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According to the stats, one out of four people in the UK goes through mental health problems, and among these anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues. You might have come across with terms anxiety and depression frequently in your daily life and possibly used them alongside each other. But despite sharing similarities both anxiety and depression are completely different conditions. Do you understand anxiety and depression well? And, know the key differences and similarities both conditions share? If not, then don’t worry this article is meant to guide you in this respect. You’ll get to know the information you’ve been looking for on anxiety VS. depression.

Generally speaking, both anxiety and depression are general emotions. We routinely experience them. For example, you become anxious in response to a high-stake or potentially dangerous situation and you feel depressed after disappointing or upsetting circumstances. Whereas, both can turn into disorders (i.e anxiety disorders and mood disorders) when high in intensity and frequent in occurrence. When anxiety and mood problems reach a threshold for clinical diagnosis they are marked as mental illnesses because they affect the well-being and daily life of an individual.

How Does Depression Affect the Brain?

Clinical depression and anxiety have several underlying causes/etiological factors. For example, they can have a biological base such as changes in neurotransmitter function like low serotonin levels, along with other brain chemicals like dopamine and epinephrine. Not only this, causes of clinical depression and anxiety can also be associated with traumas and other psychological vulnerabilities. 

If you ever experienced anxiety or depression, that is meant clinical anxiety or depression disorder you’ll know that they are very different. Yet they tend to go together and a lot of medications, especially certain types of antidepressants, can be used to treat both. Over time psychologists have realized that these two types of conditions are surprisingly similar. They feel very different at the moment, but they actually have a lot of symptoms in common and involve very similar thought patterns. The following points create some link between anxiety and depression;

  • Depression and anxiety aren’t specific disorders they are generic terms for types of disorders. The most common and most closely linked are major depressive disorder, or MDD, and Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. 
  • Lots of people have both anxiety and depression. About ⅔ of people with major depression also have some kind of anxiety disorder, and about ⅔ of people with GAD have depression.
  • Very often same medications are used to treat both anxiety and depression especially antidepressants. 
  • Symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, irritability, problems with concentration, and sleep disturbances can be seen in both conditions.
  •  Our body has “flight and fight” responses to any triggering or stressful situation. So, anxiety and depression are just different types of flight. Anxiety is characterized as a sense of helplessness, and depression as a sense of hopelessness.
  • There are a lot of hormones involved in these responses, and their effects interact in super complex ways. Both depression and anxiety are closely associated with an oversensitive stress response system. The main hormones involved aren’t always the same, but the changes can cause some of the same symptoms, So both conditions seem to be two sides of a similar reaction to stress
  • Many researchers identify the neurotransmitter serotonin as a major factor in both anxiety and depression. Researchers have even identified some more specific cellular receptors that seem to be involved in both. There’s also some evidence that the way the brain handles another neurotransmitter norepinephrine can be similar in both anxiety and depression.

Knowing about the similarities of both conditions may raise a question in your mind that are depression and anxiety the same? The answer is no. Despite sharing similar natures they are completely different entities. Both conditions have separate sub-types and distinct symptoms, except the few that overlap. Below is an overview of the differences between both conditions. 

Depression is a mood disorderAnxiety is its own class of conditions
Despair and sadness are prominent characteristics.
An overabundance of anxiety or stress is linked to the belief that a negative occurrence or outcome is inescapable.
People who are depressed move slowly and have flattened or muted reactions.People who suffer from anxiety are more agitated because they are unable to control their racing thoughts.
They could be able to foresee the future depending on how they are feeling right now.In persons with anxiety, there is a fear of the future.

Because signs of mental illness aren’t always obvious anxiety and depression have a tendency to dismiss. However, we need to know the symptoms of both conditions to detect the early sign and get help as soon as possible.

Signs of anxiety

  •  The excessive worry with regard to immediate or long-term future.
  • Have uncontrollable, racing thoughts about something going wrong.
  • Avoid situations that could cause anxiety so that feelings and thoughts don’t become overwhelming.
  • Physical symptoms like shortening of breath, sweating, and trembling.

Depending on the nature and types of the anxiety, these symptoms can differ. For example, someone with a generalized anxiety disorder may feel anxious about a variety of events, or activities. A person with social anxiety or social phobia disorder (SAD), is more apt to fear rejection by others and to be apprehensive about meeting new people or other socially challenging situations.

Summarizing this, people with anxiety are mentally preoccupied with worry that is disproportionate to actual risk or reality.

Signs of Depression

  • Hopelessness, a person assumes that nothing positive will happen in the future for themselves, for others, or for the world.
  • Develop a belief that it is not worth trying to think or feel differently.
  • Feel worthless, as if who they are or what they do is not valuable.

People with depression often think that life is not worth living or that they are a burden on others. Even suicidal thoughts can be present in cases of moderate to severe depression. 

 A psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose anxiety and depression. These professionals make diagnoses based on the criteria present in the mental illnesses book called “Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorder”. If you’ve experienced symptoms present in the criteria most days for more than six months, and they cause distress in your daily life, then you may receive a diagnosis of your condition(depression or anxiety).

Best Foods that Helps to Reduce Anxiety

Psychologists not only follow the diagnostic criteria they will also perform several assessments to measure the intensity of symptoms. The psychological assessments used for depression and anxiety are;

  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)
  • Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)
  • Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D)
  • Depression Anxiety Stress Scales – DASS-21 (LINK)
  • Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale – HARS (LINK)
  • Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale – OASIS (LINK)

Anxiety and depression are both debilitating conditions. If you or your loved one has early symptoms consult a mental health professional. Only mental health professionals can help you with these conditions. Also, with proper intervention and care, you overcome and defeat these conditions.



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