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Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are serious mental health illnesses that can harm a person's daily life. Although the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the two disorders may overlap, there are some significant variations between them. Anxiety is defined by doctors as excessive worry and fear. In contrast, depression is characterized by a strong sense of grief and despair. While people suffering from anxiety are frequently on edge, those suffering from depression may feel numb and withdrawn. Physical symptoms can be caused by both conditions. Anxiety, for example, may manifest as chest pain or dizziness. In contrast, depression may manifest as changes in food or sleep patterns. Despite the similarities, it is critical to grasp the fundamental differences between anxiety and depression to provide the appropriate treatment and management approach.

Continue reading to discover the main similarities and differences between anxiety and depression, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What Are Their Similarities And Differences?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults. Although major depressive disorder (MDD) or depression is less common, it still affects over 16 million people. It's also worth noting that anxiety and depression are umbrella categories for various mental health issues.

Anxiety disorders include the following symptoms:

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • panic disorders
  • phobias
  • social anxiety disorder
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • agoraphobia

There are also various forms of depression, including:

  • MDD
  • persistent depressive disorder
  • seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • postpartum depression
  • psychotic depression

Bipolar disorder patients also have periods of low mood during which their symptoms fit the criteria for MDD.

People may suffer anxiety and depression at the same time. In fact, over half of all persons diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety problem. The connection between these two conditions is complex; one may occur due to the other. People who suffer from anxiety may avoid potentially stressful events, becoming isolated, which can lead to depression.

On the other hand, low mood and lack of energy might cause people suffering from depression to retreat and cease doing things they enjoy. When they try to resume a regular daily routine, they may feel at odds with the world, which can cause tension and anxiety. Anxiety and depression can cause changes in the activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and other substances like dopamine and adrenaline. Both illnesses have distinct mental and physical symptoms, and doctors may offer different treatments. However, because specific symptoms overlap, certain medications can help with both conditions.

What Are The Symptoms Of Each Condition?

Several key differences can help distinguish between symptoms of depression and anxiety.


It's not uncommon to feel sad, depressed, or hopeless from time to time, primarily through challenging or unpleasant life events. However, feelings of melancholy and emptiness that linger for more than two weeks may indicate depression, especially if pleasant occurrences or changes in your environment have no effect on your mood.

Depression can cause the following symptoms in addition to a low, sad, or empty mood:

  • loss of fun or interest in your typical interests and hobbies
  • a sensation of hopelessness or despair
  • rage, irritation, and agitation
  • a lack of vitality or a feeling of being slowed
  • chronic fatigue or sleep disturbances
  • alterations in appetite and weight
  • Having trouble concentrating, making judgments, or remembering information
  • unexplained aches and pains or digestive issues
  • feelings of worthlessness, remorse, or helplessness
  • Suicidal, death, or dying thoughts


Most people experience anxiety from time to time, including fear, uneasiness, and worry. After all, anxiety is part of how you respond to stress; thus, you may feel anxious:

  • before major life events
  • when making important decisions
  • when trying something new

However, suppose you have chronic or extreme anxiety on most days for several months. In that case, you may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or another anxiety condition.

Anxiety disorders extend beyond being concerned about unexpected or challenging life events. Your issues, such as your health, performance at school and job, or relationships, maybe more mundane. These concerns might lead to persistent thoughts and fears that eventually begin to interfere with daily life.

The main signs of ongoing anxiety include:

  • difficulty managing fear and worry
  • irritability, physical restlessness, or a sense of being on edge
  • a sense of dread, doom, or panic
  • sleep problems
  • persistent fatigue
  • brain fog
  • physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea

Overlapping symptoms

While it's important to realize that not everyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or both disorders will have the same set of symptoms, the two conditions frequently share similar symptoms.

Symptoms associated with either illness include:

  • changes in sleep patterns
  • changes in energy level
  • increased irritability
  • the trouble with concentration, focus, and memory
  • aches and pains or stomach issues that have no apparent cause

Rumination can occur in both situations. Rumination is a continual loop of dark, sorrowful, or other negative thoughts. You may not want to think about these ideas, yet you can't seem to stop.

You may experience the following symptoms as a result of anxiety:

  • trapped in a cycle in which you investigate all the conceivable outcomes of a situation
  • unable to stop worrying about anything that bothers you, even when you know you can't do anything about it
  • You may experience the following symptoms of depression:
  • focusing on guilt over not having the energy to spend time with friends
  • looking over past events and blaming yourself for things you have no control over, such as depressionmai

How Are They Related?

Depression and anxiety are both fairly prevalent and frequently occur concurrently. Around 60% of persons who suffer from anxiety also suffer from depression, and vice versa. Each ailment might aggravate or prolong the symptoms of the other. Both illnesses could be caused by the same genes. Anxiety and depression may be caused by the same brain structures or processes. Early stress and trauma can lead to depression and anxiety.

If you suffer from anxiety, you may be more prone to depression. According to experts, avoiding the things you dread may lead to despair.

Can Someone Have Anxiety and Depression?

Around half of those suffering from depression also have an anxiety issue. Anxiety is a probable indication of depression. However, persons with anxiety disorders may also suffer depression.


Co-occurring depression and anxiety can be more challenging to treat than either disorder alone. Even if you receive therapy for one issue, some symptoms may continue or appear to interact with others.


A variety of therapies can be used to treat anxiety or depression. Interpersonal therapy for depression, for example, teaches communication methods that you can use to express yourself more effectively and meet your emotional needs. Phobias, a type of anxiety, can be treated through exposure therapy. This strategy helps you become more comfortable with fearful situations.

Other approaches can be used to address both conditions:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches techniques to identify, challenge, and reframe unwanted thoughts and behavior patterns.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy provides mindfulness and behavioral skills to help you begin to handle undesirable feelings and stay present through them rather than becoming overwhelmed.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy provides techniques for accepting undesired or distressing ideas, remaining present, and committing to constructive activities that meet your personal values.
  • Problem-solving therapy. This method teaches how to employ coping skills to deal with mental health symptoms and life events that create stress and another emotional upheaval.


Anxiety and depression symptoms can also be reduced with psychotropic medication. However, it does not help you address the underlying source of your symptoms. Therefore your doctor or psychiatrist will usually recommend counseling in addition to medicine.

A psychiatrist or other professional may recommend:

  • Antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). In some cases, these medications may also relieve anxiety symptoms.
  • Anti-anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines, buspirone (Buspar), and beta-blockers. These medications can ease anxiety symptoms but may not improve depression symptoms. Benzodiazepines also carry a high risk of dependence, so your prescriber may try other drugs first.
  • Mood stabilizers. These medications may help treat depression symptoms that don't respond to antidepressants alone.


Anxiety and depression can be daunting, especially if you suffer from both diseases or are unsure which one you have. But you don't have to deal with such symptoms on your own. Getting help for the distress that lasts more than a few days or begins to interfere with your everyday life can go a long way toward assisting you in finding relief.

There are numerous therapy methods available for depression and anxiety. A therapist can always provide additional assistance in recognizing symptoms and potential causes and exploring the most beneficial treatment approaches.

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