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How Do You Tell Anxiety From Depression


Almost everyone goes through some level of anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. Under the right circumstances, anxiety can be a helpful response that makes you more careful when you’re in a dangerous or stressful situation. In addition, it’s common for people to have traumatic life changes that leave them feeling alone, sad, and uninterested.

If these feelings stay and get in the way of your daily life, you may have a mental disorder. But how can you tell whether what you’re suffering from is anxiety or depression?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which condition is causing the symptoms. A lot of people think they deal with anxiety or depression. However, they can have both anxiety and depression at the same time. The confusion is due to the reason that both conditions can look like the other.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal response of your body to stress. It’s the worry or fear about what’s going to happen. Some people get nervous and worried when they have to do something new, like go to an interview or give a speech on the first day of school.

It’s normal to be anxious before big changes in your life, like moving into a new home or taking an important exam. Even though anxiety is uncomfortable, it could push you to work harder and perform better. Normal anxiety is a fleeting feeling that doesn’t interfere with your daily life.

However, you might have an anxiety disorder if your worries are severe and it lasts for more than six months. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may always feel afraid. It can be painful and sometimes even stop you from moving. Because the constant worry may lead you to stop doing the things you love.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Worry about the near or the long-term future 
  • Not being able to stop thinking about a problem over and over
  • Needing to escape a circumstance
  • Starting to think about dying because of how dangerous or bad things seem to be
  • Trouble focusing because of anxiety or the continuous ideas
  • Different thoughts make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Faster heartbeat, shaking, sweating, and tense muscles

No one knows the sure causes of anxiety. But it’s likely that more than one thing is to blame.

Some things that can cause anxiety are:

  • Stress
  • Other health problems like depression
  • Family members with generalized anxiety disorder
  • Being extremely shy as a kid
  • Major shock due to trauma
  • Certain phobias
  • Verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Drug use
  • Surgery

What Is Depression?

Depression is a type of disorder that affects how you feel. It can be thought of as extreme feelings of sadness, loss, or anger. People have different ways of being depressed. It could get in the way of your daily work, costing you time and making you less productive. It can also have an effect on relationships and impact ongoing health problems.

Even though depression and grief have some things in common, it differs in the way sadness is felt after a traumatic event. Depression is usually accompanied by self-hate or a loss of self-confidence, while grief doesn’t. Additionally, in depression, being sad is constant.

People with depression will have different symptoms. The severity, frequency, and length of time of symptoms can also vary. The signs of depression can be different for men, women, teens, and children.


If you have some of the following signs and symptoms of depression almost every day for at least two weeks, you may be depressed. Depression symptoms are:

  • Feeling down, worried, or “empty”
  • Feeling sad, worthless, and hopeless
  • Crying a lot 
  • Feeling upset, irritated, or angry
  • Losing interest in many things you used to enjoy
  • Low energy or tiredness
  • Having trouble focusing, remembering things, or making decisions
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Chronic pain (headaches, abdominal pains, digestive problems, and cramps)
  • Thoughts of dying, killing oneself or hurting oneself
  • Suicide attempts

Many things could lead to depression. Common causes include:

  • Imbalance of chemicals in parts of the brain that control thoughts, mood, sleep, behavior, and appetite
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Family history
  • Brain structure
  • Troubles or trauma during early childhood
  • Substance abuse
  • Medical conditions like chronic illness, insomnia, stroke, or cancer
  • Chronic physical or emotional pain

What Are The Similar Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression?

Depression and anxiety are both very common, and they often occur at the same time. More than half of the people with anxiety also have signs of depression, and the same goes for depression. Each illness can make the other’s symptoms worse or last longer.

The same genes and brain structure can also be the root of anxiety and depression. Other triggers can be stress and trauma experienced in early life.

If you have either or both anxiety and depression, you might have the following symptoms:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in levels of energy
  • Sensitive mood and irritability
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Having trouble concentrating, focusing, and remembering
  • Having aches, pains, or stomach problems for no clear reason

What Are The Distinct Thought Patterns Of Anxiety And Depression?

Both conditions can cause people to worry. Rumination is a general term for repeatedly having sad, dark, or other negative thoughts. Even though you don’t want these thoughts, you can’t seem to stop having them.

If you have anxiety, you may be:

  • stuck in a loop where you keep thinking about all the ways something could go wrong
  • you can’t stop worrying about things, even though you know there’s nothing you can do about it

On the other hand, if you have depression, you may be:

  • feeling bad about not having enough energy to hang out with friends
  • stuck in a cycle of going over things that happened in the past. And then blaming yourself for things you can’t change, like depression itself

Moreover, if you have any signs of anxiety or depression, you should get help from a medical practitioner immediately. It’s time to seek professional help when:

  • You have a hard time going about your daily life
  • You no longer engage in events and activities you once enjoyed
  • You have no energy so it’s hard for you to get out of bed

It’s important to get help for mental illnesses. It usually doesn’t go away on its own. If you don’t get help, it may worsen, cause other health issues, or even last for a long time.

How To Deal With Anxiety And Depression?

Get counseling

A trained therapist can develop a plan to help you with your anxiety and depression. Personal counseling teaches better ways to show and control feelings, including anger. It also enables you to alter self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.


Counseling gives people the chance to look at the way they feel, their beliefs, and their actions toward it. It also helps in dealing with difficult memories and figuring out what they would like to change in their lives. Thus, learning more about themselves to set personal goals and work on the changes they want.

Try different deep breathing works

Get comfortable and take a deep breath from your diaphragm. As you breathe in, your stomach should get bigger. Then try taking slow deep breaths.

You can also try square breathing:

  1. Take a deep breath for five counts.
  2. Hold it for five counts.
  3. Exhale for five counts.

After that, hold it for five counts before taking another deep breath. It will help if you spend the whole time focusing on your breath instead of the stressful event.

Studies have shown that breathing exercises and being mindful can improve your mental health. It makes you feel better and help you feel less stressed or depressed. You can also think more clearly and feel less anxious when you do breathing exercises.


Exercise can help people with both depression and anxiety feel better. One reason could be that exercise makes your brain produce chemicals that make you feel good and boost your mood. It’s also been shown to help with problems like low self-esteem and social isolation.

Additionally, it takes your mind off of your worries, fears, and other bad thoughts. Even walking for as little as 10 minutes may help.

Get social support

Having close friends makes you feel better. Reach out to family and friends and tell them what’s going on so they can give you support. Social support helps people deal with stressful physical and psychosocial events. It is also a factor in reducing emotional stress when you are faced with stressful events.

You can also join a support group and meet other people who are going through some things you are also experiencing.

Other steps you can do:

  • get organized
  • read a good book
  • make new goals
  • be creative
  • do something important and meaningful

Final Note

A reputable mental health professional should be consulted with any questions or concerns regarding depression and anxiety. With the help of a doctor, it will be easier to pinpoint the origin of the problem.

Talking about your symptoms in therapy can help you and your therapist recognize the problem. After you and your therapist have isolated the problem, you can work together to develop strategies to deal with it.

But, for some people, it can be difficult to talk about your mental illness. Mental health and mental illnesses are often looked down upon because of the stigma around them. Thus, it can make it hard for people to get the help and support they need.

However, mental illnesses are very common. About 1 in 5 people is going to have some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives. So don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need to.