What are the Differences Between Anxiety and Depression?

By James Lowrance

Anxiety and depression have a lot of similarities and some are even of the opinion that these are the same type fear-emotions, that simply manifest differently in different people.

When you look at a list of symptoms for each, there are indeed a great deal of similarities. Both can manifest with feelings of hopelessness, agitation, feeling withdrawn, fatigue, lack of ambition, inability to enjoy things that used to bring pleasure, fear of the future, inability to cope with stressful situations, etc…

It is also true that anxiety and depression often co-exist, in fact persons with actual anxiety disorders almost always have a degree of depression, along with it and persons with clinical depression also commonly have co-existing anxiety.

So what would be considered some major distinguishing features of each? The fact is, many times they are not easily distinguishable, in fact many Doctors, such as MDs, that are not also psychiatrists or psychologists, many times find it difficult to distinguish them, so many times will diagnose a patient with common emotional manifestations, as described above, as a combination of both anxiety and depression.

One Anxiety Disorder that is more so a mix of both anxiety and depression, than the other Anxiety Disorders, is “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. With this type anxiety, patients commonly experience a mix of both anxiety and depression. They may at times have stronger manifestations of depression and at other times, stronger manifestations of anxiety, while at other times, they are both about even in manifestation.

So what would be a major distinguishing feature of each, that helps us to recognize the difference between the two? A major distinguishing feature of depression, that is often listed as one of it’s major symptoms, is “profound sadness”. Anxiety sufferers, sometimes have spells of emotion, that causes them to have crying spells etc.., but it is not the same profound sadness that is more chronically severe with depression. Anxiety sufferers on the other hand, have as a major feature of it, the “fear emotion”, which can be the bewildering type, such as severe anxiety attacks or panic attacks or can be the chronic lingering type, that manifests as severe worry and apprehension.

The chronic worry aspect of anxiety, is what is most often mistakenly referred to as depression, when it is actually a fear emotion; fear of the future, fear about health, finances etc…, and though it is not in the depression category, can result in depression, due to the prolonged periods of stress it causes.

To better illustrate this, let’s look at a couple of example scenarios. In the first one, we have a man, with a very important business meeting coming up. In this meeting, he will be required to convince the heads of his company, that his past accomplishments, merit him a promotion to a more important, advanced position with the firm. The meeting is two weeks away and yet the man has such hopes in doing well at the meeting, that he worries himself sick, during the entire two weeks leading up to the meeting. Family or friends observing his period of chronic worry, might make the remark; “He sure has been depressed these past two weeks.” The fact is, the man was experiencing a manifestation of anxiety, called chronic worry, being triggered by a fear of failure.

In a second example scenario, we have a woman who does lose a long held position she had with a prestigious firm. This causes her to sink into a deep feeling of profound loss, that she feels she cannot recoup from. She has continual feelings of sadness and has constant crying spells. An observer remarks; “She has just been a bundle of nerves since losing her job and she’s really going through an anxious time right now.” In reality, the woman’s experience is more so in the depression category because she is experiencing profound sadness over losing her long held position.

While we may be able to better place these examples of emotional scenarios into either the anxiety or depression categories, we also realize that both of these people very likely also experienced aspects of the other emotion as well. Again, this demonstrates how closely related these emotions are and how they often co-exist and can also fuel each other, causing worsening symptoms of each.

Thankfully, there are treatments, that help both emotional disorders simultaneously, such as SSRI Antidepressants, that are designed to help patients with both anxiety and depression, or either of them. There are also treatments, such as “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”, that offers coping and overcoming skills, for both anxiety and depression.

People experiencing these common emotional disorders and the family, friends and associates of these patients, should be aware of how commonly these disorders co-exist but should also learn about the major features, that help distinguish them.

Author’s Bio:

Age: 44
Diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, with co-ocurring anxiety symptoms,in 2003. I created the “JimLow’s Audios” website in early 2006, to help inform other patients about these and other disorders.


2 thoughts on “What are the Differences Between Anxiety and Depression?

  1. Paul Tenenbaum 9237 Garden Pointe, FL 33908 16 November 2012 / 5:56 am

    The examples shown are civilians.
    Did you conduct research on combat veteran. I have a great deal of anxiety, but do not feel depressed.
    May I have your reactions.

    • Karen 9 December 2012 / 8:07 am

      No, I didn’t do any research on returned veterans. I wouldn’t even suggest I know how you feel as we all deal with things like anxiety in different ways. I’m sure there is lots to be found on the Internet about it though.

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