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Is it Anxiety, Depression or Both?

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Mental health is complex, and although specific diagnoses exist for different types of disorders, the reality is many mental health disorders are interrelated and sometimes occur together -- especially when it comes to anxiety disorders and depression.

Is it anxiety, depression, or both?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older. An additional 16 million adults age 18 and older report having at least one major depressive episode in the last year. This represents about 7 percent of U.S. adults.

Anxiety and depression are different conditions, yet it’s common for them to occur together. In fact, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety, depression or both, knowing the facts about the disorder will play a very important role in your treatment, and thus, your ability to recover and regain control of your life.

How to Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

The best way to understand the difference between the two disorders is with the primary symptoms, beginning with the mental symptoms.

The Mental Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

The difference between the mental symptoms of anxiety and depression can be boiled down to how a person processes their thoughts and feelings. Someone living with anxiety will often find him or herself feeling like something bad might happen and worry about it, while someone living with depression might assume a bad future and can’t imagine a different scenario or can’t fathom a way to prevent it. Other mental symptoms of anxiety and depression include:

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness, especially apprehensiveness about what could happen in the future.

  • Worry that spirals into a belief that something will go wrong.

  • Avoidance of things that may cause further anxiety, such as social situations.

Mental Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

  • Belief that positive things will not occur.

  • Possible suicidal thoughts.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for 24-hour, toll-free, confidential help if you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide.

The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Though there are many similarities, the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression can be very different as well. Both can leave a person feeling exhausted and drained but, with anxiety, feelings of exhaustion occur after an episode of intense anxiety while, with depression, exhaustion occurs more consistently. Other physical symptoms include:

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Fight or flight response symptoms, such as cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, shaking, inability to be still and calm, often in social situations.

  • Overly energetic symptoms, like heart palpitations, bowel issues and hyperventilation.

  • Physical symptoms that resemble health disorders, especially accompanied with health worries.

Physical Symptoms of Depression

  • Loss of energy, especially the loss of interest in daily activities.

  • Either extreme in regards to diet or sleep - loss of appetite or excessive eating and loss of sleep or sleeping too much.

  • Higher consumption of alcohol than normal.

  • Other physical symptoms, like headache, back pain, aching muscles or slowed thinking and behaviors.

How to Tell if You Have Both Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression aren’t always isolated disorders. While there are people who suffer from either anxiety or depression, it’s common to experience symptoms of both. Both anxiety and depression can cause changes in neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine. Because the same neurotransmitters are involved in both anxiety and depression, the two disorders also share symptoms, and one can contribute to the development of the other. 

In most cases, anxiety precedes depression, typically by several years and as early as a person’s childhood and adolescent years. Poor coping combined with intense anxiety symptoms can commonly lead to a feeling of hopelessness and the co-occurrence of depressive symptoms. Regardless of the combination of symptoms a person may experience, when left untreated, it’s possible for symptoms of both disorders to become more severe. 

Treatment for Anxiety and Depression

The good news is whether you suffer from anxiety, depression or both, mental health disorders are incredibly treatable. Most cases of anxiety and depression can be treated successfully by appropriately trained health professionals, such as licensed psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors. No one plan works best for all patients, but typically a combination of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication can be highly effective in treating anxiety and depressive disorders. Regardless of the diagnosis, the key to recovery is to ask for help today.

For those suffering from a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, you are not alone. Regaining control of your thoughts and feelings, and therefore your quality of life, starts by contacting Mental Health Services at (515) 241-6212 or visiting us online for a confidential assessment today.