Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: Is it Anxiety, Depression or Stress?

by TMQ

Well, I'm here because I know there is something wrong with me, and it seems to be snow balling. I can't tell if it is depression, anxiety, stress or a combination of the three. All I know is I don't want to continue feeling this way. I decided...perhaps unwisely...to use my girlfriend's Wellbutrin as she had an extra months supply. I have been taking it for 4 days and I must admit, I feel a little better, but I know my doctor isn't going to be too happy when I tell him.

I am finding it very hard to focus because I am always worried about something. I have feelings of being trapped at my job, which I am financially dependent upon, but dislike much of the time. The divorce has created a financial burden causing me to live paycheck to paycheck. I do see a light at the end of that tunnel, but it is several years away. Our contract at work is up for renewal and I have had major anxiety about keeping a job I don't even like all that much.

My thoughts spiral out of control...and I get extreme feelings of guilt over not taking care of my health properly, drinking too much (a bottle of wine a night...sometimes more since around the time my Dad passed away in 2007 which was a suicide). I feel on edge most of the time, so I drink and smoke to try and calm down...then I feel guilty for spending money on wine and cigarrettes and not taking care of my health, so then I worry about my health...and I worry about money...and what's going to happen if I lose my job...it's just an out of control spiral and I build it up to be 10 times worse than it is in my head....but I can't stop.

I want to take back control of my life. I want to cut down on the drinking and stop smoking. I want to make and stick to a budget. I just feel exhausted and I am not motivated to start.

I never have any suicidal thoughts. My friends say I am upbeat, funny and happy. I am not a drug user. I feel like I abuse alcohol, but I do not drive drunk, get mean, hurt people or myself, pass or black out or make foolish decisions. I get up everyday and go to work with no problems.

I made a doctors appointment, which is in about 3 weeks. Any suggestions on what I can do to calm myself down and not let things get me so wound up? Thank you! This is a great site to come across.

TMQ


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TMQ,

Thanks so much for reaching out. It sounds like you are under a great deal of stress. Based on what you describe it does sound like you have a small combination of all three - depression, anxiety and stress. Not sure if you saw this on my site but I do have a test that you can take called the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale or DASS. This is downloadable and something that you can take to get a better idea of what's going on. Also, you can print it and share it with your doctor.

You mention taking Wellbutrin without a prescription. I would strongly recommend that you stop taking this medication immediately. This is for several reasons.

First, Wellbutrin is used to treat depression which you aren't even sure at this point you have. Yes, you may feel depressed from time to time but you may not have clinical depression that needs to be treated with medication.

Second, your girlfriends dose may not be the right dose for you. She may have "ramped up" over time and now you have started on a much higher dose than is recommended when you first start out. This is not good since this medication alters your brain chemicals - specifically norepinephrine and dopamine.

Third, Wellbutrin is associated with a risk of seizures particularly for those that drink excessively and/or stops drinking abruptly. Your current drinking habits make this a higher risk for you.

Generally speaking, it's just not good to take a medication that is not specifically prescribed for you - particularly when you have not been properly diagnosed. I know you know that as you sound like a highly intelligent, high functioning adult. But, I just had to say it! :-)

You describe, feeling on edge, being worried at times - which are symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). but it doesn't sound like you feel anxiety every day almost everyday which is key to GAD. So, I doubt that's it.

You don't sound truly depressed to me because you don't describe the typical depression symptoms such as feeling worthless, lethargic, retreating from the world, wanting to be alone, contemplating suicide, etc.

In my opinion, what you are feeling seems to be normal feelings that one would have when you are under financial pressure, working a job you don't enjoy, worrying about your health, losing your dad... you've got a lot of stressors in your life. All of which cause feelings of anxiety and stress. Feelings that are all normal under the circumstances. And, you are right, self medicating is not the answer.

When an individual feels anxiety it is a sign that their energy is "pulling up", meaning you are not grounded. So, the key is to do things that will help bring your energy down, back into your body. To do this you should consider replacing the self medicating "bad habits" with things that will help you calm down and get grounded. Suggestions include exercise (this is a great time to enjoy the out doors), dancing, journaling about your feelings, deep breathing exercises, meditation, listening to relaxing music, and, of course, a healthy diet.

I think you can benefit from feeling like you have more control in your life. Consider setting up goals for yourself. What do you want to accomplish, when do want to accomplish it, and how are you going to get there? Create them using the SMART method: Specific/significant, Measurable/meaningful, Attainable/action-oriented, Realistic/rewarding and Time-bound/trackable.

Also, reach out to a counselor for support. Having someone objective to talk to can be very beneficial (yeah, spoken like a true therapist, huh?!)

Sorry this is so long! I hope this helps and wish you all the best! Stop by anytime!

Dana

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