Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health problems in the world, and in the last few decades, our awareness and acknowledgment of them have grown. However, many continue to struggle to distinguish one from the other. This is because “roughly 50% of people diagnosed with depression will also be diagnosed with anxiety disorder” . However, in order to effectively treat the two, it is imperative to identify their separate symptoms and traits.
“Anxiety is a general apprehension about what is going to happen, or could possibly happen, in the future. Anxiety disorders are characterized by thoughts of worry and a general belief that something will go wrong” . Some symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Excessive worry
- Being easily fatigued
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep disturbance
- Muscle tension
If you experience any of these symptoms on most days for six months or more (upsetting your daily routine and causing you distress), this could mean that you have a generalized anxiety disorder. “Other types of anxiety disorder include separation anxiety, panic disorder, or phobias, among others” . While there aren’t specific causes of anxiety disorder, traumatic events have been seen to be the common trigger to it. Other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, and respiratory disorders have also been linked to anxiety disorders. Furthermore, factors such as stress, depression, drugs, and alcohol are known to increase the likelihood of developing anxiety disorders. Insomnia and social isolation are but a few of the complications that could then develop from anxiety disorders, suicide being the worst of it .
To tackle anxiety disorders, it has been proven that counseling can be more effective than medication, as the latter is shown to have numerous side effects. In counseling, however, patients’ symptoms are the main focus. Counselors will analyze symptoms in order to implement approaches that can help decrease nervousness. However, it is not the only solution, and should not be the only solution you should open yourself up to. Lifestyle alterations – including exercise regimes and self-care routines – can also help reduce anxiety levels, and if needed, medication.
Depression is a feeling of sadness. Unlike people diagnosed with anxiety disorder, depressed people who are not diagnosed with anxiety disorder are less likely to worry about future events, as they often believe that things will always be bad. “In other words, they may predict the future based on how they feel in the moment” . Symptoms of people with depression include:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Rapid changes in appetite
- A disinterest in enjoyable activities
- Slower movement
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Depressed mood
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
Experiencing five or more of these symptoms in two weeks could be a sign of depression. These same individuals could also be diagnosed with dysthymia, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, depression, or even bipolar disorder. Some causes of depression include hormones, brain chemistry, biological differences, and inherited traits – depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. The complications of depression should never be ignored as it can be heavily detrimental to our emotional and physical health. Some of these complications include:
- Obesity can lead to diabetes and heart diseases
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Anxiety, panic disorder, or social phobia
- Suicidal feelings, suicidal attempts, or suicide
- Self-mutilation such as cutting
- Premature death from medical conditions 
A mixture of therapy, medication, and lifestyle alterations can help those struggling with depression manage their symptoms. Always consider the severity of your depression first before selecting the optimal treatment method. Antidepressants may not always be the best method and may be unnecessary with necessary lifestyle changes. Psychotherapy, behavioral, and interpersonal therapy can all be great methods to cure depression. A blend of these therapies sometimes proves optimal and can be either done in private counseling sessions or in a group format .
At the end of the day, seeking professional help, and confirming with them is the best and safest way to figure out how you can help yourself heal, or how others can help you with that process. Patience and kindness are the keys to giving yourself ample time to get better at your pace to bring you to a healthier and safer mindset and lifestyle.
“Differences between Anxiety and Depression.” Evolve Psychiatry Massapequa, NY, https://www.evolvepsychiatry.com/massapequa-ny/differences-anxiety-depression/.
Anxiety vs Depression - TIPS to Help Understand the Difference - Psycom.net. https://www.psycom.net/anxiety-depression-difference.
“Depression (Major Depressive Disorder).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Feb. 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007.
“Anxiety Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 May 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961#:~:text=Common%20anxiety%20signs%20and%20symptoms,Having%20an%20increased%20heart%20rate.
Author: Georgia Sukendro
Editor: Kayjah Taylor
Health scientist: Joanna Gudino