Anxiety Vs. Depression — What Are Their Signs And Treatment Options?

Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC

Published 01/08/2021

Anxiety and depression are well-researched and are considered the most common mental health challenges that many people experience. They are often normal emotions that are naturally experienced concerning certain situations or events. For anxiety, your fear can be triggered by potentially dangerous situations. For depression, it can be triggered by upsetting and disappointing circumstances. 

Based on relatedness, it may be difficult to tell the difference between anxiety and depression with regard to the specific condition that may be causing the symptoms that are observed. However, it is important to know the main causes of the symptoms you seen as this will help settle with the most appropriate and effective treatment approach. 

When it comes to discussing "anxiety vs. depression," knowing what makes their peculiar symptoms similar and different is very important. They are prevalent and can co-occur frequently, but shouldn't be seen as the same. 

What Is Anxiety?

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According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by worrying thoughts, tension, and physical changes. It a psychological reaction to a certain situation or event. So, when you feel anxious, Mental Health America explains that "your body tenses up and [your} mind becomes fixated on the thing you're worried about." Furthermore, anxiety can make concentrating difficult and cause sleeping and appetite problems. 

Anxiety is claimed to be an emotion that can help some situations by motivating you to prepare hard for some specific engagements such as an upcoming exam, interview, or presentation. However, it can become severe, interfering with your normal day-to-day 

activities. In this situation, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. To find out if you might have anxiety, visit this link: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test.

What Are The Physical And Mental Signs Of Anxiety? 

Some common signs may strongly indicate that you are battling with anxiety. These signs include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling Cold
  • Numb or tingling feet or hands
  • Sense of restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritation
  • Heavy perspiration or sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, or constipation ● Sleeping problems

It's important to know that you're at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety if you have a history of mental illness in your family, you had experienced shyness during your childhood, or you experienced anxiety symptoms from a young age. 

Essentially, if you're experiencing anxiety, your condition may be mentally marked by worrying about the long-term or immediate future, avoidance of situations that can trigger your anxiety, racing and uncontrollable thoughts about a challenge you may be facing, or fear of death. 

What Is Depression?

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a common mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that interfere with how you feel, think and deal with day-to-day activities, including eating, working, or sleeping. 

American Psychiatric Association referred to it as a major depressive disorder that can lead to the "feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. " It can also cause a number of physical and emotional problems that can reduce your effectiveness and efficiency at home and work. Depression, like other serious mental illnesses, is treatable. 

The major depressive disorder has different forms that may be experienced with respect to some specific conditions. These forms include persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), postpartum depression, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder ( mania or hypomania). 

What Are The Physical And Mental Signs Of Depression?

When you're battling with depression, there is a higher probability that you may experience some of the following symptoms: 

  • Lack of energy
  • A significant increase in appetite or loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating and focus including memory issues due to other physical symptoms such as ruminative thought processes
  • Feeling guilty and a sense of worthlessness.
  • Talking or moving more slowly than normal
  • Excessive sleep or sleep deprivation due to low energy or ruminative thought processes
  • Physical achiness with no cause
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • A deflated mood or sadness
  • Thought of suicide or death

It's important to know that you're at risk of experiencing depression if you have a family history of such mental illness or recently experienced a great loss. 

Esentially, if you're experiencing depression, your condition may be mentally marked by feeling hopeless or being pessimistic, felling worthless about yourself and what you do, or suicidal thoughts. 

Although depression may have a number of the same symptoms as anxiety, there are symptoms of depression that are not associated with anxiety and vice versa. Excessive fear and worrying are prominent symptoms of anxiety that are not associated directly with depression. Also, suicidal thoughts are more associated with depression than anxiety. 

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR CONDITION IS BOTH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION? 

Even though anxiety and depression are closely related, it may be difficult to express if you are experiencing both or if you are only experiencing one or the other. An empirical study claimed that about 72 percent of people suffering from generalized anxiety had once in their life experienced depression. On the other hand, 48 percent of people suffering from depression experienced anxiety once in their lives. However, it should be known that anxiety occurring simultaneously as depression (comorbid conditions) may be more common than a separate time of occurrences.

Moreover, anxiety and depression can be experienced at different life stages. Some researchers established that you're at risk of experiencing depression later in life when you experienced anxiety at a young age. You should also know that depression can onset before anxiety. 

Anxiety and depression may be considered as two sides of the same coin. They are conditions that have a common "biological basis" — when anxiety or low mood is persistently experienced, it can be associated with neurotransmitter function (this is when brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine are reduced to low levels). 

WHAT ARE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION? 

Both anxiety and depression are treatable mental health challenges if you know the right steps to deal with it. Sometimes, you may think of them as issues that may not require much attention. However, it is very important to deal with them before they become severe and interfere with your day-to-day activities. There are different ways of dealing with anxiety and depression. Some of these treatment options include: 

  • Medications: This is one of the common treatment options that many people use after diagnosis. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist who will prescribe appropriate medications to you. You must always consult a doctor before taking medication.

For the treatment of anxiety and depression, there are similarities and differences in medications. On the side of similarities, both serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can work effectively to deal with depression. Factually, SSRIs are medications that work primarily for the treatment of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

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  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy is one of the best treatment options available for anxiety or depression. A therapist may recommend structured psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you learn how to deal with intrusive or unwanted thoughts.

When you use CBT for anxiety, it reduces your behavior of avoiding the triggers and minimizes your feeling of fear about a perceived danger. For depression, it helps you develop positive emotions or experience an increase in energy. There is a connection between the activation of behavior and positive mood. No matter how low your mood or energy can be, it rewards you with positive emotion when your behavior is activated. 

You may find it difficult to differentiate between the sessions for depression and anxiety in psychodynamic talk therapy. During the sessions, you will be required to talk freely about

what you've experienced in the past and what you are going through at present to make you know every unconscious thought and other situations causing the symptoms you experience. 

  • Self-Help Strategies: There are different stages of anxiety and depression. People can experience mild, moderate, and severe depression and anxiety. Self-help approaches can be used if you are experiencing a mild level of emotions. However, if self-help approaches are not dealing with the conditions appropriately (ei: your conditions are becoming more overwhelming), you must consider more formal treatment options.

Some of the approaches to use may include self-help books and mobile apps that can intensively teach you skills needed to deal with a symptom, including teaching mindfulness meditation. 

  • Regular Exercise: This is an effective way to reduce the levels of your anxiety and depression. Exercise can help reduce cortisol levels, a stress hormone, and boost your mood, making your body healthy, and mind sound. It can also help boost your confidence and self-esteem and improve your relationships with the people around you. Exercise is one of the best treatment options for mild and moderate levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Support Groups: There are support groups for people suffering from mental illness such as stress, depression, and anxiety. It may be helpful to join a group like this. You may be able to meet people with the same condition as yours. You will also be given a chance to talk about your condition and learn how to deal with it. Your therapist can recommend the best one for your condition.

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  • Talking With Your Loved Ones: Your friends and family members are the closest allies to you that can strongly help during your hard times. Telling them about what you're going through can be very helpful as they can also be of great assistance in one way or the other.