Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

One in four people in the world suffers from a mental disorder, the most frequent being depressive and anxiety disorders. Its prevalence is normal, due to the high emotional burden to which we submit daily, with work, personal and relational pressures.

However, for the person who suffers from an anxiety or mood disorder, on many occasions, it can be very difficult to detect the differences between the two, due to the similarities that can be found in their symptoms and their causes. For this reason, in this Psychologyorg article, we will justify that anxiety and depression are not the same through the 7 differences between anxiety and depression. We will also look at the symptoms of both disorders and the similarities between them.

Anxiety and Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder in which the person who suffers from it feels a permanent feeling of sadness, which makes them maintain a low mood and implies that they stop having desire and motivation for the activities that have always stimulated them. The low mood produces a deterioration in the personal life of the person, thereby affecting different areas of his life, such as work or relationships.

Within mood disorders, we can find different categories of depression, such as major depression or dysthymia. However, in this article we will talk about depression as a general concept, understanding that the vast majority of depressive disorders share many symptoms.

symptoms of depression

The symptoms of depression, as we have previously mentioned, are similar in the vast majority of depressive disorders, while in their diagnosis the temporality of their exposure must be taken into account to differentiate them. In general, the symptoms of depression are as follows:

1. Psychological symptoms of depression

  • Depressed mood most of the day.
  • The feeling of worthlessness and/or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  • Continuant thinking of death, with suicidal attempts, presence of recurring suicidal thoughts.

2. Physical symptoms of depression

  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Weight loss or gain.
  • Movements diminished, slow, and without energy.

3. Behavioral symptoms of depression

  • There is a significant decrease in interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyed.

4. Cognitive symptoms of depression

  • Decreased ability to think, concentrate and/or make decisions.

5. Social symptoms of depression

  • Faced with all this set of factors, isolation occurs in personal relationships and in the environments in which they used to hang out.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a response that our body activates when it perceives that we are facing danger, so it acts as a defense mechanism in certain situations. This set of circumstances that are perceived as a danger, activate emotional responses to it, which will be different depending on the situation that produces anxiety. Emotional responses arouse feelings of fear, restlessness, nervousness, avoidance behaviors in the face of the situation, and an increase in catastrophic thoughts or concerns related to it.

Anxiety is essential for survival, but when it is out of proportion to the real or non-existent danger it represents, it can lead to an anxiety disorder.

symptoms of anxiety

As in depression, within anxiety disorders, we can find different diagnostic categories, such as a simple phobia or social phobia, but in the same way, as in mood disorders, this group of disorders shares the presentation of many symptoms in common. In anxiety disorders, the symptomatological manifestations that occur in all disorders are physical, psychological, behavioral, intellectual or cognitive, and finally, social:

1. Psychological symptoms of anxiety

  • The person feels a high fear of the situation they are facing, which gives them a need to avoid it, which manifests itself as a desire to flee. He feels an irrational fear of loss of control, fear of dying, danger, uncertainty, and insecurity.

2. Physical symptoms of anxiety

In anxiety disorders, there is high physical symptomatology. Among the physical symptoms of anxiety, we find:

  • Abdominal pain
  • sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Need to go to the service
  • dizziness, headache
  • muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • increased heart rate
  • tremors
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

3. Behavioral symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety activates a constant state of hypervigilance or alertness and the desire to flee from feared situations. The state of alert causes behaviors to appear:

  • impulsive
  • restless
  • Motor hyperactivity or agitation
  • Rigidity
  • distinct body language
  • Changes in the tonality of the voice
  • imprecise movements.

4. Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

The anxious state in which the person produces:

  • Inattention
  • Lack of concentration
  • memory difficulties
  • Excessive, negative, and irrational worries

5. Social symptoms of anxiety

All the previously mentioned factors can cause a deterioration in social relationships, limiting the circumstances of the social context, due to the fear that anxiety may appear. For this reason, tendencies to isolation, difficulties to speak and express one’s opinion, and irritability tend to occur.

After seeing what depression and anxiety are, you may be wondering what is the difference between anxiety and depression. Next, we will see the differences.


Differences between anxiety and depression

What is the difference between depression and anxiety? We found 7 main differences between anxiety and depression:

1. The main emotion

  • In depression: the mood that appears in the person who suffers from a depressive disorder maintains a tone of sadness as the main emotion, and on a few occasions, this emotion appears in isolation but is maintained over time.
  • In anxiety: the emotion that characterizes anxiety is non-specific fear.

2. The cause or stimulus

Both the anxiety reaction and a depressive reaction are ways of reacting to certain internal and external stimuli.

  • In depression: the event is perceived as a failure or a loss. Here you can find tips for accepting a loss.
  • In anxiety: it appears before a circumstantial event that has been perceived as a threat.

3. The symptoms

  • In depression: the symptoms that have the greatest impact on the functionality of the person are cognitive, due to intense feelings of guilt, lack of self-esteem, changes in appetite, feelings of exhaustion that this mood gives off, and great difficulties in concentrating.
  • In anxiety: physical symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating, physical pain, agitation in breathing, etc. prevail.

4. Orientation

  • In depression: the person focuses on the past, on the past itself, where the person analyzes the actions of the past, leaving no room for the future.
  • In anxiety: fear is focused on the future, faced with the possible predictions that the person establishes about the near future, with the fear that those negative consequences that they perceive will take place will occur.

5. Variations throughout the day

  • In depression: a diurnal variation of mood occurs, where the person can suffer different variations of their mood during the day, in the same way as the different seasons of the year.
  • In anxiety: mood swings generally do not occur.

6. Loss of interest

  • In depression: one of the factors that most characterize depression is the loss of interest, of enjoyment, of those activities that you used to like.
  • In anxiety: this loss of interest is not appreciated.

7. Activation

  • In depression: there is a physical hypoactivation, where the person moves slowly, fatigued.
  • Anxiety: is characterized by hyperactivation, with rapid movements, in a very energetic way.

Similarities Between Depression and Anxiety

As we have seen, depression and anxiety are not the same, however, both psychological disorders have several points in common. The similarities between anxiety and depression are as follows:

1. Changes in sleep and appetite

In both classifications, the person may appear to be insomniac or hypersomniac, often with difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep. Appetite, although it generally tends to decrease anxiety and increase depression, is altered.

2. Social isolation

The two disorders have repercussions in the social sphere, producing isolation, and although anxiety is produced by fear of the appearance of physical symptoms and depression due to lack of interest, energy, or motivation, both promote the person to isolate themselves.

3. Neurotransmitters

Biologically, the alterations that occur in our central nervous system are the same in the two processes, a decrease in serotonin and norepinephrine. Therefore, pharmacologically they tend to be treated with the same drugs.

4. Treatment

As we have previously indicated, the two share the psychopharmacological treatment, and, in addition, the psychotherapy procedures are very similar between the two.

Comorbidity between anxiety and depression

The great difficulty in differentiating both diagnostic categories may be caused by the great comorbidity between the two disorders. It is very common for a person suffering from depression to experience many feelings and symptoms of anxiety and vice versa, without knowing exactly which one precedes the other. In addition to this, many symptoms are shared in both disorders, being able to manifest in any of them. The most widely shared explanation for the overlapping of symptoms between the two manifestations tends to be attributed to comorbidity, that is, the course of the two clinical pictures at the same time since neither exempts the other.

This article is information, at Psychologyorg we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or advise treatment. We recommend you go to a psychologist to treat your specific case.

If you want to read more articles similar to The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression, we recommend that you enter our Mental-disorders category.

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