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Anxiety and the Infinite Sadness

Micah Abraham, BSc
Anxiety and the Infinite Sadness

Infinite sadness is more than just the 3rd album by the Smashing Pumpkins. It's one way of describing feeling that you can get when you have severe anxiety. It's this feeling as though there is no happiness in the world - as though joy has been sucked away, and you're left with this feeling as though nothing will ever get better.

Once you’re in the middle of experiencing this deep sadness, it may seem as if you’ll always feel this way and that your mood is out of your control. But what does it really mean to feel this way and, perhaps more importantly, how do you manage it?

Depression After Anxiety Attacks

It is natural to experience sadness. When that sadness is long-lasting and starts to get in the way of your ability to live your life, we might think of it as depression. It can feel as if it’s impossible to experience enthusiasm or energy, instead feeling a heavy sense of low mood. It can happen to anyone with long term anxiety, and some particular experience periods of depression after having gone through anxiety attacks.

We sometimes think of depression and sadness as being the same thing, but not everyone who experiences depression will describe feeling “sad”. Some people experience what could be better described as an absence of happiness. They may feel numb or empty inside, not getting any of the joy they would usually get from life. These are a few of the other lesser-known aspects of depression. 

If you've had the flu you may have some idea of what it's like to feel deeply sad. There are times during the flu where you might forget what it's like to be happy, or forget what it's like to not be sick, because the feeling of illness is so pronounced. You're simply left with this terrible experience that doesn't seem to go away.

Deep sadness can feel similar.  It can lock you inside your own thoughts, making it difficult to take a different perspective. In this way, it may seem like you forget what feeling happy is like, and your body feels incapable of it. Even if you manage to laugh (which is often impossible, even watching your favorite TV shows), the laughter almost feels like a reflex, not a positive reaction to what you're seeing or listening to.

And so you may quickly forget what it means to be happy, and what it's like to feel happiness. You're left with a void that may be sad, indifferent, or even just negative without a clear emotion. That's what living with this type of sadness is like.

What Causes It?

Scientists are not clear why some people with anxiety end up experiencing this type of depression. We know that when you have anxiety your neurotransmitter levels tend to drop, which could result in depression. Your brain may also be responding to anxiety like it does to pain or an illness, which also may take away feelings of happiness.

It's even possible that it's a coping mechanism not working properly. Chances are your body finds it easier to be sad than stressed. Stressed is a powerful emotion, and often during periods of infinite sadness you don't feel that much stress so much as you feel simply unhappy. No matter what the cause, it can be trouble.

Understanding Infinite Sadness and How to Treat It

Anxiety and depression are both incredibly treatable conditions. That's the most important thing to understand - no matter how bad you may feel, anxiety and depression really are treatable. They often feel like they cannot be treated, and most treatments have challenges, but both conditions have very high treatment success rates provided you commit to the right ones.

Realizing that and recognizing that is actually one of the first steps to treatment, because unfortunately when you feel that sadness, it feels as though it's never going to go away. Many people simply forgo treatment assuming that it's hopeless, because the problem is defined specifically by the fact that it feels hopeless.

Also, for some this experience is very temporary. Many experience it for less than 24 hours, and some for less than an hour. But as soon as it starts occurring, it should signal that you need to start treating it, because you run the risk of allowing your mind to get used to this type of coping strategy. Tips for overcoming infinite sadness include:

You should also start seeking treatment right away. Get started before your anxiety starts to become a big deal, and before your depression spins out of control. If you feel that you're depression is too strong, call a local suicide hotline and see if there are any psychologists in your area.

Seeking help is an important step, and leave nothing to chance. Remember, anxiety and depression are both extremely treatable, but make you feel like they're not treatable. That's a symptom of the condition. So seeking help and being willing to seek that help are too extremely important qualities.

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