According to a 2004 Rand Corporation report, depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than US$51 billion per year in absenteeism and lost productivity.
How a Panic Attack Can Cause Depression and What to Do About It
Following a panic attack, some people experience periods of depression or anhedonia, a disorder similar to depression that prevents a person from feeling happiness. As it turns out, these experiences may be linked by a single brain chemical, the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. If dopamine is in fact the causal link between anxiety and depressive disorders, it may be possible to avoid the post-panic attack blues by finding ways to boost dopamine in your daily life, as this article will discuss.
Low Dopamine Makes "Happy" a No-Go
While it has long been accepted within the psychiatric community that anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and depressive disorders have a high rate of comorbidity, meaning that individuals with anxiety are likely to also become depressed and vice versa, scientists believe they have isolated the brain chemical that anxiety and depressive disorders have in common.
A German study (1) finds that the capacity of the left amygdala (the part of your brain primarily responsible for the fight-or-flight response associated with anxiety) to store dopamine, or the "reward" chemical your brain produces that makes you feel good, is a factor in how anxious a person is. Individuals who suffer from anxiety have been shown to have lower storage capacity for dopamine in their left amygdalas. Meanwhile, depressive disorders are thought to both be triggered by low dopamine levels in the brain and to reduce those levels even further over time. This suggests that panic attacks, as a symptom of an anxiety disorder, can easily lead to depressive episodes and potentially to a depressive disorder.
How to Raise Your Dopamine Levels
To keep your dopamine levels steady and decrease the likelihood both of panic attacks and of depressive disorders, there are a variety of precautions you can take.
• Treat Your Anxiety Disorder - Learning how to notice and avoid the thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and, by extension, low dopamine levels, can be accomplished for many people through standard treatments for anxiety such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), alternative courses of therapy, and anti-anxiety medications.
• Avoid Substance Abuse - A Japanese study suggests that drug addiction withdrawal causes the brain to register insufficient dopamine in the system (2), which often leads to both anxiety and depression.
• Eat Foods Containing Tyrosine - Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps your body to create dopamine. Foods that contain tyrosine include almonds, bananas, avocado, and most meat products.
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