There are three subtypes of depression: agitated, sluggish and anxious. When we learn about depression as a whole, we’re usually taught to look out for signs of the sluggish subtype: sleepiness, lack of motivation, disengagement, and so on.
Knowing what you are struggling with specifically can aide in your treatment. Anxious depression is a specific type of mental illness, and it’s effects can be more common – and insidious – than you may realize.
1. You overreact. Even mildly stressful situations can throw you into a tailspin as you catastrophize and assume the worst outcome. If you were to make a list of all the big “problems” in your life that you’ve dealt with, you would see that a few of them were legitimately painful, and most of the rest were emotional overreactions to situations that certainly did not warrant you to suffer as much as you did.
2. You feel the need to regularly withdraw from the world and your friends. A common symptom of anxious depression is the need to isolate, and the feeling as though one is only truly safe and at ease if they are alone, away from any potentially painful stimuli. This is true even if you are naturally extroverted.
3. You are depressed about your anxiety. When you’re in such a constant state of fear and worry, it begins to overwhelm you to the point that you lose hope that you will ever be able to simply enjoy your life again.
4. You fear the future more than you are excited about it, even when good things are happening in your life. This is because you recognize no matter what happens, you will still find something to worry about and become depressed over. It seems as though your brain works this way even in the best circumstances, which informs the feeling of hopelessness.
5. You over-indulge in food or substances. Sometimes the only things that can make you feel better are your base instincts. You’re not necessarily using food or a substance to cover your feelings, you’re using food or a substance to create the good feelings you’re missing.
6. You have a very hard time letting go. Whether it’s a relationship that didn’t work out, or an irrational fear you know doesn’t have any place in reality, your brain seems to want to think through the problem to give itself comfort, rather than release the problem and realize that everything’s okay in the first place.
7. You experience a lot of social shame, even when there’s really nothing for you to be ashamed about. Your brain identifies the worst thing that someone could think of you, and then assumes it is true for the sake of defending itself.
8. You are addicted to having problems. Right now, you’re in a cycle of identifying something that’s bad, or not good enough, then working tirelessly to “fix” it, then getting high off the feeling of having achieved or resolved something. You are, effectively, addicted to problems.
9. It’s hard for you to muster up more energy than what’s necessary. Anxious depression exhausts you in a way that can feel even worst than what sluggish depression does, because it zaps up all of the energy you are generating with overthinking and overstimulation.
10. You are driven, if not at least a moderately successful person. People with anxious depression can sometimes just come across as ambitious individuals that like to keep to themselves. What people don’t usually see is that their drive comes from wanting to soothe a fear, or “fix” something, or prove their worth.
11. When you most feel like yourself, you realize that you’re not a high-strung person. The thoughts and behaviors that accompany some mental illnesses can sometimes make you think that they are a part of you, when in reality they are simply symptoms, and your true personality is what comes out when you’re feeling calm and clear-minded.
12. You aren’t taking vitamins, or getting outside enough. This is usually the cause of, if not a huge part of, decreased serotonin levels. Almost any medical professional will tell you that one of the most fundamental parts of getting better is eating better and moving. A serotonin deficiency can be aided with the use of vitamins such as 5-HTP or B6, or exposure to nature. While they cannot replace medication for some, they do help many.
13. You have strong emotional reactions to changes in weather, or seasons. If you are already low on serotonin, it’s common to display signs of seasonal affective disorder, even if you are not diagnosed with that specifically.
14. You find “solutions” easily, but tire of them quickly. You’re pretty consistently inspired to find the next “fix” for your issues, but aren’t as good at following through with it.
15. Your mood can be unpredictable. Sometimes a random event will trigger you, or you’ll become irrationally irritable for no reason (such as if you don’t get exactly enough sleep). You often “snap” at people, or yourself, seemingly out of nowhere, and then you can return to normal with just as much ease.
16. You live to feel less fear, rather than more joy. Life feels like it’s about surviving, not thriving. Your actions are motivated by the desire to feel more calm and relaxed, rather than more excited, hopeful and productive. You likely feel “stuck” or limited in your ability to expand beyond what you know for this very reason.