The differences between anxiety and depression

Keeping your mental health in check is extremely important, but this isn't an easy task, particularly because it can be difficult to identify which mental health issues are affecting you in the first place. One of the main areas of confusion in mental health is with being able to distinguish the differences between anxiety and depression. For many people, feeling bad is just feeling bad. And this isn't helped by the fact that there is definitely some overlap between the two, and a person can have symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

Although it can be difficult to identify these differences, it can be really useful to dig a little deeper into your own mental health if you are feeling bad. By determining whether you engage with more anxious or depressive behaviours, it will give you the footing you need in order to be able to deal with those behaviours in appropriate and healthy ways.


When a person suffers from anxiety, they will often feel scared of and overwhelmed by everyday tasks. The physical symptoms of this can be a sped up heart rate, an inability to get to sleep at night, and a need to be constantly on the move or to fidget. Muscle tension, disassociation, and sweating are also symptoms of anxiety.


When people feel depressed, the feeling they experience is more of loss, hopelessness and despair than fear about the future. In some respects, depression can be viewed as a more dangerous mental condition because depressives veer towards suicidal thoughts more than people who suffer from anxiety. While anxious people will still strive to do their best, and possibly develop perfectionist tendencies in the face of a difficult time, a depressed person is more likely to lose all interest in the things they were once passionate about.

The connection between the two conditions

Although the symptoms of these two mental health conditions are different from each other, the biological cause of them appears to be the same. When serotonin transfer is abnormal, this can cause both anxiety and depression. And there are a number of things that can cause this imbalance of serotonin, including going through a stressful work situation, dealing with a physical illness, and substance abuse. It's also the case that feeling anxious can then lead on to depression, and depressed people might also develop anxious tendencies too.

Dealing with anxiety and depression

The reason why it's so useful to make the distinction between anxiety and depression is because different methods can be used to turn them around. If you can't quite get inside your head enough to know whether you are anxious or depressed, leaning on professional guidance in the form of counselling services or therapy is a great idea because your therapist will likely be able to recognise this. They can then also prescribe certain therapies to help with either anxiety or depression.

One of the most popular therapies for treating anxiety is exposure therapy. This is essentially the practice of exposing yourself to the situations that scare you in order to overcome your fear. Instead of diving in the deep end with your fears, a counsellor can provide the framework for you to successfully overcome fearful things and manage your anxiety a step at a time.

For people with mild to moderate depression, interpersonal therapy can be very successful. In this kind of therapy, the focus is placed on human relationships so that people can feel more connected to a world that depression has disconnected them from. The idea is not to uncover the origins of depression but to give the person communication tools to be able to get through this difficult time.