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The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

How do you tell the difference between just having a bad day and something worse? A rough week at work can drain you physically and emotionally, but the loss of sleep or appetite which lasts all day nearly every day could be symptoms of a severe problem. Fortunately, there’s help available.

Anxiety Definition

Sporadic anxiety is a normal part of living. You could feel nervous when confronted by a challenge at work, before meeting someone new, or before deciding to buy this house or that one. But anxiety disorders are more than short-term worry or fear. If you have an anxiety disorder, the anxiety doesn’t subside and can worsen over time. The warning signs can intrude with how you do at work, in school, and with relationships.

Anxiety Symptoms

If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, you’re probably intimately familiar with many of its most common symptoms, which may include:

  • You feel restless, nervous, or tense.
  • You’re on the lookout for what you believe is imminent danger, panic, or doom.
  • You notice that you have a fast heart rate, even when not exerting yourself.
  • You hyperventilate.
  • You feel tired or weak.
  • You sweat or tremble.
  • You have problems concentrating and only worry about present concerns.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood illness that leads to persistent sadness. Also referred to as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it can both harm your feelings, thoughts, and behavior and result in many emotional and physical issues. You could have difficulty with ordinary day-to-day activities and sometimes feel like life isn’t worth the effort. It’s more than just the average “blues” and isn’t a weakness you can just shake off.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of sadness, depressed moods
  • Lack of interest in something you enjoyed doing
  • Changes in hunger or weight not related to diet
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too often
  • Lack of energy, more fatigue
  • You engage in meaningless physical action (you can’t sit still, you pace, you write frequently) or talk or move slowly to the point these actions are observable by someone else
  • Feeling guilty or worthless 
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, decision making 
  • Preoccupied with death, suicide

The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression commonly occur together, but you can experience them separately as well. While anxiety and depression have their own symptoms and clinical features, some overlap. Feeling depressed can cause us to worry, and worrying can cause us to become depressed.

The most significant difference between diagnosing anxiety symptoms and depression symptoms – based on commonly agreed-upon criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association – is that someone experiencing depression normally defines their mood as feeling “down in the dumps,” sad, hopeless, or “meh,” while someone struggling with anxiety or a more serious anxiety disorder says they feel continually worried and have a rough time managing the worry. The physical symptoms linked to anxiety and depression can also help understand the differences between the two.

Other Differences?

Depressed people tend to move slowly, with flattened or dull reactions. If you have anxiety, you’re awash with pent-up emotions and may have trouble controlling fast-paced thoughts. Another differentiating feature is people with anxiety are fearful of the future. Someone who’s depressed but doesn’t have anxiety is less likely to be beset with concern about the future, as they often cling to the belief that things will only get worse. In other words, their future predictions are based on in-the-moment feelings.

Many anxiety and depression symptoms overlap, sometimes making diagnosis hard. But once a diagnosis has happened, either condition can be treated in a variety of ways.


Successfully diagnosing either anxiety or depression depends on two things:

  • A medical examination. A doctor will evaluate your overall health and look for signs of an unseen medical problem causing your symptoms, sometimes through blood tests and other diagnostic procedures.
  • A psychiatric assessment to understand your behavior, feelings, and thoughts. Your healthcare provider may also ask about personal and family history of mental illness.

Treatment usually depends on the outcome of either kind of exam. Possible treatment options include psychotherapy, self-help, ketamine, or other therapeutic options.

Final Thoughts

If you’re anxious or depressed, the key to managing symptoms of either is understanding the differences between the two. Whether researching them on your own or talking to a healthcare provider, information can inform the kind of treatment a doctor recommends. Ketamine or other therapy may help control the symptoms. Contact us today to learn more.

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