Today we will discover the answer to the question “Is there a difference between anxiety and depression?”
The reality is that we frequently hear both of these terms.
Sometimes we hear them together.
Other times only one or the other of these terms.
I believe I have even heard them used interchangeably and wasn’t entirely sure if that was correct or not.
Can one cause the other and vice versa?
The fact is that anxiety and depression are two entirely different medical conditions but their symptoms can often overlap.
This is likely where the confusion between the two arises, so let’s just dive in and learn the differences.
What is anxiety?
We can all feel anxious or afraid at times and the term “anxiety” is commonly used to describe that feeling.
There is also a more serious form of anxiety and when used in a medical sense the term “anxiety” can describe several conditions.
When symptoms are severe or interfering with daily life or leading to irrational thoughts you may require treatment.
The physical symptoms and behavioural changes that are caused by generalized anxiety disorder can include:
- easily fatigued
- difficulty concentrating or recalling
- muscle tension
- racing heart
- grinding teeth
- insomnia, restlessness or unsatisfying sleep
The emotional symptoms of anxiety can include:
- restlessness, irritability or feeling on the edge
- inability to control worry or fear
What is Depression
Feeling down or having the blues sometimes is a normal response to stressful or sad events in our lives.
Ongoing or severe feelings of depression can be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder that requires treatment.
The physical and behavioural symptoms of depression can include:
- chronic fatigue decreased energy or feeling sluggish frequently
- an inability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions or recalling
- aches, pains, cramps or gastrointestinal issues without apparent cause
- changes in appetite or weight gain/loss
- difficulty sleeping, oversleeping or waking early
There are also emotional symptoms which can include:
- loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or activities
- persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness or anxiety
- sense of hopelessness or becoming extremely pessimistic
- anger, irritability or restlessness
- feeling guilty or a strong sense of worthlessness or helplessness
- suicidal thoughts
- attempted suicide
Is there a link?
Often times anxiety may occur as a symptom of depression.
It is also common to have depression that has been triggered by an anxiety disorder.
This could be either generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or separation disorder.
In many instances, people can have a diagnosis of both an anxiety disorder and clinical depression.
Another often overlooked thing to consider is other physical diseases or illnesses.
Sometimes certain medications can cause either anxiety or depression or both.
Or perhaps it is the effects of the disease itself. For example, when someone has diabetes, the fluctuating blood sugar levels can sometimes cause anxiety or depression symptoms especially if one suffers from diabetes burnout.
Identify symptoms in yourself
As an individual, you know better than anyone what is normal for you. Do you find yourself experiencing feelings or behaviours that seem off? If so this may be a sign you need to seek help from a healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing and if treatment is needed it can begin early.
There are some self-diagnosis tests available online that can help you understand what is happening. It is important to understand that these tests, while they may be helpful, are not a replacement for a professional diagnosis from a healthcare professional. These tests can’t take into consideration other conditions that may also be affecting your health and mental health. They can indicate that you should seek medical advice.
Popular self-help tests can include:
Managing your symptoms
Once you are diagnosed by your doctor and a formal treatment plan will be developed. There are also several things you can try on your own at home to help manage your symptoms.
I must point out that these tips may not work for everyone and they may not work each time. They are only suggestions to try in addition to your regular course of treatment.
The ultimate goal of managing depression and anxiety is to develop a series of tools that can all work together to some degree to help you through stressful situations when you may need to use these extra tools.
Give yourself the freedom to feel your feelings.
Everybody has feelings, that is what makes us human.
Anxiety and depression are actually medical conditions and are not a result of you being weak or failing in some way.
What you are feeling is the result of the underlying causes and triggers and is not the result of something you did or didn’t do.
Complete a task you have full control over.
At the moment you are experiencing heightened anxiety it may help to focus on one simple task that you have complete control over.
Take out the trash, make the bed or wash the dishes.
This is a simple task but it gives you a sense of being in control, accomplishment and power.
Routine can be very helpful for people with anxiety and depression. A routine provides a structure that can give a sense of control. It also creates enough space in your day for self-care techniques that can help control symptoms.
Create a regular sleep routine
Ideally, you would try for seven to eight hours each night. Getting more or less runs the risk of complicating either condition. Not getting enough sleep can also negatively impact your cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous systems.
Eat a nutritious diet
It is far too easy to grab easy, convenient foods while feeling depressed or anxious but these foods offer little to no nutritional value.
Try to nourish your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
After all, you don’t want to make underlying conditions worse by not nourishing your body.
Go for a walk
There is plenty of research that suggests exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. This is because exercise is a natural mood booster by releasing those feel-good hormones.
For some people heading to the gym can trigger anxiety or fear. If that happens for you, you could look for more natural ways of getting exercise. Try a walk around your neighbourhood or look online for an exercise video you could do right at home.
Give yourself time to just focus on yourself and the things you like to do.
Down-time is a terrific way to let your body rest and it can occupy the brain so it isn’t focused on negative thoughts.
Engaging in activities that you enjoy can be comforting and in time may bring you some joy again.
So go ahead, draw, paint, knit, build something. Maybe you prefer to cook or bake. Get outside and bird watch.
Whatever your favourite activities are, choose one and spend some quality time with yourself doing what you love.
If you have been housebound try getting out for a bit
Sometimes when we are experiencing anxiety or depression we may not leave our house for extended periods of time.
I know when our youngest son was going through anxiety and depression a few years ago he went several months without leaving his apartment. In fact, I struggled to get him out of there to attend doctor appointments.
When I did manage to get him out for a bit, I would simply just drive around a bit after his appointments just to keep him out and about for a while.
Reach out to a trusted friend
Try meeting a friend for coffee.I remember our youngest son saying how he really appreciated his older brother bringing him a lunch of take-out and sitting outside on his balcony to have lunch together. It really boosted his mood.
If you feel like talking about your troubles then go for it. If not just talk about the weather or some book you read.
The point is just spending time with a trusted friend or family member can be so therapeutic.
When to seek help
If you are experiencing symptoms of either anxiety or depression and those symptoms have lasted for more than two weeks or are severely debilitating, meaning they are interfering with your everyday life, then it is time to book an appointment with your family doctor.
Remember severe symptoms can include:
- sleep problems
- unexplained emotional changes
- sudden loss of interest
- feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
Maybe you are just not feeling like yourself and would like help understanding what is going on then go ahead and make an appointment.
It is imperative that you be open and honest so your doctor can fully understand what is happening and get a clear picture of what you have been feeling.
In order for them to offer an effective source of treatment, they need a full understanding so the more clear you are the better.
Is there a difference between anxiety and depression?
Yes, they are very different medical conditions yet many of the symptoms overlap which may cause confusion.
While it is normal to feel a certain level of anxiety or fear in certain situations, it could be a disorder if that anxiety starts to have an effect on your ability to function normally each day.
Most of us will feel sad or down when unpleasant circumstances arise within our lives. It potentially becomes a problem when it lasts longer than two weeks or interferes with our ability to function on a daily basis.
If you suspect you or a loved one may have anxiety or depression book a doctor’s appointment. Be sure you are completely open and honest about all of your symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, follow your treatment plan as much as possible. You can also try some of the suggestions I outlined in this article for you.
Take control of your own mental and physical health.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner. Please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.
Do you or anyone you know struggle with anxiety or depression?
What advice would you give someone struggling with anxiety or depression?
Share your answers in the comment section below and remember to take care of yourself.