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Differences and Similarities Between Anxiety and Depression

Two commonly experienced disorders — anxiety and depression — are often thought to be the same, whereas in truth, they are distinct. However, in almost 60 per cent of people with anxiety, symptoms of depression occur together, so it is not hard to see why the confusion arises. To understand the two, we will look at their differences and similarities.

Differences between Anxiety and Depression

Depression is understood to be the persistence of a state of low mood over two weeks or more, accompanied by a lack of interest or enjoyment in activities a person previously liked. Other feelings associated with depression are guilt, helplessness, lack of self-worth and confidence, and thoughts about inflicting harm on or killing oneself. 

Anxiety is a body’s response to stress or fear. Some anxiety can be positive insofar as it warns of a personal threat. But when it takes the form of disorders, it then turns into persistent feelings of excessive worry or concern, and can lead to symptoms like restlessness, lack of concentration, bodily fatigue, panic attacks, overthinking, and irritability.

From this, it is clear that depression is a more severe disorder that can cause one to question one’s abilities and self-worth, and even lead to thoughts of suicide. It is also related to mood. Anxiety, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with uncontrollable feelings of worry that are hard to let go of. It could also manifest itself in uncommon and irrational fears of a highly specific nature. (Consider someone’s anxiety around public speaking that causes them to fear stumbling on words with particular sounds.) Moreover, anxiety is generally considered a high-energy state, while depression is a low-energy state.

There is also a difference in what causes anxiety and depression. Depression has been determined to result from factors related to genes, biology, environment, and psychology. Although not completely clear yet, anxiety results from the activation of the flight-or-fight response system to non-existent or presumed threats. This means that one is always on the run from a supposed predator.

Similarities between Anxiety and Depression

Since anxiety and depression are likely to co-exist, there can be symptoms common between them. In fact, an anxiety disorder heightens the tendency to face depression. Some common symptoms are the presence of unreasonable and persistent fears, heart palpitations, weariness, insomnia, changes in food intake, tiredness and irritability, recurring sadness or melancholy, and lack of relaxation or ease. 

Treatments for Anxiety and Depression

Antidepressant medication targets depression, while anti-anxiety medicines are used to treat anxiety. When both issues happen together, it is hard to diagnose, but it is still possible to treat those symptoms using cognitive behavioural therapy, which is a form of talk therapy that seeks to uncover the bases for depression and anxiety, and provide a game plan for managing one’s emotions and taking charge of their lives. Exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can also help a person recover from these disorders.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer

Spring 2024

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