The Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
- Have a pervasive sadness, despair or negativity about your life and feel a general sense of apprehension;
- Avoid situations that need to be dealt with;
- Feel a sense of disconnection or alienation;
- Experience disinterest or have difficulty finding motivation and enthusiasm;
- Struggle with tiredness/fatigue, or a sense of pervasiveness heaviness;
- Experience a chronic physical dis-ease;
- Experience panic attacks, where you feel a sense of impending doom, a racing heart, a sense of being trapped, and a deep desire to flee.
- Have thoughts of suicide.
The Experience of Anxiety and Depression
If you are in a depression, then life is likely feeling like a swamp of sticky mud, that sucks energy and motivation from even the simplest daily things. Doing chores, going to work, being with people—not to mention our loved ones—can feel painfully hard, if not overwhelming. There is a general sense of futility, of “what’s the point?” and then a lack of motivation, or verve, to move out into life and relationship. Sometimes there is the lack of will to be alive at all.
With anxiety—which so often keeps company with depression—you experience life as threatening, but like a foreboding dark night. It would be so much easier if there was just a lion to deal with, but anxiety is all that threat, without anything to battle, or run away from. It can strip the sense of pleasure and “ok-ness” from life as our minds and bodies keep, frustratingly, looking for the source of the sense of threat, and coming up empty. At times this ambient fear can be exhausting and dispiriting, and other times it can disable us.
The Strange Logic of Depression and Anxiety
The odd thing about these wild moods, though, is that as miserable as they are, they are actually designed to make you have exactly these miserable experiences. Depression is our nervous system’s response to the recognition of “futility”: when something is seen judged by our minds as futile, without any good reward for our effort or attachment, we are supposed to then let go of that attachment. If we do not or cannot, for whatever reason, then we are forced to let go—that is what we call depression. As painful and dispiriting as it is, the intention and goal of depression is to defend us against the damage done by our continuing to pursue that which is fruitless, that which is futile.
In the same way, anxiety, being based in fear and registration of danger, is supposed to make us agitated and alarmed. When our minds register a danger, particularly a hard-to-spot danger, then the alarms go off in our nervous system and we are forced to pay attention. “What’s the problem!? Where is the source!?” How do we solve, or escape, or destroy that which is endangering? This alarm system is actually vital to our survival, but it can become so comprehensive, so generalized, that it gets attached to things we cannot solve (especially when it treats our own emotions as a problem to be fixed and then it will not turn off.
The Route Out
Understanding the logic and purpose of anxiety and depression is a big part of the way out of these otherwise enveloping moods. With deepening insight, instead of spending our energy fighting them, we learn to listen to them without simply taking their logic for granted. Like guards up on the guard tower, our job is to take their reports—“Hey, danger out there!” assess it, change our behavior and thinking as needed, but consciously mindfully assess what danger may be there if at all.
Basically, if we do not become more conscious about assessing danger (anxiety) and meaning (depression), the wild moods will, helpfully if painfully, assess them for us.