Co-Occurring Panic Disorder and Depression

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People with anxiety-related conditions are often diagnosed with a co-occurring mood disorder. In particular, people with panic disorder are often at greater risk of developing clinical depression.

Some estimates indicate that approximately half of those diagnosed with panic disorder will have at least one incidence of major depression in their lifetime.

What Is Depression?

Depression is not the same as occasionally feeling gloomy or disappointed. We all have times in our lives in which we feel down, such as after experiencing a loss or receiving bad news. Feeling "blue" about difficult life situations is not necessarily a sign of depression.

It is necessary to seek out help if your feelings of sadness begin to negatively affect your overall functioning, such as interfering with your job, relationships, and other important areas of your life.

Many times people with clinical depression are unable to identify what it is that is contributing to their depressed mood, but they are aware that it is a feeling that they cannot just "snap out of."

Depression is a diagnosable mental health disorder that is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • A depressed mood most of the time
  • Loss of interest and satisfaction in activities previously enjoyed
  • Change in appetite, often seen in weight gain or loss
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleeping too much
  • Psychomotor changes, such as being noticeably restless or slowed down
  • Frequent fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and excessive guilt
  • Lack of concentration, trouble thinking, and difficulty making decisions
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide

According to the DSM-5, at least five of these symptoms must be present within a two-week period of time. One of these symptoms has to be a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, in order to be formally diagnosed with major depression. These symptoms must also represent a change in the person’s typical behaviors as indicated by self-report or observations by others who know the person, such as friends, family, and coworkers.

Depression is a treatable condition that can be managed through the help of your doctor. The most common forms of treatment include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

Antidepressants are the most frequently prescribed medication to treat depression. Known for their mood-enhancing properties, antidepressants have also been established to treat and reduce symptoms of panic disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression and Panic Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that has found to be effective in the treatment of depression and panic disorder. CBT works by altering one’s negative thoughts and behaviors to reduce depressive and anxious symptoms and to improve overall functioning.

A combination of CBT and medication is a typical treatment option choice for panic disorder and depression. It is possible to have panic disorder and a co-morbid diagnosis of clinical depression. These treatment options can address both conditions.

What to Do If You Experience Symptoms

If you suspect you are suffering from depression, talk to your doctor right away about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. Updated February 2018.