If you suffer from anxiety or depression you are not alone. There are millions of people in the U.S. and around the world suffering with you.
Did you know that diagnosing depression and anxiety is still being done pretty much the same way it was 150 years ago? It’s true. A person goes to the doctor, describes his or her symptoms, and gets a prescription – usually an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all approach sets the stage for failure in many cases because the doctor does not determine which underlying biological process is causing is person’s symptoms. This is a critical missing piece of the diagnostic puzzle and one of the greatest lessons I have learned over the last two and a half decades of studying the brain.
Using SPECT imaging, we’ve discovered that depression and anxiety, like many other psychiatric conditions, are not just single or simple disorders, but rather there are 7 different types based on different patterns in the brain, and each requires its own treatment.
See if any of these 7 types sound familiar to you:
Type 1: Pure Anxiety
People who struggle with pure anxiety tend to feel anxious, tense, nervous and uncomfortable in their own skin. Often overwhelmed with feelings of panic, self-doubt, and predicting the worst, they also suffer from the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension, nail biting, headaches, abdominal pain, racing heart, and shortness of breath.
Type 2: Pure Depression
Typically characterized by persistent sadness, negativity, and a loss of interest in things that are usually pleasurable, people with this type often have periods of crying for little reason, feelings of isolation or loneliness, sleep or appetite changes, low energy, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts.
This type can be caused by lower dopamine levels, overactivity in the deep limbic system, or low activity in the frontal lobes
Type 3: Mixed Anxiety and Depression
This type is a combination of both pure anxiety and pure depression symptoms. While both symptom clusters are present on a regular basis, one type may predominate at any point in time. Actually, pure anxiety and pure depression are pretty rare by themselves; in our experience, mixed anxiety and depression is very common, as anxiety and depression run together 75 percent of the time.
Type 4: Overfocused Anxiety and Depression
With this type, we tend to see features of anxiety and depression, plus a tendency to get stuck on anxious or depressing thoughts or negative behaviors. People with this type tend to worry, hold grudges, and be argumentative and critical. Typically, overfocused anxiety and depression is caused by too much activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus and lower serotonin levels. I have also noticed that this type tends to occur more frequently in children or grandchildren of alcoholics
Type 5: Temporal Lobe Anxiety and Depression
Often the result of a head injury or associated with seizures, this type can be associated with low GABA levels. Because the temporal lobes are very important for memory, moods, and emotions, problems in this part of the brain can cause people to have mood instability, irritability, memory problems, and dark, frightening or evil thoughts. They might also have trouble reading social cues, experience frequent déjà vu, and misinterpret comments as negative when they are not.
Type 6: Cyclic Anxiety and Depression
This type includes bipolar disorder, cyclothymia (milder mood swings), seasonal mood changes, and severe PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Times of stress can also trigger a cycle. As with the other types, cyclic anxiety and depression is a spectrum disorder, meaning it may be a mild form, a very severe form, or anything in between. We believe type 6 is related to lower levels of GABA, but it might also be caused by too much of an excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamate.
Type 7: Unfocused Anxiety and Depression
Commonly with this type there is decreased activity in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that helps with attention span, forethought, impulse control, organization, motivation, and planning. People with unfocused anxiety and depression often complain of low energy, brain fog, being inattentive, bored and impulsive, and exhibiting poor judgment. The causes of the lower activity in the brain may be the result of an injury, toxic exposure (such as mold), near-drowning, infection, medications, an underlying attention deficit disorder, or other medical illnesses.
Clearly choosing the same treatment of everyone diagnosed with anxiety or depression will never work, and is a major reason so many people fail to get relief of their symptoms. As I always say, how do you know unless you look?