Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can be easily confused. In many cases, the symptoms of depression can coalesce with those of anxiety. In times where you feel sad, hopeless, and seem to lack joy in the midst of performing daily tasks or hobbies that you once enjoyed, you may believe that you are suffering from mild depression. However, that isn’t always the case. Other times, you may be overly worried, concerned, or fearful about the future or even tasks that you weren’t normally afraid of. You may believe you are suffering symptoms of anxiety. Yet, sometimes, that isn’t the case either.

Depression and anxiety are often considered the different faces of the same coin. At times, depression can cause someone to feel anxious or doubtful about the future. Other times, anxiety can cause someone to feel sad, hopeless, and afraid. Depression or anxiety can both cause similar symptoms in many people. Other times, you may be suffering from depression anxiety. Yet, how can you tell the difference between the two? How is it that depression and anxiety can both occur simultaneously?

In this article, we will address anxiety and depression: how they manifest, how they can correlate, and the symptoms of both mental health conditions.

What is Anxiety and Depression?

As stated above, anxiety and depression can occur at the same time. It is believed that approximately 45% of those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition actually meet the criteria for a dual mental health diagnosis – two or more mental disorders. Another study has estimated that roughly 50% of people diagnosed with depression or anxiety also struggle with the other.

Despite each condition being different and manifesting in its own unique way, the symptoms can often correlate. Treatment options for depression and anxiety are both approached similarly. Below we address each separately and the symptoms of both mental disorders. In doing so, you may realize how similar anxiety and depression are.

Anxiety

An anxiety disorder can be described as the incessant fear or worry that can overcome someone’s mind without warning. In many cases, feeling a sense of anxiety is natural and normal. In situations that are new or can be daunting, it is natural to feel a bit concerned or anxious given the circumstances. However, an anxiety disorder is one in which intense feelings of worry or fear arise in situations where it is unnatural. The feelings of worry and fear are irrational and can be debilitating – making it difficult for the individual to function normally. This is commonly considered chronic anxiety.

However, chronic anxiety does not always manifest psychologically. The psychiatric distress and pain can also lead to physical symptoms which can affect the overall health and wellness of the individual. These symptoms can include:

  • Easily fatigued, tired
  • Difficulty with memory or concentration
  • Tense muscles, muscle fatigue
  • Heart palpitations, increased heart rate
  • Teeth grinding, clenched jaws
  • Difficulty sleeping: insomnia, trouble falling asleep, waking feeling unrested.

As you well may know, anxiety does not always manifest physically. Some of the most common emotional and mental symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Uncontrollable bouts of worry and fear
  • Feeling depressed, a sense of dread, hopelessness
  • Intense fear, panic, and panic attacks

Depressive Disorders

Like anxiety, there are times when feeling “depressed:” sadness, grief, or feeling upset can be normal and fitting regarding the situation. In some cases, it is natural to feel a sense of sadness or to grieve for several days to weeks. Yet, chronic depression can become debilitating and prohibit someone from functioning normally. Excessive bouts of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, fear, or fixations on death or thoughts of taking your own life can become a serious health concern.

Depression is more notably recognized by physical symptoms and changes in behavior over the course of a few weeks, months, or even years. These symptoms can include:

  • Frequent lack on energy, extreme fatigue, feelings of sluggishness
  • Cognitive symptoms: lack of concentration, difficulty making decisions, trouble with memory
  • Digestive, gastrointestinal issues: stomach aches, pain, cramps, or other issues without cause
  • Increased or decreased appetite, excessive weight gain or loss
  • Trouble sleeping: insomnia, hypersomnia, waking early

Depression can also manifest emotionally. Psychological symptoms of depression can include:

  • Lack of interest or desire for hobbies or tasks that were once interesting to you
  • Recurring feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
  • Pessimism
  • Irritability, bouts of anger and frustration
  • Feelings of guilt, despair, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Frequent thoughts of death or contemplating suicide
  • Suicidality, suicide attempts

What is the Difference Between Depression and Anxiety?

Anxiety and depression have distinct psychological features. Their mental markers (symptoms or expressions of the condition) are different.

Despite some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression coalescing from time to time, anxiety and depression both and their own distinct psychological features and expressions. Often, people suffering from anxiety will:

  • Be anxious about their immediate future or the long-term
  • Have uncontrollable fear or racing thoughts that something will go wrong
  • Avoid situations they may find uncomfortable in order to prevent their painful thoughts or feelings
  • Preoccupy their thoughts with death: fearing death or fear they may come into harm’s way, whether it be physically or emotionally.

However, these common symptoms can vary depending on the nature of the disorder. Those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may be more concerned about their immediate future or situation. On the other hand, those with social anxiety disorder will fear social situations: whether it be embarrassment, fear or rejection, or have irrational fears about meeting new people and interacting with others. In other cases, obsessive behaviors or impulses – ones which exceed the norm – are key markers of those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

However, those suffering from depression may experience anxiety that comes from a different source. The symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of pessimism regarding their future: nothing good will happen to them, for other people, or for the world in general.
  • Believe that there is no use in changing the way they view the world because of an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
  • Feel that who they are or that their life is valueless or worthless
  • And think about death, but differently from those struggling with anxiety. Instead of a fear of death, depressive thoughts can convince someone that they are useless, valueless, or a burden to those around them and believe that death may free them or others of the burden. In cases of chronic depression, thoughts or suicide or suicide attempts can be present.

Major depression disorder (MDD), can present itself with all of the symptoms listed above. These feelings and thoughts may occupy days or weeks or even months without end. In situations where there are extreme behavioral or mood changes from impulsivity, happiness, or mania and then to depression, suicidality, or shame, the diagnosis is typically bipolar disorder. Depression and mood disorders are most commonly characterized by the symptoms above.

Is Anxiety Depression?

Anxiety and depression are different. However, they can often occur together. Treatment for the two are often similar and can help relieve the painful symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Treatment options for both most often include psychotherapy (individual counseling, group therapy), medications (antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or others), or some combination of the two. In many treatment programs, lifestyle changes may help reduce the painful effects of depression or anxiety. These changes may include:

  • Changing sleeping habits or patterns
  • Increasing social activities (group counseling is a great source of helpful social interaction)
  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms or behaviors
  • Regular exercise or physical activities
  • Reducing substance abuse: drinking, drugs, or smoking cessation

In many cases, these treatment options can help reduce the feelings of despair, fear, or worry, help people become a part of a supportive community, and increase helpful relationships and social skills. Your mental health is important. If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above, it is important that you seek out someone who can help you. Treatment options are numerous and effective for those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Can Mental Illness Cause Anxiety?

In most cases, yes. Anxiety is a mental illness and it affects millions of Americans every year. In other cases, those who have been diagnosed with one mental illness, often show signs of another mental disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Studies show that nearly 40 million American adults (over 19% of the US population) have an anxiety disorder or struggle with severe anxiety. Approximately 7% of children in the United States experience symptoms of severe anxiety.

List of Anxiety Disorders – Mental Illnesses

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Agoraphobia
  • Separation anxiety
  • Selective mutism
  • Medication-induced anxiety disorder
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