How is Depression Different from Anxiety

How is Depression Different from Anxiety

September 23, 2021

How is Depression Different from Anxiety

Anxiety Depression Mental Health

Depression and anxiety are two common mental health disorders that are often associated with each other with a high degree of confusion between them. In the United States, 16 million people are battling with major depressive episodes and nearly 40 million people are affected by anxiety disorder each year. While these two disorders frequently co-occur and are somewhat relevant, they are inherently different conditions.

Determining if someone is suffering with depression or anxiety can be quite obscure because both the disorders share common symptoms. However, there is a thin line of distinguishing the characteristics of these two disorders. Understanding the difference is crucial to address them accordingly and appropriately.

What are the differences between anxiety and depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), 5th edition, depression and anxiety are classified under different mental disorders.

Depression is classified as a mood disorder distinguished by the feeling of sadness and emptiness, while anxiety is characterized by feeling of worry, fear or anxiousness. However, both the disorders are caused by imbalance in the neurotransmitter such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Anxiety can co-exist as symptom of depression and nearly 50% of the individuals diagnosed with depression are also found to be dealing with anxiety.

There can be multiple factors causing anxiety and depression apart from neurotransmitters. For example, anxiety can be triggered by environmental factors, experiencing trauma or it can be an inherent risk factor. On the other hand, depression can be triggered by disturbed brain chemistry, genetics, traumatic event, prolonged illness and substance abuse.

The additional differences between the disorders include the symptoms and the medicines prescribed for the treatment.

Types of anxiety disorder consist of:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Separation anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social anxiety
  • Specific phobias
  • Selective mutism

Other mental health conditions that present similar symptoms with anxiety disorder include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Types of depression mentioned in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) include:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)

These disorders may have unique characteristics such as:

  • Peripartum onset
  • Psychotic features
  • Seasonal pattern


Anxiety and depression have their own behavioral and emotional symptoms that differentiate them from one another.

These symptoms can include:


  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble focusing
  • Sweaty palms
  • Restlessness
  • Overthinking or obsessing
  • Indecisiveness
  • Physical agitation


  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • Hopelessness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling empty or numb
  • Loss of interest in daily life
  • Lack of self-esteem

How depression and anxiety are interlinked? What are the similarities?

Depression and anxiety are not same yet they share similar traits and connection. People suffering from depression often develop anxiety as one of the symptoms. Co-occurrence is common because major depressive episodes can trigger anxiety and alternately frequent anxiety can cause a state of depression.

There are particular and unique symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. However, many symptoms are similar for both the disorders, including:

  • Isolation
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or other activities
  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Inability to concentrate

How medications for anxiety and depression are different?

The primary medications for depression and anxiety are known as reuptake inhibitors. There are different types of reuptake inhibitors, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Antidepressant medicine such as nortriptyline is used to treat depression, while anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines are primarily used for treating anxiety.

So, why is anxiety misdiagnosed as depression? Anxiety disorder can camouflage as depression, therefore misdiagnosis is quite common.

According to a study conducted in a primary care setting, misdiagnosis rates reached 65.9% for major depressive disorder, 71% for generalized anxiety disorder and 85.8% for panic disorder. It reached 92.7% for bipolar disorder and 97.8% for social anxiety disorder.

What are the treatments available for anxiety and depression?

Both anxiety and depression are treatable. Commonly, it is a combination of medication and psychotherapy (including talk therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy) that is effective in treating these disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on improving the self-awareness and negative thought pattern. It encourages coping skills of an individual. However, CBT treatment might differ slightly for treating depression and anxiety.

For instance, treating anxiety with CBT can help individuals to change the way they react to a situation or the thought process that causes anxiety. However for treatment of depression through CBT helps the individuals to get engaged in activities that they have given up due to depression, but still hold value to them.

Few self-care methods to cope with depression and anxiety

Self-care can be helpful if you are dealing with mild symptoms, but if you have symptoms that are severe and interfere in your daily life, then seeking professional help is the only way out.

Some self-care tips for people with depression and anxiety include:

  • Keeping a daily schedule
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Getting out of the house every day
  • Talking with family or friends about how you are feeling
  • Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Avoiding caffeine

How we can help

People grappling with anxiety and depression often face prejudice due to stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Studies say that stigma leads to delaying treatment. However, you or your loved ones are not alone enduring mental health conditions. So, there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

Invictus health group can help you with the best mental health treatment centers in California. These centers effectively treat comorbid conditions. We collaborate with top-notch inpatient mental health treatment centers, and help you to get outpatient care, detox treatment programs, substance abuse treatment programs, mental health treatment programs, dual diagnosis treatment programs and measurement-based care. To know more call us today at our 24/7 toll free number 866-548-0190.

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