What Is The Difference Between Anxiety And Depression?

Depression and anxiety are common mental health conditions experienced by individuals of all ages. Depression affects more than 8% of US adults yearly, and an estimated 31% of US adults will experience any anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.¹ ²

Depression is a mood disorder that can be classified into other depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and persistent depressive disorder. 

While each type will differ in signs and symptoms, common features of all depressive disorders include loss of interest in things you usually enjoy and low mood.

Anxiety is your body’s response to a perceived threat or high-stress levels. Anyone can experience anxiety from time to time; however, it becomes a problem when it does not go away. 

If you have an anxiety disorder, your anxiety will be persistent and can start to impact your daily life, including your sleep and concentration. Anxiety and depression can appear together. This is because they are common comorbidities; it means they’re often present in one patient. Several of their symptoms also overlap, including:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Psychomotor agitation (such as pacing and fidgeting)

Have you considered clinical trials for Depression?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Depression, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How do you know if you have anxiety or depression? 

It’s important to note that correctly diagnosing anxiety or depression can only be done by a health professional. In most cases, your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist or psychologist. 

Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide, and with this comes high volumes of information on the internet. Anxiety and depression can also be symptoms of other mental or physical illnesses, highlighting the importance of a proper diagnosis. 

Because there are so many different subtypes of anxiety and depression, you must see a doctor to confirm your diagnosis. Having an accurate diagnosis will allow you to seek the most appropriate treatment. 

Clinical tools are often used to screen for depression, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 and the Beck Depression Inventory. Your doctor may also investigate risk factors that predispose you to depression, including: 

  • History of anxiety or depression

  • A first-degree relative with a history of depression

  • Substance misuse

  • Increased psychosocial stress 

Similar tools can also be used to diagnose anxiety. 

What is the difference between anxiety and depression? 

Markers of anxiety

As previously mentioned, there are several anxiety disorders, and these all have different symptoms. 

Some common symptoms can include the following: 

  • Feeling tense or nervous

  • Restlessness

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Being easily fatigued

  • Irritability

  • Mind going blank

  • An overwhelming sense of fear or apprehension 

Markers of depression 

Like anxiety, the symptoms of depression vary depending on the type of depression present. Some common symptoms of a major depressive episode, as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in things that used to interest you

  • A depressed mood most of the day, every day

  • A decrease or increase in appetite

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

  • Recurrent thoughts about death or dying 

Physical differences between anxiety and depression

Physical signs commonly associated with anxiety include: 

  • Restlessness 

  • Feeling on edge 

  • Being easily fatigues 

  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disturbance 

  • Difficulty concentrating 

If you experience a panic disorder, you may also experience palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. 

Physical signs commonly associated with depression include: 

  • Fatigue and extreme tiredness

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain

  • Poor sleep 

Treatment options for anxiety and depression

Both anxiety and depression share similar treatment options: medications, therapy, or a combination. 


Depending on the severity of your symptoms, a health professional may prescribe various medications to treat anxiety and depression. These medications are highly individualized as they depend on your physical and physiological symptoms and how long you will take them. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety due to their high efficacy and safety. They work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, which increases serotonin activity. Common SSRIs include sertraline and fluoxetine.³

Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are a family of antidepressants that can inhibit the reuptake of noradrenaline and serotonin. Common SNRIs include duloxetine, venlafaxine, and desvenlafaxine.⁴


After you have received a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, your doctor will speak to you about treatment. Both of these conditions respond exceptionally well to therapy. 

A range of psychological therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, have proven benefits for treating both anxiety and depression. 

The different types of therapy for anxiety and depression include: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Interpersonal therapy

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

  • Exposure therapy

  • Supportive psychotherapy 

Many other forms of therapy are available, and your doctor can help guide the best treatment for you. 

More than one type of therapy may be introduced into a treatment plan. The time it takes to respond to treatment ranges from a few weeks to a few months. 

The lowdown 

Anxiety and depression are different mental health conditions that can be further separated into various subtypes. While many of their symptoms overlap, several symptoms set them apart. Proper diagnosis of anxiety or depression should always be carried out by a health professional. They will then be able to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. 

People also ask: 

What is the main difference between anxiety and depression?

While anxiety and depression are closely linked, the main difference lies in the feelings they create. In anxiety, you’re likely to feel nervous, worried, or full of dread. In depression, you’re likely to feel hopeless, tired, and sad. 

Is anxiety considered a form of depression?

No, anxiety and depression are different mood disorders. However, they often occur together, which fuels this misconception. 

How do I know this is anxiety?

If you experience common anxiety symptoms and display physical signs, it’s worth checking in with a health professional. They will be able to properly diagnose you and give you options for treatment for managing your anxiety. 

Can you have both anxiety and depression at the same time?

Yes, in mental health, anxiety and depression are among the most common comorbidities (conditions occurring simultaneously).

Have you considered clinical trials for Depression?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Depression, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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