What do I have Anxiety or Depression & How to Tell the Difference?

Depression and Anxiety are two different medical conditions, yet their symptoms, causes, and treatments can often overlap. People struggle sometimes to determine the difference between these two conditions. This is because many people with anxiety also develop depression and vice versa. Approximately 50% of people diagnosed with depression with also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to treat the correct conditions.

Many people with depression may experience what is known as “anxious distress” in addition to their low mood causing them to feel tense, restless, and have trouble concentrating because they worry so much. They are afraid that something bad is going to happen or that they might lose control of themselves. Below is a list of symptoms of depression:

 

Symptoms of Major Depression

·         depressed mood

·         lack of interest in enjoyable activities

·         increase or decrease in appetite

·         insomnia or hypersomnia

·         slowing of movement

·         lack of energy

·         feelings of guilt or worthlessness

·         trouble concentrating

·         suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, a person needs to have experienced five or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks. People experiencing some of these symptoms might also be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or a depressive disorder due to another condition. They may also meet the criteria for bipolar disorder if they also experience symptoms of mania.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

·         excessive worry

·         restlessness

·         being easily fatigued

·         trouble concentrating

·         irritability

·         sleep disturbance

·         muscle tension.

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If you’ve experienced these symptoms most days for more than six months, and they cause distress in your daily life, then you may receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. Other types of anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, panic disorder, or phobias, among others.

If you compare the two lists of symptoms, you can see that there is some overlap. Sleep problems, trouble concentrating, and fatigue are all symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Irritability may also manifest in forms of anxiety or depression (in place of low mood).

There are however, some distinguishing features. People with depression move slowly, and their reactions can seem flattened or dulled. People with anxiety tend to be more keyed up, as they struggle to manage their racing thoughts. Another distinguishing feature is the presence of fear about the future in people with anxiety. Depressed people who do not have anxiety are less likely to be fraught with worry about future events, as they are often resigned to believing that things will continue to be bad. In other words, they may predict the future based on how they feel in the moment.

It is important to remember to let a doctor or mental health professional evaluate you to see if your symptoms meet the criteria for a depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder.