Anxiety disorder and clinical depression are two of the more common mental health challenges that millions of people face globally. Obviously when trying to manage anxiety and depression we understand that they are different conditions, but they can often occur together. What to do if you have both anxiety and depression?

The good news is that both anxiety and depression can be treated and managed well with therapy and/or medication. However, before jumping to conclusions it is important to understand the symptoms of each condition and determine whether you have anxiety, depression or both.

Anxiety disorders

People suffering from anxiety disorders have a persistent feeling of worry, fear and tension about a situation or outcome. This can lead to significant challenges in multiple areas of life including school, work and social settings.

Some of the common markers of anxiety include:

  • Worrying about the near or long-term future
  • Obsessing about an issue over and over again
  • Wanting to avoid or escape a situation
  • Worrying about death due to an imagined risk of certain risks or outcomes

Unfortunately, anxiety often manifests in some physical symptoms including difficulty in concentrating, lack of sleep, gastrointestinal distress such as constipation or diarrhea and increased heart rate, palpitation, sweating and trembling.

Clinical depression

Clinical depression is more than just feeling blue or down. Individuals with depression don’t worry so much about the future but may have an overall sense of doom and gloom, While common, it is a serious medical illness that negatively impacts how one feels, and the way one thinks and interacts.

Some of the common signs of depression include:

  • Feelings of apathy, hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Suicidal thoughts owing to a strong belief that life is not worth living
  • Changes in appetite
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Increased fatigue and lack of energy
  • Difficulty thinking or focusing and inability to decide
  • Headaches, body pain or muscular pain

Do you have anxiety, depression or both?

As outlined in the symptoms above, there is some crossover between both the conditions. Studies show that 60% of those suffering from anxiety also have symptoms of depression and vice versa.

If you are not feeling like yourself, the first step is to reach out to a mental health clinic to diagnose your condition.

In mental health patients, one of the most common comorbidities is that of anxiety and depression. This is also because the same neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine are involved in both the conditions. The diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders or major depressive disorders demand that the symptoms should be continuous and debilitating.

A mental health professional will use a number of diagnostic tools including lab tests, questionnaires and talking with the patient to determine the underlying condition and symptoms.

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5),” states that the diagnosis needs to meet the following criteria:

Depression:  The patient experiences at least 5 of the 9 main symptoms of depression most days, for at least 2 weeks.

For anxiety: The patient experiences excessive, uncontrollable worry, along with three additional anxiety symptoms most days, for at least 6 months.

Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will derive a treatment plan that is a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and medication, depending on the symptoms. For depression and anxiety comorbidity, mental health specialists typically use a long-term, combined treatment approach. The right therapist will help the patient unravel the symptoms and develop the skills needed to manage and overcome anxiety and depression.

manage anxiety and depression

Managing anxiety and depression together

While the therapist will offer guidance on treatment options, you can also help yourself by developing a personal toolbox of coping strategies to use when feeling overwhelmed or depressed:
Here are some tips on how to manage the feelings of anxiety and depression

Acknowledge your feelings

Develop a sense of compassion for your feelings rather than shame or discomfort. These are medical conditions with an underlying root cause, not a personal failure or weakness.

Regain a sense of control

Trying to gain some control when faced with overwhelming thoughts and feelings, can help ease the symptoms. For instance, taking a small task such as making your bed, taking your shower, unloading the dishwasher etc.

Maintaining a routine

Creating a daily routine or schedule can help you structure your life and give you a sense of control which can ease feelings of depression or anxiety.

Work on your sleep

Not getting enough sleep can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety or depression. On the other hand, too much sleep can also impact your well-being. Make a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. Tune out of electronic devices an hour before bedtime. Create a bedtime ritual to help you relax and unwind.


Physical activity can boost your mood naturally by releasing happy hormones in your brain. It is however difficult to find motivation to exercise when you have depression or anxiety. You can start by taking up activities that are easier to pick up such as a short walk around the neighbourhood, a sport, gardening or cycling.


Managing co-occurring depression and anxiety can sometimes be more challenging than treating a single condition. Getting support for distress can go a long way to helping you overcome these conditions successfully. A therapist can offer guidance in identifying symptoms and possible triggers, and finding the best approaches to treatment.