Depression & Social Anxiety
People with social anxiety often suffer from depression. According to the World Psychiatric Association (1995), 17% of social anxiety sufferers have major depression and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and commit suicide than the general population. Unfortunately many people who are suffering depression go undiagnosed and untreated. If you are so depressed that your motivation is low and you feel hopelessness about the possibility of overcoming your social anxiety, it may interfere with treatment. Therefore, sometimes depression needs to be treated before social anxiety can be tackled.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms include:
- lowered mood, feelings of sadness or emptiness
- changes in sleep
Depressed people may have difficulty falling asleep and typically wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty resuming sleep. Depressed people may also find they wake early in the morning and can’t resume sleep. Other depressed people find that they are sleeper longer than is usual for them at night or that they are having increased sleep during the daytime.
- marked increase or decrease in appetite and associated weight loss or weight gain
- thoughts of self harm or suicide
- decreased motivation
- lack of energy
- thoughts of uselessness, worthlessness, hopelessness or inappropriate guilt
- feeling agitated or slowed down
- poor concentration and memory and difficulty making decisions
- decreased enjoyment of or loss of interest in activities previously found pleasurable or important such as work, hobbies, sport
If you think you may be depressed seek advice from your doctor and/or psychologist. Depression can be treated.
The Differential Diagnosis of Depression versus Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety sufferers may avoid social interaction due to fear of negative evaluation and/or doing something to embarass or humiliate themselves, whereas depressed people withdraw from social scenarios as they are not deriving enjoyment from them.
Tips for relieving depression
Do not rely solely on medication to alleviate or cure your depression. Some people will find that although medication gives them some relief from their symptoms of depression, they still have lowered mood and need to add other treatment strategies. Don’t just wait for your medication to work, make lifestyle changes which will decrease your depression.
If you are taking medication make sure you follow the doctor’s directions. If you do not take the prescribed dose regularly you will not get the full benefit. Do not stop taking your antidepressant medication without consulting your doctor first as you may suffer withdrawal symptoms.
When suffering from depression it is important to do some form of exercise, say 1/2 an hour per day, 5 days per week. Do not expect your depression to improve immediately following exercise. It make take a few weeks of regular exercise for you to see some improvement in your overall mood.
When one is depressed, one may lack motivation and have lost interest in, and derive less pleasure from activities one previously found very rewarding. However, it is important to schedule pleasant events such as socialising and fun activities into one’s daily routine as part of one’s depression treatment.
Do not self medicate your depression by consuming alcohol as it acts as a depressant.
Make sure you are well nourished. Women should get their iron levels checked by their doctor if they are experiencing depression. Vitamin B deficiencies are also thought to play a role in depression.
If you have not consulted your doctor about your depression, you should book in for a thorough medical examination to rule out any physical ailment which could be lowering your mood.
American Psychiatric Association.(1994). Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSMIV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press
Montgomery, S.A. (1995). Pocket Reference to Social Phobia London. Science Press Ltd.
The Chaneways Clinic Core Program Clinician’s Guide. Randy Paterson 2006
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