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Study Examines the Impact Anxiety Has on Depression

It appears depression and anxiety may go hand in hand. According to a new Science Daily post, brain activity in depressed and anxious people indicates that some of the ill effects of depression are modified by anxiety.

This finding is based on a new study of brain activity that looked at depression and two types of anxiety: anxious arousal or the fearful vigilance that can turn into panic; and anxious apprehension, better known as worry.

With the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) at the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center, researchers looked at brain activity in subjects who were diagnosed as depressed, but not anxious; anxious but not depressed; and those who exhibited varying degrees of depression.

"Although we think of depression and anxiety as separate things, they often co-occur," said University of Illinois psychology professor Gregory A. Miller, who led the research with Illinois psychology professor Wendy Heller, in Science Daily.

"In a national study of the prevalence of psychiatric disorders, three-quarters of those diagnosed with major depression had at least one other diagnosis. In many cases, those with depression also had anxiety, and vice versa."

Miller and Heller both have a history of arguing that the anxiety of chronic worriers is distinct from the panic or fearful vigilance that characterizes anxious arousal. An earlier study conducted by the two identified very different patterns of activity in the brain caused by two types of anxiety.

The new study included brain scans done while participants performed a task that involved naming the colors of words that had negative, positive or neutral meanings. Such an approach enabled researchers to observe which brain regions were activated in response to emotional words.

Posted on April 8th, 2010
Posted in Depression

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