Are You Experiencing Depression After 40? Will Therapy for Anxiety Help?
Are you mid-way through your life and experiencing depression for the first time? Have you been mostly happy or able to pull yourself out of a rut fairly quickly? Has your usual happy outlook dulled, or have you had less energy? Less motivation? You might be wondering, “How is this possible? I have never felt this way before.” You are not alone. Unfortunately, this is becoming a more common experience for adults over forty.
A variety of factors can impact mid-life depression. When people begin to review their lives, they feel increased pressure or regret regarding life circumstances. Many question their career paths, or feel they don’t have enough time to accomplish their goals and dreams. Others may have wanted children, do not have any yet, and worry they won’t conceive. Women also run a higher risk for depression at this time due to hormonal changes, such as menopause and perimenopause.
Since the onset of COVID-19, people’s lives have altered in many ways. Many have experienced a great number of losses, condensed within only a few years time frame. Maybe you lost a loved one, or more than one. Maybe you lost a job, or just a sense of normalcy. Stress, anxiety, and depression has further compounded, with many having to work from home, worrying about childcare, increased tension and everyone being cooped up together under the same roof. The list of problems COVID has exacerbated could go on and on.
Then there is stress, outside from matters surrounding COVID, that tend to peak after we hit our 40s, and in some cases there are underlying issues such as various types of anxiety. In many cases like this, therapy techniques like brainspotting can help people suffering from anxiety who had assumed they were simply battling a common bout of depression. If you feel depressed, it is in your best interest to reach out to a therapist specializing in anxiety and emotional trauma to ensure there aren’t underlying conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated.
What’s the Difference Between Depression and Anxiety?
Clinically, anxiety and depression are two different conditions. However, both have many common elements in which anxiety therapy can help. Often, depression is associated with anxiety. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues that a lot of people struggle with. Although they both are closely affiliated at times, they are quite different from one another.
Anxiety: Generally, anxiety is a state of mind that can be described as having a sensation of fear, dread, or simply just feeling anxious. Anxiety is the fight-or-flight response, which was designed to keep us on-guard or alert during dangerous or stressful situations. However, while dangerous situations can happen, people’s fight-or-flight responses can become too overactive and cause your body to feel the many uncomfortable and scary symptoms of anxiety more frequently. As a result, people can develop chronic stress, depression, or an anxiety disorder.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but several of them share some of the same physical and mental symptoms. Below are some of the more common ones:
- Increased heat rate
- High blood pressure
- Sweating and trembling
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating and staying focused
- Excessive worrying
- Restlessness and sleep difficulties
- Nervousness and tension
Learning coping strategies and different ways to manage your anxiety will be essential to helping heal and overcoming it.
Depression: Depression is much more than “feeling blue”. It is a serious mental health condition that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, lack of interest, and chronic fatigue. It affects how you feel, think, and behave. Depression can lead to several emotional and physical symptoms. You may suddenly have a hard time doing the normal day-to-day activities. Depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. It may require long-term treatment and therapy.
Generally, depression may cause many of the below symptoms:
- A sad or low mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- A lack of pleasure in activities
- Low energy and fatigue
- Body aches and pains
- Sleep difficulties
- Trouble with concentration
- Appetite and weight changes
- Suicidal thoughts
It is not known exactly what causes depression but a variety of factors may be involved, such as:
- Biological differences – People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
- Brain chemistry – Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and it’s treatment.
- Hormones – Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy’s and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or several other conditions.
- Inherited traits – Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.
In Addition to Getting Therapy for Anxiety and Depression, What More Can We Do?
Now, more than ever, the importance of managing stress levels and making healthy lifestyle choices cannot be understated. Here are some suggestions for ways to manage stress, improve your overall health, and reduce anxiety and depression symptoms:
Sleep: Make sure you are getting around 8 hours of sleep each night. Limit screen time from TVs, phones, tablets, and computers a couple hours before bed, or try blue light blocking glasses in the evening. Screens emit light that impacts circadian rhythms. Try an herbal tea with calming herbs such as chamomile, lavender, passionflower, and skullcap.
Diet: Eat a whole food diet and reduce processed foods. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies as they are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which help support the immune system. Eat foods high in Tryptophan such as oats, nuts, seeds, fruit, and tofu. If you eat animal products, sources include turkey, chicken, fish, and eggs. Chocolate can be a good source for tryptophan, but in moderation.
Exercise: Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, or spread those minutes out across the week in hours and fewer days. Make goals and set them, but also choose activities that you en joy and make you happy. Exercise increases endorphins and improves mood.
Breathing: Deep breathing helps with relaxation and stress reduction.
Mindfulness practice: Mindfulness creates space to let new information in and to allow us to see how it relates to what we already know. Mindful breathing, observation, awareness, listening, immersion, and appreciation. Using these simple exercises can help to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm and relaxation.
Creativity: Engaging in creative activities can foster a sense of excitement and inspiration. They can also help with regulating mood. Depression can sometimes lead to creative blocks, but you might find that starting with a small project can get the momentum going.
If you have been living with and experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression and it impairs your day-to-day functioning, it is important to seek help from your doctor or mental health professional. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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Hammen, C., Kim, E. Y., Eberhart, N. K., & Brennan, P. A. (2009). Chronic and acute stress and the prediction of major depression in women. Depression and anxiety, 26(8), 718–723. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20571