Speaker 1: Abby Stanford
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Welcome to another episode of the Bupa Healthy Me podcast. My name is Abby Stanford and I'm a Specialist Health Editor on Bupa’s Health Content Team. And today, I'm joined by Caroline Harper.
Speaker 2: Caroline Harper
Hi, Abby. I'm Caroline Harper. I'm a Specialist Mental Health Nurse with Bupa.
On this episode, we're going to be talking about two of the most common mental health conditions and that's anxiety and depression. So, Caroline, could you first of all, explain to me what anxiety is?
Yes. So anxiety’s quite typically defined as excessive worry. We all experience worry in our lives, don't we, Day to day, but more so when it’s sort of been described or diagnosed as anxiety is when it becomes worry sort of most days. And it's sort of difficulty controlling them or it's that excessive worry that's really impacting on other activities of your living in and it's taken over your thought processes.
Okay. And and then could you explain to me what depression is?
Yes, depression is sort of defined more so about your mood. So it's can be low mood or it can be a loss of interest or a loss of pleasure in activities that typically has gone on for sort of two weeks or longer, they're like the symptoms of depression. There are some of the symptoms of depression that we can experience as well, such as guilt or feeling helpless and also low confidence as well.
Okay. And so is it possible that anxiety and depression can sometimes feel quite similar to each other?
Yeah, I mean, as with a lot of different mental health problems, really, it can be quite complex. It can be difficult to work out what you're experiencing and if you're experiencing a bit of both, can be a bit confusing for people. So some of the symptoms can be similar. So we know that people often experience poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, sort of feeling very tired all the time.
But then, like I say, not not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep or actually waking up early. So that's something that we see in both anxiety and depression. But then there are more symptoms that have sort of definitely come more into the anxiety umbrella or more into the depression umbrella.
Okay, So what ways might they feel different? How might I be able to tell if I'm feeling anxious as opposed to feeling depressed?
Yeah. So typically with anxiety, say somebody is going to feel sort of very restless, fidgety and unable to relax. It's almost as if they've they've been sped up in some way and that's often a way that doctors used to describe it and quite fidgety. Sometimes they can have palpitations. And I think a lot of people will have heard about panic attacks.
And that's that's typically when our thoughts impact our bodies. And and we sort of it comes to a bit of a head in a bit of a panic attack. And and that's really your body and your mind letting you know that you're really struggling with something, that you're really anxious about something.
Whereas if we think more about depression, it's sort of the other way. It's often people who are slowed down their movements or their thoughts can can be a lot slower than normal. Their energy levels are typically very low. They may experience, some aches and pains, and they're certainly going to be experiencing poor motivation. So things that they previously have enjoyed do when they're just lacking the motivation to get up and do those things.
Okay. That's really helpful. And and I understand that those are kind of different symptoms, but you said sometimes it can be difficult to maybe tell which one of those you're feeling. Maybe you're feeling lots of those things all at once. And is it possible to have anxiety and depression at the same time?
It is. Research shows that actually a high number of people almost up to 85% of people, can have those two conditions side by side. Obviously, not everybody does, but is very common.
It is more common that you will have a mixture of both. So sometimes that's referred to as anxiety and depressive disorder and the way that it sort of makes sense for me to think about it is if somebody feels very anxious most of the time it's only going to be a matter of time before that starts to impact your mood, because obviously that's really not a nice place to be in day to day.
And if we start feeling that level of distress on an ongoing basis, then it's going to start impacted our mood. So we might have times throughout the day or throughout a week, for example, where we feel particularly anxious, but we might have other sort of hours or days where actually we don't feel as anxious and we feel more low, more poorly motivated and also at times might feel a bit of both.And obviously that can be really confusing for people.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And like you say, that kind of feeling of being sped up and and like very stressed and worried all of the time, it would make sense and that would make you feel kind of sad and emotional when it wears off or goes away.
And so if somebody thinks that they might have depression or they might have anxiety or that they're feeling a mixture of all of these feelings, maybe they they don't know what's going on, what are some things that they can do? What should they do?
Mm. Personally, I think a good thing I would recommend is perhaps speaking to a close family member or a friend for interest. If it's somebody who's had their own experience of anxiety or low mood, then they would be even better to speak to because it might be that you need to sort of identify it is that that feeling and perhaps maybe which of those you might be feeling.
And so having a chat with somebody who's been through that can be really helpful and they can sometimes point you in the right direction.
But other than that, I would definitely say sort of speak to your GP, whether that sort of face to face over the telephone or virtually they, they will usually do some very small questionnaires with you and that can identify where you're at on that sort of scale of feeling anxious, of feeling low, and sometimes just having that fed back to you and can really sort of identify and validate exactly how you've been feeling.
For some people, that can be a bit of a shock. For other people, it's it's quite reassuring that actually you know, to have a sort of description and a bit of a name to it.
And then what the GP will typically do once they've done those mini questionnaires with you is talk about the next step. So some people will benefit from a lot of sort of self self-help - guided self-help which the GP can give you information about, or you can have a look online at a lot of the sort of big mental health charities and the Bupa web page has lots of info on there.
Depending on the severity of those symptoms they might want to discuss talking therapy with you. So talking therapy can look at any specific triggers you've got for your anxiety or low mood and and look at perhaps changing some of those or learning to manage them in different ways. If you're really quite struggling with your symptoms, you know, day to day. And it's at a point where perhaps it is impacting on your work or your sleep to quite a decent level, then they may look at medication.
So sometimes that can just be sort of short term medication that could help with your sleep and get you back on track. It might be something that might take the edge off your anxiety or, you know, if you're feeling quite bad and quite quiet down there might discuss antidepressants with you. But that will always be alongside talking therapy and support from family and friends as well. That should never just be something that's prescribed alone.
Mm hmm. And I think it's probably helpful for people to know as well - that your GP is used to seeing that it's not you're not going to be the last person that's come to the doctor to speak about that.
Yeah, absolutely. I bet it's it's a very common thing to experience. You know, I don't think many people go through their life and never experience some anxiety or some low mood. You know, at times life can be hard and at times, unfortunately, these illnesses can just impact you from nowhere. So GP's are, you know, well aware of what's available for people and that people need support and particularly, you know, through different periods of our life, we do need that support.
They may also recommend things like exercise and sort of looking at your diet and things like that and also your support network because those things can have a big impact on your mood. And you know, lots of people turn to sort of walking or running, haven't they, to manage their anxiety over the last sort of 18 months when gyms were closed and things like that?
That's really helpful. Caroline, thank you so much for speaking to me today. And and thanks for listening to this episode of The Bupa Helping Me podcast.