Left untreated, there are many complications of anxiety and depression that can occur. Suicide is not uncommon among people with depression or anxiety disorders. Attempts to self-medicate the disorder may lead to substance abuse and alcoholism. Social anxiety may lead to agoraphobia, making it difficult to even leave the house.
Treating the anxiety disorder or depression may resolve some complications associated with the disease. Other destructive coping behaviors, such as alcoholism, often require separate treatment and may continue long after the disorder that triggered them.
Agoraphobia is the fear of open or public spaces. Repeated panic attacks or social anxiety often lead to avoidance behavior. The anxiety sufferer goes to great lengths to avoid areas where the anxiety tends to worsen. People with depression may avoid social situations because they’re afraid their flat affect may cause embarrassing questions. A simple question like, “How are you?” may be too complicated to answer truthfully. Over time, avoidance behaviors can generalize and expand to trap people in their own homes.
Complications of depression also include loss of sex drive. Depressed people lack the interest and energy required for an active sex life. Long-term effects may include loss of self-esteem and relationship problems. Treating the depression usually restores sexual interest. However, some antidepressant medications may also decrease sex drive.
Substance Abuse: Alcohol Abuse and Drugs
Substance abuse (both alcohol and drug abuse) often occurs when people attempt to self-treat their disorders. Alcohol abuse may occur as people drink to feel better or calm down. Left unchecked, alcohol abuse can develop into full-blown alcoholism. Conversely, alcoholism increases the likelihood of developing depression or worsening existing depression.
Drug abuse is also a danger for people who are depressed or suffering from anxiety. Anxiety sufferers may turn to tranquillizers, street drugs, or other calming drugs in an attempt to relieve anxiety or panic. Self-medication can be as simple as an increased dependence on tobacco or caffeine. Smoking may calm anxiety, and caffeine may help counteract the lethargy of depression.
Sleep disorders are among the most common complications of anxiety and depression. Insomnia is perhaps the best-known type of sleep disorder. Often, people with depression either suffer from insomnia or sleep too much. Even when sleep seems to come easily, anxiety and depression can prevent sleep from refreshing the body, and people wake up tired. Sleep disorders caused by anxiety or depression usually resolve themselves when the underlying mental disorder is treated.
Suicide is a major concern when discussing complications of depression and anxiety. Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness make suicide seem a viable option for many depressed individuals.
People with anxiety disorders such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and social anxiety are also at risk for suicide. Appropriate treatment for anxiety and depression is the best prevention for suicide attempts.
Physical Complications of Anxiety and Depression
There are many physical complications of anxiety and depression that may occur as well. High blood pressure and heart problems may be brought about by chronic anxiety, and depression may lead to suppressed immune systems. Headaches, muscle pains and stomach problems are other common complications of depression and anxiety.
Mental Complications of Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety and depression disorders may create yet more mental disorders. People with anxiety are especially prone to developing depression, and depression can lead to anxiety disorders. Social anxiety can lead to OCD. Anxiety and depression disorders can be very unpredictable, either turning into different types of disorders, or causing new ones.
Healthlogy Staff. (2002). Anxiety and anxiety disorders. Retrieved June 10, 2002 from the Healthology website: www.healthology.com/focus_article.asp?f=mentalhealth