I’m sure that anxiety is not a new word to you, considering that 40 million adults in the United States struggle with an anxiety disorder. I have countless close friends who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and my heart hurts for them. I always wonder, why can’t I do more to help them?

In honor of Depression Awareness month, I’m going to talk a little about the connection between anxiety and depression this week.

Depression and anxiety disorders are different, and people with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder. These symptoms can include nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating. It’s important to know that each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms.

What is depression?

Depression is a condition in which a person experiences feelings of discouragement, sadness, hopelessness and may become disinterested in life in general for more than two weeks and when these feelings interfere with daily activities.

What is an anxiety disorder?

First it’s important to know the difference between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal feeling, and symptoms can be both emotional and physical. Apprehensive feelings, irritability, restlessness, as well as upset stomach, pounding heart, and shortness of breath; all of these are symptoms of anxiety.

But sometimes it becomes more than that. When everyday anxiety begins to prevent someone from doing everyday activities, and chores, and that’s when it can become a diagnosed anxiety disorder such as panic disorder and panic attacks or social anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has more information available on these specific anxiety disorders.

So why is it important to know about the connection between depression and anxiety disorders?

Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life according to the National Institutes of Health. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders. Because it’s possible to suffer from both disorders, we should be more aware of how to help others with mental illness.

How can I help someone?

As I said earlier, I’m always looking for tactics to help my friends struggling. One of my friends always says, “don’t tell me how to fix it. Just tell me it’s going to be okay.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that it’s important to communicate with your friends and peers that you can help.

  • Be open and welcoming
  • Validate their experience: acknowledge that their condition must be difficult to handle
  • Know available mental health resources in your area.

With 18 percent of adults in the US suffering from an anxiety disorder, I’m sure you have at least one friend struggling. If they open up to you, listen and be there for them.