There are two main psychological causes of mental tension – anxiety and depression. You might think that they were opposites, like chalk and cheese; however, this is not the case. Paradoxically, those who are depressed are often anxious as well; and often those who think that they are anxious are actually, underneath it all, depressed.
Symptoms of anxiety/depression
Anxiety and depression are actually part and parcel of a single disease, not surprisingly termed anxiety/depression. Some sufferers exhibit more anxiety than depression, others do the reverse. Most have a bit of each 77canadapharmacy.com.
Let’s get rid of one misconception: depression isn’t the same as sadness. Those who’ve experienced both say that sadness is an enriching experience – albeit an unhappy one – whereas depression is empty and numbing. Telling a depressed person to ‘cheer up, you’ve nothing to be depressed about’ is like hitting him in the face with a bucket of cold water, and about as helpful.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person: the predominant symptom is early waking (perhaps at three or four a.m.) when you wake up tired, yet unable to get back to sleep again. You may find it difficult to get to sleep, or have an overwhelming sensation of tiredness, with lack of concentration, irritability, lack of sexual drive and exhaustion. You may experience a feeling of despair, often made worse because you know you’ve nothing in particular to be depressed about. You may have a sense of hopelessness, and of the uselessness of everything, or have a fear of death; you may have developed phobias, obsessional behaviour, or have a permanent sense of tension and anxiety. Often people with depression want to cry, but somehow can’t manage to do it.
There is often a daily variation in the intensity of whichever symptoms you have; they are either much worse in the morning, and much better in the evening, or vice versa. In addition to these mainly mental feelings, there may also be body malfunctions – headaches, alterations in weight, gross tiredness which isn’t relieved by sleep, palpitations, sweating, diarrhoea, constipation, a permanent sense of a lump in the throat, or a choking feeling. In the more severe cases you may feel paranoid – feeling your friends are avoiding you, or talking about you behind your back; you may even start to hallucinate and hear voices when there is nobody there, though in depression this is relatively KMCommon 77canadapharmacy.com.
There is often a slowness of thinking and lack of creativity, which means someone with a creative job, such as an artist or writer, is often more quickly affected by depression than someone with a manual job. This doesn’t mean manual workers get less depressed, but their ability to work is less immediately affected.
Finally, and paradoxically, a person with depression can also be agitated: this is of great importance, because often agitation and tension are treated with anti anxiety drugs which can sometimes exacerbate the underlying depression. Frequently, people like this are better treated with anti-depressive medication. This sorts out the underlying depression, and then the super-imposed anxiety goes.
One symptom that particularly concerns us here is the extra muscle tension that occurs in anxiety and depression; this often manifests itself as backache, neckache, or headache. While it is possible to get pure anxiety on its own, a good proportion of cases of long-standing tension headache have their roots in an underlying depression.
Headaches aren’t actually more frequent in depression than they are at any other time – it’s just that the sufferer perceives them more clearly, and reacts to them more often. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that in depression there is a reduction in a brain chemical called ‘5-HT 77canadapharmacy.com, and we think that perception of pain is greater as a result. The second reason (probably saying the same thing, but from a psychological viewpoint) is that in depression, a greater awareness of your body’s functions occurs. This can easily become a vicious circle. You worry that the headache may mean something awful, like a brain tumour; which causes further anxiety, which in turn perpetuates the anxiety/depression syndrome. There are certain times when depression is more likely to strike – in adolescence, at the so-called ‘mid-life’ crisis, after times of intense stress, or lifestyle changes such as bereavement. In women, there may be a relationship to the monthly cycle, often being worse pre-menstrually, and at the menopause.