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.
Anxiety can include some less common conditions such as phobias or panic disorders. However, today we will focus on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
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.
Do something that brings you comfort
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.
8 thoughts on “Is There A Difference Between Anxiety And Depression?”
This is a very interesting and helpful post on the difference between anxiety and depression. You have given me some great advise and ideas as to what I can do when I am feeling down in the dumps, and I particularly like the one about going for a walk. Spending time in nature always lift my mood, so the best for me is to go for a walk in a wooded are that is near to where I live. Thank you for a great post.
Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment. I am grateful you found my article helpful. I find a walk works great for me as well. I love being outside as much as possible. You are fortunate to have a wooded area for walking so close by. I have found that most communities do offer walking trails through wooded parks that can be a great option for those living in urban areas. I live in a rural community so we are surrounded by nature. Sometimes just sitting on the deck and listening to the birds’ chirp is all I need to feel refreshed. Anxiety and depression can be a real struggle for some and others seem to cope better with life’s ups and downs. It is important to realize there is help available when needed and there is no shame in obtaining that help. Thanks again and take care.
This is an amazingly helpful article! I was diagnosed with both anxiety and depression a few years ago, but prior to then I didn’t think much about the link between the two. I noticed that in school I was always feeling energetic, yet I didn’t want to do anything. I was always bouncing my leg up and down. Some days I didn’t want to leave my bed, and I would just stay under the covers all day watching TV. One of the things that helped me take control of my anxiety and depression was going to the gym. I was happier and healthier. Then COVID hit and the gyms were shut down. I started walking every afternoon in my local cemetery, usually averaging 2-3 miles. That is when I realized that I was craving sunshine and fresh air more than anything else. I encourage everyone to take a walk every day is possible. Even if it is less than a mile. You’ll notice yourself sleeping better and an overall mood improvement and the days that you aren’t able to walk will move slower as you crave that little extra bit of sun in the day.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jude. I am sorry to hear you have struggled with anxiety and depression but am so grateful you have found what works for you. Taking the time to do what we need to do for our mental health is so important. I too find my mood significantly elevated when I am able to get outdoors, even on a cloudy day. There is just something so invigorating about getting plenty of fresh air and of course, the exercise from walking certainly helps as well. Were you aware of a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? This is a type of depression where the person finds symptoms developing usually in the fall and persisting throughout the winter leaving you lacking energy and struggling with variable moodiness. It is often treated with light therapy. I have noticed that not being able to get to the gyms or in the case of lockdowns outdoors for walks really does have a devastating effect on people. I am definitely hoping that things can return to normal soon. The toll these restriction are having on people’s mental health is staggering. Thanks again and do take care.
Hi Deb, reading your title I thought: yes, there is a difference. The very useful tips you gave can work for both types, yet I can imagine that anxiety is more ‘outgoing’ or ‘noisy’. Where depression is inward and numbed.
I have had 2 severe periods of depression for which I am grateful! As a good friend of ours remarked: ‘I wish everyone a good depression’. The reason I had 2 of them that I resisted too much the first time. As if there was something wrong with me that needed to be ignored as soon as possible.
That didn’t work out well, of course. The second time I read a very helpful book that gave me the opportunity to see my depression as a way to recharge. A period of silence before I could go on again. That was a better and more helpful approach.
As you wrote one should go outside when depressed. But someone who is really depressed has no initiative, as you saw in your son’s behavior as well. I got over it through therapy and some people are better off with medication. How did your son get out of it eventually?
Thanks for sharing your personal journey through depression Hannie. I am grateful you successfully came out on the other side wiser for it.
You are so correct that when someone is deep into depression they withdraw and don’t go out.
It was very difficult with our son. Our son had some therapy and then my husband went with him out west and spent 5 months getting him settled and working one on one with him, building his self-esteem and teaching him coping techniques. During the third month out there our son got a great job that he loved and he is still there today as an essential worker. After 5 months my husband came home but we do have daily communication with that son and thankfully he hasn’t had any relapses.
I wouldn’t really recommend moving somebody so depressed but this situation was unique. We also knew that once he was ready to find work, he would never find it here which is why the move was essential. He never would have made the move on his own even though two of his brothers were already out there.
In hindsight, medication might have helped with some of the anxiety attacks or maybe even the depression itself but we got him through it and are all grateful.
Thanks again for commenting, take care.
Aren’t your children the lucky ones, having such doting parents! ❤️
We never know for sure which is the best way to heal. A lot of decisions are made on intuition, don’t you think? I always refused medication. Yet a colleague of mine chose pills and he got out of his depression as well.
Whatever works is fine. 🙂
Hi Hannie, you are so right, a lot of decisions are made based on intuition. Parenting is all about that, isn’t it. I mean kids don’t come with an instruction manual. We follow our instincts and pray we are doing the right thing in every situation. This reminds me of an incident where a different son asked to use the quad, my husband for some reason felt uneasy that day so he told our son, “I don’t have a specific reason, just a feeling, but no you can’t use the quad today.” Naturally, the son was disappointed, to say the least. Turns out he went and used his friend’s quad and had an accident where he flipped the bike and was dragged some 20ft with the bike on top of him. Had he used our heavier bike he likely wouldn’t have survived. Clearly, we need to follow our intuition and dealing with depression and anxiety also. That is what we did with our youngest son and thankfully he came out the other side and is doing great. We need to trust ourselves to follow through when we find something is working for us. Thanks again.