If someone is wondering whether they’re struggling with anxiety or depression, it may be because some symptoms can occur in both medical conditions. Similar treatments, such as prescription depression medicines, are used for both. There is often overlap, so maybe someone has both, which are known as co-occurring conditions.
Below, we discuss whether someone might have anxiety or depression based on their symptoms and how the two differ from one another.
Do I Have Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response we all sometimes have when stress occurs. You might feel anxious from time to time if you’re thinking about the first day at a new job or speaking in front of a crowd. Temporary anxiety isn’t the same as an anxiety disorder.
If you have an anxiety disorder, your feelings are extreme and long-lasting. If you’re asking yourself, “do I have anxiety,” one indicator is that your symptoms interfere with your functionality and quality of life.
The symptoms of anxiety disorders can be intense and debilitating. You likely feel anxious feelings are always with you, and it can cause you to stop doing things that you enjoy. Some people may not even be able to do seemingly normal daily activities, like leaving their homes.
When you don’t receive a diagnosis and treatment, anxiety gets worse.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are more likely to have an anxiety diagnosis than men.
Anxiety is a symptom of several particular mental disorders. Some of the types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Symptoms of GAD include excessive, persistent worry about a broad set of things. You could find that your worries and feelings of anxiety are seemingly all over the place. You could be worried about your loved ones and relationships, work, money, or health. You might realize you have a problem, but you can’t control your worry.
- Panic disorder: Recurrent panic attacks that are sudden and unexpected are characterized as panic disorder. When you have a panic disorder, you might also be afraid of the next attack you will have.
- Phobias: These excessive fears of a particular situation, activity, or object.
- Social anxiety disorder: An intense, extreme, and out-of-proportion fear of being judged or embarrassed by others characterizes this anxiety disorder. This disorder is also known as social phobia. Common symptoms include avoiding social interactions altogether or self-medicating with something like alcohol to feel more relaxed in social situations.
Symptoms of Anxiety
If you’re asking yourself, “do I have anxiety,” know that the symptoms of the mental illness can vary depending on who’s experiencing them. Some people feel physical symptoms in addition to psychological ones.
Your anxiety symptoms might include out-of-control thoughts, panic attacks, and nightmares. You could fear something very specific or have a general sense of worry or impending doom.
General anxiety symptoms are:
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Problems concentrating
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sleep problems
- Muscle tension
- Low energy level
Anxiety disorder severity varies. Some people can maintain functionality despite their anxiety symptoms’ severity, while others find that their symptoms are debilitating without treatment.
Am I Depressed?
Depression is also called a major depressive disorder, and it’s a serious yet somewhat common medical disorder affecting how you think, feel and act. Depressive disorder can also be called clinical depression or dysthymia, according to the American Psychiatric Association and the Mental Health Services Administration.
Depression among adults and young people is more prevalent than most people realize.
As is the case with anxiety, there are different forms of depression.
- Persistent depressive disorder is the one called dysthymia. Dysthymia includes a depressed mood for at least two years, although symptoms may be less severe sometimes.
- Postpartum depression is experienced after giving birth and includes symptoms like anxiety, exhaustion, and extreme sadness.
- Seasonal affective disorder is when someone experiences the onset of depression in the winter when they’re getting less natural sun.
- Bipolar disorder can also be included in the list of types of depression because symptoms include periods of very low moods and then periods of mania which is an extreme emotional high.
The wide range of symptoms of depression and signs of depression in daily life can include:
- An empty mood
- Persistent sadness or feelings of anxiousness
- Hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- A sense of helplessness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Feeling restless
- Problems concentrating on everyday activities
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Physical aches or pains
- Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
Symptoms can range from mild depression to severe or treatment-resistant depression. Mental health outcomes depend largely on whether or not you get treatment. When you receive treatment, it can reduce the mental health impacts of depression and help you regain your quality of life, as is the case with other chronic conditions.
Anxiety or Depression?
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “do I have anxiety,” or “am I depressed,” you aren’t alone. These are somewhat common disorders, but it’s also normal to experience symptoms of both sometimes without having a diagnosable mental health condition.
One way to distinguish when thinking whether something is anxiety or depression is the most defining symptom of each.
When someone has anxiety, they always feel on edge. Someone with depression may primarily feel withdrawn or emotionally numb.
The two symptoms that tend to occur most often in both conditions are problems with concentration and irritability.
Can You Have Anxiety and Depression?
While anxiety and depression are different conditions, they often occur together.
Anxiety can be a symptom of major depression, or you could have depression that stems from an anxiety disorder. Many people receive a co-occurring diagnosis of anxiety and depression.
If you think you have anxiety or depressive symptoms, the best thing you can do is talk to a mental health professional or healthcare provider. They can sort out the symptoms independently and begin to identify how your symptoms might relate to one another.
Treating Anxiety and Depression
If you have both anxiety and depression, the treatment approaches are similar for each condition. There are very effective treatments for depression symptoms and mood disorders, so talk to your health care provider or a mental health provider about what could work best for you.
- Mental health therapy or counseling is one of the most important parts of a treatment plan for anxiety, feelings of depression, or both. When you work with a professional therapist, if you have a diagnosis of both anxiety and depression, they can treat both at the same time. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a good approach for both conditions. During CBT, you learn how to identify and change your thoughts and behaviors. Problem-solving therapy is another option that can help with both conditions, where you learn coping skills to manage symptoms. Certain conditions, like social phobias, might integrate exposure therapy into a treatment plan.
- Antidepressants are the most common type of medication prescribed for anxiety and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRs) are usually the first-line approach to treatment with medication for depressed patients and people with anxiety disorders. SSRIs that treat depression and anxiety include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.
- When you get help for a mental health disorder, your care team might also recommend that you make lifestyle changes. For example, exercise can help with symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Relaxation techniques and making sure you’re eating a healthy diet can also help, especially when used with other treatment approaches. Light therapy may help with certain types of depression, like seasonal affective disorder.
While you may be asking whether it’s symptoms of anxiety or depression you’re dealing with, for many people, it’s both. We encourage you to reach out if you feel like you need help, including mental health care and treatment for depression or a high level of anxiety.
Given your unique situation, we can explore your symptoms, how they relate to one another, and treatment plans that might work best for you. The treatment goals include reducing symptoms of intense anxiety or depression, improving mood symptoms, and increasing your daily functioning so you can thrive.