Anxiety vs Depression: What’s the Difference?

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Anxiety vs Depression

Anxiety vs Depression: While clinical anxiety and depression are two separate conditions, they’re more closely related than you might realize. For instance, a depressed individual may frequently experience high-energy panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms. Consequently, it’s not surprising that their symptoms and treatments significantly overlap. Both conditions:

  • Manifest physically and mentally
  • Can impact everyday activities
  • Are very common
  • Have similar approaches to treatment
  • Respond well to therapy

Of course, even though the two conditions have similar approaches to treatment, it’s essential to diagnose them correctly.

Anxiety vs Depression

The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

Typically, you can count on your physician to conduct specific tests to make a medical diagnosis, but the process is more challenging for mental health issues.

Because no medical tests can determine mental health, professionals must diagnose patients in other ways, such as the DSM-5. This diagnostic manual lists criteria someone must experience before receiving specific diagnoses. This process takes a level of skill and practice that only licensed mental health professionals have. After all, symptoms can manifest under several conditions, and not all require the same strategy; for instance, anxiety and depression differences can be challenging to notice.

Once you receive an accurate diagnosis, you’ll know what to expect for treatment. That will also give you a clearer picture of the future regarding long-term mental health maintenance.


It’s normal to occasionally experience anxiety, such as when you’re taking a test, going to an interview, or dealing with a stressful deadline at work. Sometimes, it helps us focus our attention and become alert to dangerous situations. But a disorder occurs when you experience more than the usual nervousness. It can occur when:

    • It keeps you from functioning

    • You can’t control your reaction to stressful circumstances

    • You overreact when your emotions flare up

Anxious distress makes it challenging to make it through the day. Fortunately, there are ways to treat this condition and improve your quality of life.


Symptoms vary depending on the specific condition (i.e., generalized, phobia, panic disorder), but they typically include:

Physical symptoms:

    • Heart palpitations

    • Muscle tension

    • Cold or sweaty hands

    • Numbness or tingling in the extremities

    • Dry mouth

    • Shortness of breath

    • Nausea

Mental symptoms:

    • Obsessive thoughts

    • Flashbacks of traumatic experiences

    • Nightmares

    • Feeling fear or panic

Behavioral symptoms:

    • Difficulty sleeping

    • Inability to be calm or stay still

    • Ritualistic behaviors


More than just “the blues,” depression isn’t something you can just “snap out” of. It’s a condition that may require long-term treatment, but most people feel better with psychotherapy, medication, or both.


Although the condition may only occur once in some, many experience multiple episodes. During these episodes, depression symptoms tend to occur nearly every day and last most of the day. They may include:

    • Loss of interest in their usual hobbies

    • Angry outbursts and frustration, even over minor matters

    • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless

    • Anxiety, distress, agitation, or restlessness

    • Reduced appetite or increased cravings

    • Tiredness
      ; small tasks take great effort

    • Frequent or recurrent suicidal thoughts or attempts

    • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as headaches or back pain

Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause day-to-day problems with work, school, or social activities. Some may feel unhappy without understanding why.

Fundamental Anxiety and Depression Differences

Both conditions have not just overlap but distinct features, too.

Anxiety’s main psychological symptom is excessive worry. That might include worrying about getting hurt or what will happen in the future. They may also avoid situations that can trigger symptoms or cause them to stress about things that could happen. Depression manifests as hopelessness and physical struggles, such as with energy and appetite.

In both cases, symptoms can significantly impact your quality of life. Furthermore, one condition can result in the other; depressed people may experience anxious distress, while those who regularly have panic attacks may become depressed in the long term.

Mental illness is treatable, even if it can’t be cured. At Mind Body Optimization, we take a holistic approach to healing, considering the whole person while helping them find relief from their symptoms. We work with our clients to help them return to the life they miss. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.