The Cleveland Clinic

The Link Between Depression and Other Mental Illnesses

Depression can be triggered by other mental illnesses, but it can also lead to certain mental illnesses. These include anxiety disorders , schizophrenia, eating disorders and substance abuse. Together, these conditions affect millions of Americans each year. Fortunately, they can be treated effectively -- allowing those affected to lead normal and productive lives.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders produce an intense, often unrealistic and excessive state of apprehension and fear. They can occur during a given situation, or in anticipation of a particular situation occurring. When anxiety strikes, a person's blood pressure may rise, his or her heart races and breathing becomes more rapid. The person may also feel nauseated and experience other signs of agitation and discomfort. The causes of anxiety are as individual as the people affected, and the symptoms vary widely in degree.

Anxiety disorders will affect close to 25 million people at some time in their lives, affecting women twice as frequently as men. Some of the most common anxiety disorders are: Panic disorder , social phobia, agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder , obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder .

Panic Disorder

One of the most common anxiety disorders is panic disorder . It is often present with depression and affects 2.5 million Americans every year, most often young adults. Panic disorder is periodic attacks of anxiety or terror, often unexpectedly and without reason. In general, the attacks last 15 to 30 minutes. It is common for the attacks to occur in a public place such as a restaurant or mall. The frequency of panic attacks vary -- for some people it may happen every week, while for others it may occur every few months. Because there seems to be no obvious explanation for why a panic attack starts, the fear of having another one is common and can affect the way a person lives. For example, if the attack occurs in a mall, then the person may stop going to the mall to avoid having another attack. This can lead to avoiding other large public places. It is not uncommon for attacks to trigger phobias of places or situations in which they have occured.

For somebody to be diagnosed with panic attack, they must have at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Fast heart beat
  • Extreme sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shakiness
  • A choking sensation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Hot flashes/chills
  • Chest pain
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling of losing control
  • Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself

These symptoms are often accompanied by concern about having other attacks, worry over the implications of the attack (like fear of death from a heart attack) and altered behavior (like avoiding a particular place) because of the attack.

Social Phobia

Also known as social anxiety, this disorder is associated with excessive self-consciousness in social situations. These situations can range from public speaking, to signing one's name in front of people, to eating in a restaurant. Whatever the case may be, for those people who suffer from social phobia, these situations create an intense and constant feeling of being watched, judged and negatively evaluated. This intense fear of public humiliation often forces those affected by social phobia to go out of their way to avoid these types of situations, which can have a negative affect on their personal and professional lives.