorder because their symptoms are not intense enough to warrant a diagnosis of either depression or generalized anxiety disorder. However, these symptoms can still be debilitating and require treatment. They include:
- Consistent feelings of sadness, despair, worthlessness, and hopelessness that persist for four weeks or longer
- Consistent worrying, nervousness, and anxiety that is uncontrollable and persists for four weeks or longer
- Shortness of breath
- Problems concentrating
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty connecting with or relating to others due to feelings of inadequacy
- Feeling tense both mentally and physically
- Having nightmares
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Dry mouth
- Hot and cold flashes
- Teariness or constantly feeling the urge to cry
In a study from the NCBI, the symptoms listed above were experienced by individuals struggling with the disorder. “Exclusion criteria was: psychoactive substance abuse, physical diseases affecting mental state, and mental disorder other than anxiety or mood disorders.” Though these symptoms are not enough to provide an individual with a diagnosis of one specific depressive or anxiety disorder, they do persist for an extended amount of time, making it difficult for the person to live their life.
In addition, anxious and depressive symptoms are both present, often but not always in equal amounts. This means treatment must cover both issues and help individuals with all symptoms related to either depressive or anxious thoughts and behavior.
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Treatment Type: Medication
Medication is one of the most widely used and effective treatments for mixed anxiety depressive disorder. They can help regulate an individual’s thought process as well as control neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness. For many patients, medication is an important part of an overall treatment regimen for mood disorders.
Antidepressants are often thought of as only being a treatment for depressive symptoms, but this is untrue. According to the NCBI, “The newer antidepressants, in particular, are playing an increasingly important role in the treatment of both anxiety disorders alone and comorbid anxiety and depression.” SNRIS or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are examples of these medications which increase and control serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These brain chemicals affect an individual’s ability to feel happy and relaxed, the two emotions which combat depression and anxiety.
Since these medications (and in some cases other antidepressants called SSRIs) are able to treat both anxiety- and depression-related symptoms, they are an ideal treatment for most individuals suffering from mixed anxiety depressive disorder. However, in some cases, different medications may be needed.
When a person’s anxious symptoms are more intense than their depressive ones, benzodiazepines may be used to treat their condition as well. These are sometimes necessary to treat generalized-anxiety disorder and other anxiety-based disorders when the antidepressants have not yet begun to take affect (NLM). However, these medications are rarely used because
- Most individuals do not have anxious symptoms strong enough to require them.
- They cause sedation and can be dangerous when taken in high doses.
- They can be habit-forming and may be dangerous, especially when taken in an amount other than that which was prescribed.
- They can cause respiratory depression and deadly overdose when abused.
Antidepressants are often the most effective medication for mixed anxiety depressive disorder. Anti-anxiety medications or benzodiazepines may be used in some cases, but because antidepressants treat both types of symptoms, other medications are usually not necessary.
Individuals with mental disorders often need some sort of therapeutic treatment in order to help them recover. Medication alone is not usually the best option, as it merely minimizes the symptoms but does not truly treat the reasons for the disorder. In many cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat mixed anxiety depressive disorder along with the use of medication.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals learn to look at their disorders in a new light. While they may have been struggling with the symptoms and unable to see beyond them, this therapy helps them unveil the bigger picture of their disorder and realize why they feel the way they feel. Then, they are able to use coping mechanisms to change their behavior, allowing them to recognize and actively fight the symptoms of the disorder themselves. “As the name implies, cognitive-behavioral therapy integrates the rationale and techniques from both cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy, taking advantage of their complementary relationship” (SAMHSA).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to:
- “Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur” as a result of anxiety feelings
- “Restructure negative thought patterns” when depressive symptoms occur (NIMH)
- Recognize when they are feeling and thinking inaccurate things and to deny those thoughts the ability to cause them concern or sadness
- Consider the origins of negative thoughts and feelings and discuss in therapy how these issues can be solved
- Think and act in a way that is more realistic and self-affirming in order to give unrealistic, worrying, and depressing thoughts less power
This therapy can treat both disorders at once in the same way antidepressants can. Therefore, the two treatments, when used together, help tremendously to minimize the symptoms of mixed anxiety depressive disorder and help an individual avoid more problematic behavior. Together, these treatments can help make a change in an individual’s thoughts and feeling so they can work to make their lives happier and more stable.
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