Depression vs Anxiety Illustration

Depression vs. Anxiety: Which One Do I Have? Symptoms & Treatment

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Blog

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders, affecting millions of people all over the world. While the two conditions are very different, they can have similar symptoms, causes, and treatments. People with depression will often experience symptoms of anxiety, and vice versa. It’s also common for people to experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. 

Because they are so closely related, it can be tricky to tell whether you have depression, anxiety, or both. The good news is that both conditions are highly treatable and often the same treatments will work for both anxiety and depression. 

In this article, we examine depression and anxiety in detail, including their symptoms, similarities, and differences. We also discuss different treatment options for anxiety and depression, such as therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.  

What is depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common mental disorder that negatively affects how people feel, think, and act. It’s characterized by a low mood, persistent feelings of sadness, and loss of interest in most activities. Depression can cause various emotional and physical problems that interfere with people’s day-to-day lives, including their work and home life. 

It’s estimated that around one in fifteen adults, or 6.7% of the population, will experience depression each year. One in six people, around 16.6% of the population, is also estimated to experience depression at some point in their life. 

Symptoms of depression

Mental signs of depression include: 

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities, including hobbies, sex, or sports
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide 
  • Anger, irritability, or frustration, even over small things
  • Feelings of guilt or self-blame focused on past failures 
  • Low self-esteem or self-confidence.

Physical symptoms of depression include: 

  • Either increased or decreased appetite, leading to weight loss or weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, or remembering things
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Headaches, back pain, or aching muscles
  • Slowing of movements
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Tiredness, fatigue, or lack of energy.

To be diagnosed with major depression, a person needs to experience five or more of these depression symptoms for at least two weeks. The symptoms also shouldn’t be connected to a medical cause, such as thyroid issues.

Different types of depression

Depression can be characterized into different types, depending on the onset, duration, symptoms, and causes. These include: 

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): People with MDD will feel depressed for the majority of the day, most days of the week. 
  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): This is when a person has experienced depression for two years or longer.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): People with SAD will experience major depression during the winter months, due to shorter days and lack of sunlight. 
  • Psychotic depression: This involves symptoms of depression along with things like hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. 
  • Peripartum (postpartum) depression: This is depression that occurs in the weeks or months following childbirth, and can be experienced by both women and men.
  • Treatment-resistant depression: People who have tried several depression treatments without success often have treatment resistant depression.  

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common emotion characterized by worries or fears. When these feelings persist, are excessive, or seem illogical, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. 

People with anxiety disorders might experience ongoing fear, tension, and worry that stops them from doing things they want and should be doing. This can affect all areas of their life, including social situations, work, and school. 

Anxiety is the most common mood disorder in the United States. It’s estimated that around 19.1% of adults in the United States experienced anxiety in the past year and 31.1% will experience it at some point in their lives. 

Symptoms of anxiety

Mental symptoms of anxiety include: 

  • Excessive fears or worries without logical cause
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling in danger or like something bad will happen
  • Irritability
  • Repetitively thinking about a problem 
  • Wanting to escape a situation
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling on edge.


Physical signs of anxiety include: 


  • Being fidgety and unable to sit still
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue or easily tired
  • Trouble concentrating due to racing thoughts
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Bowel issues, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling clammy or sweaty
  • Shakiness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or chest pain.

To be diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, someone must have experienced the above anxiety symptoms on most days for more than six months, interfering with their daily life.   

Different types of anxiety

Anxiety is an umbrella term that refers to a range of more specific mental health disorders, each with their own symptoms. Different types of anxiety include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Excessive worry about everyday issues like health, work, or finances.
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia): Fear, worry, and anxiety when around others, causing people to avoid social situations for fear of rejection or embarrassment.
  • Panic disorder: Regular experiences of sudden, intense episodes of fear with symptoms like chest pain and racing heart. 
  • Phobias: Excessive fear of different things or situations, including being in confined spaces (claustrophobia), animals (zoophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or heights (acrophobia).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, fear, or anxiety after experiencing a difficult or traumatic event, usually when something triggers its memory. 

The difference between depression vs anxiety

The main difference between anxiety and depression are the symptoms people experience. While both mental health conditions affect a person’s mood, feelings, and physiology, they do so in different ways: 

  • Depression is usually characterized by a persistent feeling of deep sadness or despair 
  • Anxiety is related to excessive worry or fear. 

There are also many similarities in anxiety and depression symptoms. These include: 

  • Fatigue, low energy, or tiredness
  • Muscle tension 
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Digestive issues
  • Trouble sleeping.

Can you have depression and anxiety at the same time?

It’s common for people to experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. In fact, around 50% of people diagnosed with depression will also be diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder, and vice versa. 

There can be several reasons why someone might experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. Firstly, both disorders are related to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine. Secondly, anxiety and depression can both emerge as a result of stress or trauma early in life. 

It’s also possible for people to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression but not at the level that leads to diagnosis. For example, someone can be diagnosed with depression and experience mild symptoms of anxiety that aren’t severe enough to warrant a second diagnosis. 

How to treat depression and anxiety

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both, the good news is that both of these conditions are highly treatable. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ guideline that suits all patients and mental health treatment will depend on each individual’s specific symptoms. Usually, it’s a combination of therapy and medication. 

Below, we outline what each of these treatments involve. 

Talk therapy (counseling)

Also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy involves talking about your thoughts and feelings with a licensed mental health professional. They can then develop a customized treatment plan to treat your anxiety, depression, or both. 

Talk therapy can happen one-on-one or in a group setting. Different types of therapy include: 

  • Behavioral therapy: This type of treatment focuses on identifying unhealthy behaviors and reducing or eliminating them while reinforcing positive behaviors.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT focuses on helping a client change their thoughts and beliefs while also addressing past experiences that may have contributed to their anxiety and depression. 
  • Humanistic therapy: This focuses on a person’s self-discovery and self-growth and includes Gestalt therapy, client-centered therapy, and existential therapy. 
  • Integrative therapy: This type of therapy pulls from different styles rather than focusing on one approach to treating anxiety and depression.

Depression or anxiety medication

There are various medications available that can treat depression and anxiety disorders. These include: 

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, helping to treat depression and anxiety disorders. SSRIs include Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), and Sertraline (Zoloft).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Like SSRIs, SNRIs treat depression and anxiety by increasing serotonin in the brain. However they also increase norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter involved in the body’s stress response. SNRIs include Desvenlafaxine (Khedezla), Duloxetine (Cymbalta), and Venlafaxine (Effexor). 
  • Esketamine (SPRAVATO®): This is a nasal spray medication that provides fast, temporary relief from depression symptoms. It’s specifically formulated for people with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and works differently from traditional antidepressants. 

It’s important to work alongside a mental health provider when seeking medication for depression and anxiety. Not all prescribed medications are effective for every individual and it’s important to ensure the medication and dosage are working for you. 

You might have to try a few different types of medication before you find one that’s right for your symptoms, and it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for medication to work. 

TMS Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a type of non-invasive depression treatment for people who haven’t found relief from prescribed medications. It involves using MRI-strength magnetic pulses targeted towards specific regions of the brain known to be under-active in people with major-depressive disorder or treatment-resistant depression. 

These pulses can treat symptoms of depression by activating and increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. TMS therapy can be used on its own or in conjunction with depression medications. 

Tips to manage anxiety and depression

Alongside therapy and medication, there are other things you can do to reduce the effect of depression and anxiety on your life. Simple lifestyle shifts and habits can help manage your symptoms while improving your general well-being. These include:

  • Exercise: Exercise is a proven mood-booster that releases endorphins and does good for both your mind and body. It has numerous benefits, including boosting your confidence, providing a healthy coping mechanism, and getting your mind off worries and negative thoughts. 
  • Relaxation or stress-relief activities: Things like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even just a few minutes of meditation each day can reduce anxiety and make you feel better. Try simple activities like focusing on your breath, visualizing a peaceful image, or repeating positive mantras or affirmations in your mind.
  • Healthy diet: You are what you eat, and focusing on keeping a healthy diet can make your mind and body feel better when you have anxiety or depression. Try to combine lean proteins with healthy fats and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. It can also be helpful to reduce sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and junk foods – but don’t rob yourself of yummy treats entirely! Let them be an occasional indulgence and you might notice an improvement in your overall well-being.
  • Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms: It might feel good to numb yourself with things like excessive alcohol or drug use, however, in the long term these substances will alter your brain chemistry and worsen depression and anxiety. 
  • Find a support system: Being surrounded by people you love and feel safe around can go a long way to easing depression and anxiety – and on the other hand, isolating yourself can make you feel much worse. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family and express what you’re going through. You can also find support from a licensed therapist, counselor, or support group. 
  • Help others: Anxiety and depression can make you feel like you lack a purpose in your life. To alleviate this feeling and give yourself a confidence boost, consider spending some time helping others. Volunteering and giving back can restore your sense of purpose and relieve feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. 
  • Focus on the good: Sometimes, depression and anxiety can lead us to focus on all the bad things happening in our lives. Try to challenge your thinking by shifting your perspective to see the good things in each situation rather than the negatives.  

Help is ready when you need it

Whether you have anxiety, depression, or both, know that help is available when you need it. Both of these conditions are highly treatable and can be managed in various ways. At BestMind Behavioral Health, our providers offer medication and alternative therapies to treat anxiety and depression, including treatment-resistant depression (TRD). 

We offer both telehealth appointments and in-person consultations in Oregon and Colorado. If you’re ready to seek help for your anxiety or depression, we’ll be with you on every step of your journey. Contact us now to be connected with a provider who can start you off with a customized mental health treatment plan.