Many people do not realize when they are experiencing anxiety. They suddenly notice (among other things) a pounding heart, shaking, hot flushes, difficulty breathing, tense muscles, and an intense fear of losing control. While these symptoms are often labeled as a heart attack or some other physical malady, they may be a panic attack. Similarly, a lot of people do not know when they are depressed. The symptoms of depression include psychomotor agitation (a sense of restlessness), difficulty falling or staying asleep, diminished interest in daily activities, excessive fatigue, irritability, loss of joy, and no desire to go anywhere or do anything. If neither of these disorders are bad enough apart, they often appear together.
Depression and anxiety take a lot of people by surprise because many people who have never experienced emotional difficulties before suddenly find themselves having them particularly as they undergo significant transitions. College students being away from home for the first time, moving to a new city, having a new child, starting a new job, or going through a divorce are all things that take some adjustment. After the first flush of novelty wears off and things settle down into a routine, depression and anxiety can set in and people don’t know what to do.
It used to be that suffering from emotional difficulties was shameful, something to be embarrassed about and hide. However, as we learn more about the inner workings of our bodies (and particularly our brains), this view is changing. The “shameful” label is also fading away as we realize that depression and anxiety are a fact of life for a lot of people. Thus, the most important thing to do to help get through this rough time is to reach out and ask for support. Other people may have had similar experiences and can offer advice for how to work through it.
If you have health insurance or can easily afford it, finding an individual counselor may be helpful. If you do not have health insurance, I suggest finding a community mental health agency or a counseling practice that works on a sliding scale (which means that they charge based on your income). If none of those options work, perhaps a weekly group might be of assistance. As a very last resort, reading self-help books, especially workbooks on anxiety and/or depression, may provide some relief.
The absolute worst thing to do is stay inside. Isolation and inaction are like food to depression and anxiety. If you just suffer through it, things will get worse, not better. There are so many behavioral techniques to reduce depression and anxiety. I will warn you that you initially feel worse as you begin to deal with your issues but don’t let that stop you. As you get better, the awful feeling will lessen and your life will get better. It’s just a matter of finding what works.