Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions, affecting almost 2 in 10 adults each year, and it’s not uncommon for them to go hand-in-hand with depression. Amid economic recession and financial worries, depression and anxiety rates are reported to have recently increased by 25%.

Here, we’ll explore the connection between anxiety disorders and depression, and how employers can support employees, including by better leveraging benefits packages, who may be struggling.

Understanding anxiety disorders and depression

Feeling down or anxious now and then can be common. For people with anxiety disorders and depression, these feelings are ongoing and can be more severe. Anxiety disorders involve intense, excessive or continuous worry about everyday situations to the point where it can be difficult to control and may interfere with work, relationships and everyday functioning.

Similarly, depression can cause severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working. A person struggling with depression may have persistent feelings of hopelessness, irritability, frustration, restlessness, guilt, a loss of interest in hobbies and activities, low energy or fatigue.

The relationship between anxiety disorders and depression

While anxiety disorders and depression are separate mental health conditions, it’s not uncommon for them to occur together. For example, depressive symptoms may cause a person to postpone or avoid activities, making them feel anxious when they can no longer put them off.

Similarly, anxiety disorders may cause a person to avoid activities they would normally enjoy, which can increase feelings of depression. The two can also have overlapping symptoms, like agitation and restlessness. These symptoms can stem from the same structures or processes in the brain or be triggered by the same stress or trauma.

Workplace impacts on mental health

The workplace plays a significant role in a person’s overall health and well-being and can either contribute to or detract from anxiety disorders and depression. Factors like long hours, excessive workloads, job insecurity, inflexibility and a work environment that lacks a supportive culture can increase stress levels and worsen overall mental health.

Alternatively, when employees have meaningful roles that enable confidence, purpose and achievement, they feel included and valued. Positive working relationships and supportive benefits and resources can all positively impact their mental health.

Ways to support employees struggling with their mental health 

Mental health issues are complex, with a multitude of contributing factors. Having a comprehensive benefits offering and making sure employees know what resources are available to them can be extremely helpful to a person along their mental health journey.

Employers can help support well-being in the workplace by:

  • Offering a strong mental health benefits package: A survey found that 81% of people report they’ll be looking for workplaces that support mental health when seeking future job opportunities. Flexible options, such as in-person therapy, teletherapy and digital solutions, give employees more inclusive ways to receive the help they may need.
  • Building well-being into company culture: Remind employees of the different wellness programs, like yoga, mindfulness and well-being webinars, included in their benefits package – as well as if there are any fitness reimbursements available to them. And encourage behaviors and a workplace culture that empowers them to prioritize their mental health every day.

By raising awareness and understanding for mental health issues like anxiety and depressive disorders, and creating an organization that works to be part of the solution, employers can foster a happier, healthier workforce.

Learn more about how Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a Point32Health company, can help build whole-health benefits packages to support employees and their families.