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23 'Red Flags' That Might Mean You Have Both Anxiety and Depression

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It didn’t take me long to realize I had anxiety. I knew enough about it to identify its symptoms: the racing thoughts, pressure in my chest, pain in my back, panic attacks, plus the fact that anxiety was rampant in my family.

It wasn’t until years later I realized I lived with depression, too.

While I experienced more “classic” symptoms of anxiety, nothing about my depression jumped out at me as being depression. I was going to work and school. I didn’t have a hard time getting up in the morning. I never self-harmed (although I thought about it). Instead, my depression looked like neglecting self-care (“I’m just too busy to shower!”), isolating myself (“I’m too tired to go out with friends!”) and a sense of deep purposelessness I was always trying to fill with busyness and work. But it was still depression, and I couldn’t fully focus on my mental health until I addressed that sad, numb part of me, too.

Depression and anxiety affect people in different ways. They also commonly come together — about half of those with anxiety also experience symptoms of depression. We wanted to know how people with anxiety and depression realized they had not just one mental health condition but two, so we asked our mental health community to share with us how they knew they had both anxiety and depression.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Having an anxiety attack and then self-harming to feel better.” — Shaley R.

2. “Mostly the fatigue and emotional bleakness when my body has run low on adrenaline. The tiredness and body pain… I was relieved actually to find out what it was.” — Aaron H.

3. “I can go from caring about everything to caring about nothing.” — Jessica B.

4. “Being both tired and full of adrenaline at the same time.” — Sharni R.

5. “Growing up as a happy and optimistic kid, I knew something wasn’t right the moment I felt I couldn’t be fully happy. With all the blessings and contentment, there’s always something that will remind me I don’t deserve it and that everything’s temporary.” — John B.

6. “No motivation to do anything, but not doing anything makes me anxious.” — Kayla C.

7. “Wanting to do nothing but sleep, but being unable to because my brain won’t shut up.” — Amorith E.

8. “When one part of mind is going a million miles a minute screaming at me to do something, while another part screams back, ‘Why bother?’” — Rachel C.

9. “Depression tells me I don’t care. Anxiety says I care too much. Having both is war in my head. Sometimes depression wins, sometimes anxiety wins. A huge red flag for me was when I was cooking and my mom and sister stopped and looked at me and my sister ‘whispered,’ ‘She’s singing and cooking again she even left her room.’ She asked my mom if I was me again or the stranger that was still in my body. She will never know what she woke me up to: my reality of not being OK and thinking it was normal.” — Rebecca B.

10. “Wanting so badly to die, but being so terrified of not having a future.” — Alyssa J.

11. “When I’m too depressed to do housework, but have panic attacks about people seeing how dirty my house is.” — Elisabeth R.

12. “Overanalyzing everything, while not having the energy to do anything about it. Freaking out about work or friendships, but not being able to get out of bed.” — Chealsey G.

13. “Losing interest in and refusing to do the things I know would normally help with anxiety.” — Lauren G.

14. “Staying up very late because I couldn’t handle the thought of living another day, and then staying in bed late [in the] morning because I was anxious about the day.” — Annabelle W.

15. “When I would get really under the weather, I would fight with myself to go into a class I was one hour late to. Then, I would stand outside without ever having the courage to go in. I would end up breaking down back in my dorm, wondering why it had to be this way.” — Frida P.

16. “I cycle. I go from thinking I can do something, getting overwhelmed, then I feel like I’m not good enough, then I get depressed. This happens constantly with every single decision I have to make and every good thing that happens in my life.” — Skye J.

17. “When I get invited to things but my anxiety won’t let me for fear of standing out like a sore thumb, and depression makes me feel like I let my friends down because I said maybe and didn’t show.” — Megan N.

18. “I began sleeping more than I was awake. I could sleep 10 hours a night and still take a five-hour nap in the afternoon. Then I would get anxious that my family and friends were mad at me for sleeping so much. Repeat cycle.” — Ashley U.

19. “The constant binaries at work in my own mind. Depression says, ‘Don’t get out of bed.’ Anxiety says, ‘So many things to do.’ Depression says, ‘There’s no point. Anxiety says, ‘Too many people will notice.’ Depression says, ‘No one loves me.’ Anxiety says, ‘Everyone hates me.’ Depression says I shouldn’t be alive, and anxiety says I’m never good enough.” — Rosie B.

20. “[I went to] see a psychiatrist for what I suspected was postpartum depression. ‘Are you here with concerns primarily regarding depression or anxiety?’ My thoughts were, ‘Anxiety? What is he talking about? I don’t have anxiety!’ I had no idea that my 24/7 worrying was a concern!” — Carrie M.

21. “I always knew I had anxiety, but for a long time I didn’t think I had depression because I wasn’t suicidal. I was eventually diagnosed, but I realized when good things would happen and it didn’t necessarily make me any happier, something was wrong. It wasn’t fear; it was fears being alleviated and still not feeling any better.” — Marie L.

22. “The red flag is I want to be with people, but on the same hand I can’t be around people. My depression doesn’t want me to be lonely, but my anxiety makes me a lonely person.” — Sky J.

23. “The constant back and forth in my head. The need to be doing something all the time to quiet my anxiety, but not being able to get up and do anything thanks to my depression.” — Sharon E.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Originally published: June 19, 2017
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