Anxiety and depression share many common symptoms. They both influence overall mood and can make people feel edgy, irritable, and tense. Additionally, the most common comorbidity of psychological conditions occurs with generalized anxiety (GAD) and major depression (MDD). Much research has been conducted into this unique relationship and the cause-and-effect dynamic that occurs. Studies have shown that many people with GAD eventually develop MDD, but the exact reasons for this are unclear. Matt R. Judah of the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University wanted to find out more about the relationship between GAD and MDD.
Judah enlisted a sample of college students and assessed their levels of GAD, MDD, worry, and negative life events at three different time points over a 12-week period. He looked at worry as it has been indicated as a risk factor for depression and as a common symptom of anxiety. Negative life events were also considered, but only events that were within the participants’ control, such as getting to work on time or finishing tasks. These activities have been shown to increase stress and anxiety, which can make people with GAD more vulnerable to depressive symptoms.
After evaluating all three assessments, Judah found that anxiety, depression, and negative events were part of a unique and vicious cycle. Specifically, the individuals with GAD at the first check-in were more likely to develop depression at check-in two and subsequently, had more negative events at the third check-in. Even though worry was not associated with increased risk for depression, it did prove influential of severity of GAD symptoms. Judah believes that symptoms of anxiety, which include muscle tension and other somatic issues, can increase stress, putting people at greater risk for negative mood states and depression. This, in turn, leads to self-induced negative events, such as missing class or work because of a low mood or fatigue. Finally, the negative life events then add to the depressive state, and elevate symptoms of both GAD and MDD. Even though more research is needed in this area, Judah believes his findings provide significant clinical revelations. “Overall,” he said, “These findings may be relevant to elucidating the sequential comorbidity of GAD and MDD.”
Judah, Matt R., et al. (2013). The prospective role of depression, anxiety, and worry in stress generation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 32.4 (2013): 381-99. ProQuest. Web.
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