Healthy Living

What is the Difference Between Anxiety and Depression?

What is the Difference Between Anxiety and Depression?

All individuals, at some point or another in their life, undergo negative feelings like stress, sadness, anxiety, and depression. While these emotions are a normal part of everyone’s life, for certain people, they may turn into a serious medical condition that eventually impacts their quality of life. We often use the terms anxiety and depression very loosely to denote a low moment in our lives; however, these are far more deep and intense terms that are often used in a medical context.


Outside the medical world, a lot of people get confused between the terms anxiety and depression, as there is a very thin line of difference between the two. Both these disorders are connected to the mental health. However, both have a different set of diagnoses.

A lot of people assume both of these to be the different names for the same term, since treatment of anxiety disorders often includes prescribing certain antidepressant drugs, which are found to be helpful in treating both the conditions. Let us dwell further on this subject and understand the factors associated with both the disorders and what separates the two from each other.

Understanding Anxiety and Depression

A general feeling of fear, panic, or nervousness before taking up any task is known as anxiety. This emotion is, however, normal when it goes off before a particular situation or event, such as an examination or before a stage performance. However, for some people, anxiety is a part of everyday life. Normal anxiety settles down once the challenging situation is over, and you feel better and calmer to carry on with life as normally as before. However, for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, the feelings of fear and panic continue even after the situation is over. In fact, they can have anxiety in every activity they undertake, even the routine activities. This feeling can eventually get the better of them and impact their everyday activities to a large extent. Patients suffering from anxiety are overly alert by nature and treat every activity more seriously than actually required. They attach a negative happening with every activity and thereby try and exercise extra caution with everything.

Depression on other hand is a severe mood disorder that causes grave symptoms that can affect the way one feels, thinks, or handles everyday activities. While sadness or negative thinking is only a part of the medical condition, the disease goes beyond just the emotional aspect and has clinical manifestations, as well. Patients suffering from depressive disorders are more down with negativity about themselves. They are more into self-blame about everything negative happening around them. People suffering from depression have no interests or sense of enjoyment. Their negative emotions show in their physical health in the form of pains and changes in their body appearance, such as being underweight or overweight. People with depression are also known to suffer from suicidal thoughts.

The key difference in the nature of both the diseases is that while people with anxiety syndrome worry about what will be the outcome of a particular situation, people with depressive disorders assume that every situation around them will have a negative outcome.

What Triggers Anxiety or Depression?

Anxiety as a condition may be triggered by various factors that could be physical, mental, side effects of certain drugs, or a combination of any two or more of the factors. The first task at hand with a doctor is to understand if the anxiety disorder in individuals is linked to a medical condition or with a particular medication that the patient is taking. An anxiety disorder is more linked to years of experiencing certain behaviors or some form of negativity. An anxiety disorder has a lot to do with a person’s upbringing, environmental factors, and certain genetic factors. Let us further understand these triggers of an anxiety disorder.

  • Genetic composition: Genetic factors to a large extent contribute to anxiety disorders in an individual. Anxiety disorders may run in families. Although scientists are still unclear about the specific genes that may be involved in causing anxiety disorders in people, certain genes when coming in contact with specific environmental triggers are known to cause an anxiety disorder.
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain: According to research and studies conducted in the field of anxiety related disorders, people suffering from anxiety have certain issues with neurotransmitters, which are chemicals present in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for the transmission of messages between various cells in the brain. An imbalance in these neurotransmitters can cause an anxiety disorder in an individual.
  • Medical conditions: In certain cases, certain medical conditions are known to cause anxiety disorders. This is known to occur when certain diseases impact the functioning of the brain, causing certain imbalances in the brain. In such a case, it becomes more important to treat the underlying medical condition so as to prevent the condition from worsening.

Certain environmental factors are also known to cause anxiety disorders, including:

  • Stress: There are some environmental or external factors that cause anxiety, and stress is a primary cause. Stress can easily trigger anxiety in a lot of people. Long-term stress particularly could trigger an anxiety disorder in a lot of people. Every individual reacts to stress differently. When people are unable to cope with the stress levels for a long time, it could culminate into an anxiety disorder.
  • Upbringing: From our growing years, our life is like a book of experiences, and some of these experiences could cause one to develop an anxiety disorder. You can inherit an anxiety disorder from your parents through seeing their reactions to situations as you are growing. Children who are bullied in school or in a social circle can develop an anxiety toward school, teachers, and classmates.
  • Trauma: Specific traumas could also result in anxiety disorders in some people. Trauma in early life can manifest into an anxiety disorder later in life.
  • Abuse: Certain kinds of neglect or abuse in both childhood and later life can cause anxiety disorders in some people.

Depression on other hand has its own set of triggers, which could overlap with anxiety triggers or be completely different. Overlapping triggers could surface into different forms, anxiety and depression being the two different forms of them.

Some of the common causes of depression include:

  • Abuse: Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can result in depression. The abuse incident from the past can also result in depression much later in life.
  • Medicines: Specific kinds of medicines and drugs, like isotretinoin and other forms of antiviral drugs including corticosteroids, could result in depression.
  • Conflict or Fights: People with the biological disposition to depression can develop depression when countered with conflicts and differences with family members or friends.
  • Death: Grief and sadness are normal when you lose a loved one; however, some people are unable to deal with this loss, and this can result in depression for them.
  • Genetic Factors: The family history of depression often increases one’s chances of suffering from depression symptoms. Depression is not generally attributed to a single gene but normally a combination of a few genetic factors that come together and increase one’s chances of depression.
  • Certain Events: There are a number of big events that occur in one’s life which could result in depression. This could even include good event like a new job, getting married, and so on, which could result in depression. Of course, needless to say, unfortunate events like losing a job, getting divorced, or retiring are also contributing factors leading to depression.

Hence, although depression and anxiety may seem similar, both are two different medical illnesses wherein a person behaves and suffers differently. This difference becomes very critical to understand, particularly at the time of diagnosis and treatment of the medical condition.