Scientists believe that low serotonin levels have a role to play in both neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine. Even though the medical underpinnings of these disorders are quite similar, anxiety and depression are different from one another.

What does depression feel like?

People suffering from depression may experience some of the following:

  • Despair or pessimism
  • Sadness, tearfulness
  • Emptiness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or pleasurable activities
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Poor concentration and memory issues
  • Physical pain and other health problems
  • Significant changes in appetite and sleeping patterns

Depression also manifests physically with aches and pains, digestive issues, appetite and weight changes, lack of focus, poor retention, and a general lethargic body language. Doctors typically diagnose a person with depression when they have been exhibiting these symptoms consistently for at least two weeks.

How is anxiety different?

Those suffering from anxiety are usually very preoccupied and anxious about potential risks and things going wrong. They may show some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Obsessive and excessive worrying about things going wrong
  • Fear of losing control
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor concentration
  • Fear of injury, illness, and death
  • Feelings of unreality or detachment
  • Situation avoidance
  • Hypervigilance toward potential threats

The physical symptoms of anxiety include palpitations, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, chest pain, choking sensation, dizziness, lightheadedness, digestive problems, hot flashes, chills, shaking, numbness in limbs, dry mouth etc.  It is easy to see that there are a few similarities in the signs and symptoms of both anxiety and depression. However, a licensed mental health professional can easily diagnose the problem.

Similarities between anxiety and depression

Often people experience anxiety and depression together. The relationship between the two disorders is however complicated. One may occur because of the other. For instance, people with anxiety may potentially avoid situations and triggers, ending up isolated which leads to depression. Similarly, low mood and lack of energy in individuals with depression can cause them to withdraw and stop doing what they love to do. As a result, when they attempt to return to a full daily life, they may feel at odds with the world leading to nervousness and anxiety. Doctors categorize depression as a sense of persistent and deep sadness and hopelessness whereas anxiety is excessive worry and fear.

Differences between depression and anxiety

For many individuals, there is a bit of an overlap between depression and anxiety. However, these are two different diagnoses. Anxiety is an umbrella term that covers a large number of specific conditions, the most common being generalized anxiety disorder but also extends to phobias, adjustment disorders, panic disorders, and such. In contrast, depression is an overarching feeling of sadness or despair with lots of varying symptoms and may be experienced differently by different people. While both disorders can leave the patient feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and helpless, a psychologist or psychiatrist will use appropriate diagnostic tools and tests to identify whether an individual has depression, anxiety, or both.

Treatment options

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may need help from a psychologist, a psychiatrist or both. Generally, a combination of therapy and medication is considered highly effective in helping patients cope with the symptoms and achieving sustainable results. Cognitive behavioural therapy is considered to be one of the most effective approaches for anxiety and depression disorders. CBT helps people identify and change the thoughts and behaviours that are contributing to their symptoms. Additionally, psychodynamic talk therapy is often used to treat anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists may prescribe anti-depressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines for anxiety and depression.

Asking for help

Individuals and their loved ones who notice a visible shift in mood that lasts for a couple of weeks should seek medical help. Doctors perform the necessary evaluation and suggest a range of counselling and therapy options along with medication if need be to treat the symptoms.  That said, it is important to recognize the symptoms and ask for help without hesitation to limit the impact of these disorders on physical, social, professional, and emotional well-being. Finding support is key to the path to recovery. There are many resources available online and on our website to help you get started and locate a clinician or licensed therapist near you.