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 Both can manifest with feelings of hopelessness, agitation, feeling withdrawn, fatigue, lack of ambition, inability to enjoy things that used to bring pleasure, fear of the future, inability to cope with stressful situations, etc…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.


Some Secrets Should NOT be Kept

The radio station I listen to has a thing called “Moral Dilemma”. Each morning they read out a listener’s problem and then briefly discuss it before taking calls from other listeners to hear other opinions.

This morning’s dilemma was written by a mother of an 18 year old boy who had broken up with his girlfriend three or four weeks ago. The young couple had been seeing each other for about a year and the families had gotten close. The girl had broken off the relationship, but the pair still hung out in the same social group and continued to be friends. The dilemma: The boy came home one night and told his mother that he had seen the girl take an ecstasy tablet. He was worried about her, but he didn’t want his mother to act on the information. She wasn’t sure what she should do, because she had been told something in confidence, but knew the girl’s parents should be told.

I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this situation.

Sometimes confidences have to be broken. If someone tells you they are thinking of killing themselves, you must tell someone. A life is in your hands and you cannot ignore that fact. If someone tells you they know someone who has started to take drugs, then you should tell someone. Maybe a life isn’t threatened in the same way as the first confidence, but in a way that life could well be permanently affected…for the worse and drugs do kill!

It’s not up to the mother in the dilemma mentioned above to make a choice; it’s up to the parents of the girl. They should be told so that they can do whatever they feel is right for their daughter. If the mother of the boy were to say nothing and something happened to the girl because of the drugs, then guilt would land squarely on her shoulders.

I realise that she doesn’t want to lose the trust of her son either. This is probably the biggest thing holding her back. She should sit down with him and explain her concerns. The son won’t like what she has to say, but if he really cares for the girl, he’ll see that his mother is right and they should tell the girl’s parents.

The reason I feel this way is because drugs change a person; it clouds their judgement and makes them think differently. Drugs can take a confident, healthy person and turn them into someone who is paranoid and unsure. Although I didn’t know what I was witnessing at the time, I saw the affects ecstasy had on my son. If someone had told me that Barry was taking the drug, I might have been more aware of the other trouble signs in his life. It might have made a difference.

Don’t play around with important issues. If you are told something in confidence and you are losing sleep over it at night, then deep down you know you have to do something and that usually means telling someone who can help. This is true in regards to suicide threats, drugs and abuse. Don’t keep it a secret. You might save a life…and I don’t necessarily mean from death either.

The Down Side of Ecstasy

I’ve noticed that many visitors to this site are looking for information on the drug ecstasy. Even though I’ve written a few short posts on the subject, I’ve decided to share more information.

The following are excerpts from a book called Ecstasy:Its History And Lor by Miriam Joseph.

The psychological make-up of each individual who takes ecstasy plays an important part in his or her response to the drug.

In other words, just because a friend took the drug and was fine, it doesn’t mean you’ll be fine too. I read about two girls in England who took a pill at the same time. It was the first time for both of them. One girl lived, the other (the birthday girl) ended up being rushed to hospital. She was in a coma and had severe cerebral swelling. Her parents were left with the decision of whether or not to turn off the life support machine. A few days later, the doctors told the parents the girl was brain dead and the machine was switched off.

I guarantee neither of the girls enjoyed the party, because one girl is dead and the other gave that girl the tablet and has to live with that fact for the rest of her life.

Ecstasy can also act as an appetite-suppressant, so long-term users run the risk of suffering a range of problems associated with malnutrition.

I can attest to this. Barry lost a lot of weight. He went from a healthy, athletic 18 year old to grey skinned, sunken eyed, skin and bone. I look at the photos taken in the months before he died and can plainly see the change in him. He looked sick.

Some long-term users have reported an increased susceptibility to colds, flu, sore throats, and the like…

Unnecessary drug use breaks down the immune system. Allowing this to happen to your body isn’t an ideal outcome and should be considered when you decide to take the drug. Some females have reported that their period cycle has been affected by taking the drug. Some have irregular periods as a result, whilst others stop having periods altogether. How can you be sure that this isn’t going to be permanent? How do you know for sure that you won’t become infertile?

Then there are the other medical conditions that people are making worse. Do you have heart trouble, blood pressure, glaucoma, epilepsy or mental health issues? Then you are taking even greater risks every time to take an ecstasy tablet. Research suggests ecstasy cause complications in people with these conditions. Is it really worth the risk?

Ecstasy causes a rise in body temperature. Ecstasy causes a significant rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Ecstasy may harm the liver, including reports of hepatitis (liver inflammation) and jaundice in users of the drug.

Fatal heatstroke can occur when a person takes the drug, drinks and dances in a crowded venue. People tend to drink a lot of fluid (water especially) but there have been recorded deaths resulting from excessive fluid intake too. The kidneys no longer function correctly, which stops the normal excretion of the fluid. This means the water is retained in the body, causing the brain to swell. The pressure on the brain shuts down other vital functions of the body causing dizziness, disorientation and sometimes coma.

Then there’s the risk of heart failure. Why would anyone take that risk? Are you sure you don’t have an undiagnosed heart condition? You don’t have to be old to have a problem. Often young people have something wrong too, but they just don’t know it.

There are some reports that connect brain haemorrhage to ecstasy too. Although there are still large gaps in the information known about this, it is thought that the brain cells are affected by the drug, especially in the brain called serotonin. It is believed this part of the brain is responsible for the regulation of sleep, appetite, your sexual functions and your mood.

The drug can cause hallucinations and flashbacks. Then there’s the anxiety attacks, confusion, insomnia, depression and phychosis. Generally, these affects will stop when you stop using the drug, but it has been reported that a person can suffer from these things for up to three months afterwards. It all depends on your body.

Is it really worth the risk?

The Swell of Waves

Most people have sat beside the ocean and watched the waves come and go. Sometimes they crash violently against the rocks, causing damage and destruction – and sometimes death. Yet at other times, they gently roll in and out without causing much disturbance.

Grief is like that. It comes and goes in waves. At first the crashing waves are frequent and long lasting. They pull angrily at the person as if it wants to dislodge them from their no longer stable surroundings and draw them into its depth, swallowing them whole. The person struggles against it with all their strength, but their will power has already been shattered, how much strength do they have left? How long can they hold on? Some can’t hold on and those people are swept away. They are lost to depression or, worst still, I know of some who followed their loved one into death.

For those who cling hold of anything in sight and refuse to let go, eventually the wave subside and a gentle washing of … calm … comes over them. It lasts for only a short time and the person is fully aware of that, but the small reprise gives them time to regenerate much needed energy. As time passes, the waves are less frequent and less violent…or maybe the person’s strength grows stronger.

Months pass and that feeling of calm become more normal in their life. They never return to the normal they had before their loss. How could they? Their child took his/her own life, which is something that will never leave them. But they manage to move on and start rebuilding a new life to accommodate their new (changed) self.

In the early months, everything sets the wave into motion – songs, a memory, something seen or heard, desperately wanting to touch or hold, non-acceptance that life goes on around you, people, stupid words, words that remind, smells, and the list goes on and on. Later, the field narrows and becomes more specific to the experiences of the person and that of the one they lost. Yet even then the wave isn’t as destructive as it once was, and sometimes the waves bring with it a flood of lost memories that helps the grieving person cope a little better.

Calm waters swirl around them for days and weeks, sometimes even months. There is no violent surge, and the person warily lets down their guard. However, it’s too soon and a violent wave sweeps in unexpectedly and washes away most of the resolve and understanding the person has managed to build up. It happens so suddenly, that the shock is overwhelming and the damage feels everlasting.

If you are reading this and you have been swallowed by one of these horrific waves, maybe you are waiting for me to tell you how to deal with it. I’m sorry. I don’t have the answers. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed myself and I don’t know why. I do know that my sleeping pattern has reverted back to only three or four hours of sleep a night and that isn’t helping me cope with life.

I’m struggling with “why” again. I’m angry because I won’t get to experience the rest of my life with Barry in it. I’m tired of holding everything together and pretending that I’m just fine. Life shouldn’t be this hard. Yet, as a family tree researcher, I have evidence that life is hard and always has been. I’m struggling to find something to hold on to. This wave isn’t as bad as some of the others. I survived them, so I know I’ll survive this one too.

It’s just a matter of time. I can do it. I know I can. I just need to hold on until this wave passes.

Finding the Joy

A few days ago I heard a woman say “find the joy in every moment”. She basically said that all people have their ups and downs, and bad things happen to all people – no matter where they are from, how wealthy they are, or what their beliefs are – but if we can find the joy in every moment, we can get through the bad times. The words are simple, but they spoke to me and affected me.

Since hearing that statement, I’ve noticed that Daniel is a pessimist. I guess I always knew this, but now it really stands out. I feel he deliberately looks for the negatives in everything he does, which in turn spoils the things he is doing – no matter what it is. He’ll go out expecting to have a boring time, so what does he have? A boring time! He’s not surprised, because he wasn’t looking for anything more. Even if the outing is better than expected, he’ll focus on the bad food, or the terrible traffic or something else that other people might disregard. He is throwing away his chance of having a wonderful time by doing this.

When I look around I see that Daniel is not alone in this outlook on life. I ask myself why he – and so many others – does this. And I ask why I have done it in the past. The answer is depression.

A depressed person feels their life is going nowhere and they can’t see that they, in fact, have control over how some things may affect them (unfortunately, this is not always the case as some depression is caused by things that we cannot change or control). For example, someone who is depressed because they feel rejected by others is affected by those other people because they allow themselves to be affected. If that person didn’t care what other people thought or about the rejection, they wouldn’t feel depressed. I know it’s easier said than done, but in some matters we do have control and we can (if we are strong enough) push the offending emotions away.

Instead of looking for the negatives, make it a conscious habit to look for the positives. Force yourself to do it on a daily basis. Ask yourself what was good about the day. Don’t think about the bad weather, the person who annoyed you, the crappy menu, the dirty toilets, etc only think about the good things. And on most days something good is there to be found.

If you do this long enough (and I believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit) then you will eventually see the good things without trying. It’s time to leave the bad behind and search for the good. It’s time to find the joy in every moment.

Is Serotonin to Blame?

I’m reading a book called Leaving Early: Youth Suicide by Bronwyn Donaghy and came across the following section, which I felt might be helpful to some people. The book was published in 1997, so further develops regarding the content may now be known. I haven’t done any extra research on this matter (at this stage).

Medical science has recently revealed that a catalyst which causes a depressed person to take their life may be a physical rather than a mental or emotional one. Autopsy studies have revealed that many people who have committed suicide have very low levels of serotonin in their brain.

New research suggests that low levels of this chemical may be the reason why some young people decide to die while others struggle on.

Dr Sheila Clark, a South Australian general practitioner and author of After Suicide: Help for the Bereaved who has been working in the area of support for those bereaved by suicide for the past ten years, explained that the brain is made of many nerve cells.

“Thought processes are created by micro-electrical impulses passing along a series of these nerve cells,” said Dr Clark. “Between each of these cells is a gap. When the impulse reaches the end of a nerve cell, this cell then sends out a little jet of serotonin to stimulate an impulse in the next cell, and so on.

“According to the autopsy studies, low serotonin levels have been found following suicide in people who suffered depression, schizophrenia and even after impulsive or apparently ‘spontaneous’ suicides.”

Researchers have also identified the fact that the centre of the brain where serotonin levels were registering as low is adjacent to that area of the brain which regulates inhibitive behaviour. This could mean that a person in despair is more likely to take that last fatal step if their brain’s ‘stop and think’ button is not getting the stimulation it needs to function correctly.

“With diabetes, the body does not produce adequate amounts of insulin so it can’t manipulate its sugar levels,” said Dr Clark. “In this case the brain does not produce adequate serotonin, so it has difficulty controlling thoughts. Because it is a physical condition over which nobody has any control, the knowledge that the person they have lost was suffering from low serotonin levels can be immeasurably helpful to bereaved families. It provides a no-fault, no stigma explanation for why the person took their own life.”

Medical science now needs to find out more about the control of serotonin and effective ways of raising its levels. One theory is that severe stress decreases serotonin. It is also possible that genetics might play a part in the fact that some people are more susceptible to low levels of serotonin than others.

Excerpt from Leaving Early: Youth Suicide
by Bronwyn Donaghy

Learn to Forgive

Holding grudges uses lots of emotional energy. And, when your emotional energy is tied up in a grudge, it holds you in the past. Grudges hold you hostage and it is not until you forgive that you feel restored.

Think of unforgiveness as something you do for yourself. Think of it as something that makes you stronger, not weaker.

If you’re holding grudges, do your best to let them go. Seek reconciliation if needed. If you find it hard to forgive then start with the small grudges and work your way up. The physical feeling of relief and it will be well worth it. Forgive today as it is time to move on.

Even though today may be far from perfect, it is the perfect place from which to move positively and powerfully ahead. Even though the timing is not completely ideal, this is indeed the ideal time to begin doing whatever you can to get wherever you desire to go.

The moment you begin to take positive, effective steps toward your goal, you are no longer behind. Because the direction in which you are headed is vastly more significant than where you happen to be.

This is the moment you can begin to live at a higher level of commitment to those things you truly value. You’ve learned from the past what has always held you back and what has always moved you forward, so go with those things you know will move you ahead.

There are challenges, to be sure, and not everything will go the way you planned. But that’s no reason to deny yourself the outstanding opportunity that stands right now in front of you.

You have the power, right this moment, to make this day one of those days that you’ll always look back upon with satisfaction and delight. The day will quickly pass by, regardless of what you do with it, and with a little extra effort you can indeed make it great.

~ written by Ralph Marston ~

Online Depression Booklet

A detailed booklet that describes symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping.

It is available in pdf format, there is a printer-friendly option or you can read it online.

It is simply called Depression and the sections include:

What is a Depressive Disorder?
Types of Depression
Symptoms of Depression and Mania
Causes of Depression
Diagnostic Evaluation and Treatment
How to Help Yourself If You Are Depressed
Where to Get Help
Further Information

The Bleakness of Depression

The bleakness of the landscape is unimaginable. It is as friendless and alien as a Dali painting. Ordinary concerns, such as work or friends, have no place here. Futility muffles thought; time elongates cruelly. Who is to blame for this situation? Those with depression think it must be them. Pointlessness and self-loathing govern them. So the natural final step is suicide. People with depression don’t kill themselves to frighten an errant boyfriend. They kill themselves because it is the obvious and right thing to do at that point. It is the only positive step they can think of.

~~written by Kay McKall, an Ipswich (UK) general practitioner
and consumer with depression, writing in the British Medical Journal (NAMI Advocate, winter 2002)

Untreated depression is the #1 cause of suicide.
Depression IS treatable.
Suicide IS preventable.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Most people know about seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired, but what about service dogs to help people with mental illnesses?

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) — a relatively new phenomenon — are dogs that are individually trained to work or perform tasks for individuals living with mental illnesses.

Although there is little research into the effectiveness of PSDs for people with mental illness, Aaron Katcher, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, has examined the interaction between animals and people. He has found “much evidence that social support is a critical variable in the recovery from many serious biological disorders including psychiatric illnesses.”

NAMI New York’s Phil Kirschner took his own doctor’s suggestion that a dog might help provide needed structure to his life and help him with his depression. He states, “I had never considered owning a dog before, and I admit to being somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of having to learn how to take care of a dog, train a dog, etc.”

Tasks PSDs can be trained to perform include:

  • Remind handler to take medication on time
  • Warm handler’s body during a panic attack
  • Interrupt repetitive behaviors
  • Attend to handler during emotional distress
  • Accompany handler outside of the home
  • Provide discernment against hallucination
  • Mitigate paranoia with reality testing

Kirschner says he has experienced issues related to life with a service dog that he had not anticipated, including access challenges. “Because mental illness is not usually a visible disability, many shopkeepers think I am trying to sneak my SDIT [Service Dog in Training] into their store.”

Kirschner says that the jury is still out as to whether or not his service dog and he are going to ultimately pass muster, but they are certainly giving it their best. His advice: “Do your homework.”

“Researching Psychiatric Service Dogs on the Internet and joining a Service Dog listserv are two things you can do that cost nothing. Try to talk to as many PSD owners as possible in order to evaluate whether this life choice is for you.”

To find out more about PSDs, visit The Psychiatric Service Dog Society web site. PSDS provides information for persons living with severe mental illness who wish to train a service dog to assist with the management of symptoms.

~~by Clara Hinton~~