Both Depression and anxiety have distinct features, but they also share some overlapping symptoms. Or, it is common for many people to have both conditions at the same time. Therefore, in this article, we will not only talk about each condition’s distinct characteristics but also how they are interconnected.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response where one feels worried, tension, dread, uneasiness, fear, or nervousness in response to the stress of perceived danger. However, experiences of extreme or persistent anxiety may indicate that someone has an anxiety disorder (especially if feelings of anxiety begin to disrupt one’s ordinary daily life).
Symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Overwhelming feelings of fear, worry, or dread
- Irritability, feelings of being on edge, physical restlessness
- Experiencing sweats or shakes
- Issues with sleep
- Feeling like you’re not in control of your life
- Physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, muscle tension, diarrhea, etc.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a medical condition that causes sadness, despair, loss of energy, or overwhelming feelings when trying to accomplish tasks within one’s ordinary daily life. While it is normal to feel sad throughout your life, symptoms of depression are more persistent and occur almost daily for at least two weeks (without a medical cause).
Symptoms of Depression may include:
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Anger, irritability, and restlessness
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Chronic fatigue or sleeping problems
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Loss of pleasure in doing activities you usually enjoy
- GI issues or unexplained aches or pains in the stomach
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What Causes Anxiety?
There are many reasons why someone may suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, feelings of anxiety originate from the brain when someone’s fight or flight response gets activated when there is a perceived threat/danger. Usually, people are constantly in high alert. While anxiety is a normal feeling that people feel whenever a conflict arises, it becomes an issue when that fear is continual and persistent. For people with anxiety disorders, feelings of anxiousness do not simply go away. They often get worse and start to impact a person’s daily life.
While there still needs to be more research on anxiety to fully understand its causes, life experiences (such as traumatic events) can trigger feelings of anxiety in people. Having a family history of anxiety disorders can also contribute to and increase one’s chances of developing an anxiety disorder in their life.
However, anxiety can also result from an underlying medical issue. In this case, signs and symptoms of anxiety can serve as an indicator of other medical illnesses. Some examples include:
- Heart disease
- Thyroid problems
- Respiratory disorders
- Drug/Alcohol misuse or withdrawal
- Chronic pain or IBS
- Rare tumors that trigger speck fight-or-flight hormones
It is always best to meet with your doctor to determine if the cause of your anxiety results from an underlying medical illness or is a result of an anxiety disorder. Receiving a correct diagnosis allows you and your doctor to work on the right treatment plan after finding the root cause.
What Causes Depression?
Depression results from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. However, its direct cause is unknown (and can vary from individual to individual) and can occur at any age. At a young age, depression may appear in the form of irritability. As a person reaches adulthood, depression often results in feelings of hopelessness, despair, and/or anger. Alongside feelings of exhaustion or low energy, people may start to feel overwhelmed with day-to-day life.
Other factors that can increase the chances of a person becoming depressed include:
- Having a family history of depression
- Experiencing traumatic events- such as physical/sexual abuse, death of a loved one, or finical problems
- Facing major life-changing moments
- Facing overwhelming or life-changing medical conditions/diagnoses- such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain/illness.
- Certain Medications
- Alcohol or drug use
Are Anxiety and Depression Linked?
While anxiety and depression are two separate conditions, you can experience them concurrently. A person with depression can feel anxious because depression can make life feel difficult and overwhelming. Meanwhile, someone with anxiety can have constant thoughts or worry, which can lead to them feeling inferior or like a failure. This cycle of worry and feeling inadequate can, in turn, lead to depression.
Studies have also shown that:
- If a person already has an anxiety disorder, the chances of someone experiencing depression are high.
- People who are depressed often feel anxious and worried. Meanwhile, feelings of anxiety can occur after being depress
- People with PTSD are more prone to developing depression.
- Biological predisposition can be a factor in the development of anxiety and depression in an individual.
What Symptoms Overlap in Depression and Anxiety?
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in energy levels
- Feelings of irritability
- Having trouble concentrating or focusing
- Having GI issues with no direct explanation
How Are Depression and Anxiety Different?
While symptoms can overlap between anxiety and depression, other symptoms are clear indicators of one condition. Depression usually involves feelings of sadness, lack of energy, and loss of interest in the things one used to enjoy. They also feel hopeless, as if nothing positive can happen in their lives or the world. As a result, people may even think that it’s not worth it to even try in the first place. People with depression also tend to feel worthless. Or they think about death because they perceive that life is not worth living- or that they are only a burden to others. In severe cases, this can even lead to thoughts of suicide.
Meanwhile, anxiety involves feelings of fear and worry involving situations/objects that are immediate or in the long-term future. People with anxiety also have uncontrollable/racing thoughts or feelings that things will go wrong. Someone with anxiety can also think about death, but it’s more of a fear of death resulting from physical anxiety symptoms or anticipated dangerous outcomes. People with anxiety also tend to avoid situations that may trigger their anxiety.
What Are the Signs That One May Have Both Anxiety and Depression?
As discussed above, people can have both depression and anxiety at the same time. While symptoms vary from person to person, a combination of these traits may include:
- Irrational worries or fears that won’t go away
- Feelings of isolation or loneliness
- Change in eating habits
- Trouble remembering, concentrating, making decisions
- Persistent feelings of sadness or worthlessness
- Frequent crying
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Loss if interest or pleasure in activities or hobbies
- Constantly feeling tired and irritable
- Inability to relax or be present in the moment
- Sufferers from panic attacks, or feeling a loss of control
- Physical symbols such as headaches, rapid heartbeat, labored breathing, abdominal pain, etc.
What Helps Anxiety and Depression?
If you suspect that you are battling feelings of anxiety and depression, the good news is that you can treat both conditions at the same time. The effectiveness of specific treatment plans will vary from individual to individual. We recommend that you meet with your doctor to find what treatment plan will best suit you. However, some strategies that can treat these co-occurring conditions may include:
- Talk Therapy (Counseling): A professional therapist can help you form a plan that can help treat your anxiety and depression at the same time. You may want to pursue:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- CBT is often used to treat people with both disorders. The goal is to find the root cause of fears, anxieties, and tendencies that trigger depression and anxiety. Once these causes are uncovered, you and your therapist will work together to create a plan. The overall goal is for you to learn how to regain control over your emotions and life.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): With the help of a therapist, you can learn how to communicate better. The goal of IPT is to help improve the quality of someone’s interpersonal relationships and social functioning to help reduce their stress. A person will learn new positive coping skills, understand better the role of emotions, and develop an action plan meant to decrease psychological distress (and improve one’s quality of life).
- Problem-solving therapy: With this therapy, you can learn skills on how to manage your symptoms better.
- Antidepressant medications: These medications (combined with therapy) can help treat both disorders.
- Exercise: In general, studies show that exercise releases feel-good endorphins into the brain. These endorphins can help minimize feelings of anxiety and depression and improve your overall mood.
- Relaxation techniques: Learning breathing techniques or meditation can help individuals take control of their emotions and improve their outlook on life. Learning relaxation techniques can also help individuals ground themselves in the present- and clear their minds.
- Seeking Support: Besides seeking professional help, you can also seek support from friends and family. While they may not be able to make the situation go away, they can be there to help you in many other ways. You can even look into trying to find a larger support group within your community.
Overall, we understand that dealing with depression, anxiety, or both can be challenging and exhausting. Know that your feelings are valid and that you matter. We encourage everyone to speak with a healthcare professional if they suspect that they are experiencing symptoms of one or both conditions. If you would like, you may also want to use the Febo app to help track your symptoms so that you can share them with your doctor.
- Call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Use the Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
- National Suicide Prevention Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
- CDC coping with stress resources: https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/resources/coping-with-stress-resources.html