Difference between Anxiety and Depression
Most people feel anxious or depressed at times. Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, scared, nervous, or anxious. These feelings are normal reactions to life's stressors. But some people experience these feelings daily or nearly daily for no apparent reason, making it difficult to carry on with normal, everyday functioning. These people may have an anxiety disorder, depression, or both. People are often unclear about the differences between anxiety and depression, and confused as to which is their primary problem. Here's an explanation of the differences between anxiety and depression, and some comments on the recovery process:
Anxiety Disorders are characterized by a sense of doubt and vulnerability about future events. The attention of anxious people is focused on their future prospects, and the fear that those future prospects will be bad. Anxiety Disorders are characterized by a variety of symptoms involving anxious thoughts, unexplained physical sensations, and avoidant or self-protective behaviors.
- Unwanted thoughts
- Feeling of impending doom
- Excessive worry
A person, whose primary problem is depression, rather than anxiety, generally doesn't show the same fear and uncertainty that people do with anxiety disorders. Depressed people are not so preoccupied with worrying about what might happen to them in the future. They think they already know what will happen, and they believe it will be bad, the same bad stuff that's happening to them now. The key symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad, and/or hopeless
- Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be fun and interesting
- Physical aches and pains without physical cause; lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and/or making decisions
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Unwelcome changes in usual sleep pattern
- Thoughts of death and suicide
Depression may come on as a relatively sudden and severe problem, or it may consist of a longer term set of symptoms which are less severe.
Why people get confused?
People get confused about the distinction between anxiety and depression for several reasons. The first is that, if they are receiving medication for an anxiety disorder, they're probably getting an anti-depressant medication. A group of anti-depressant medications known as the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) have been demonstrated to be helpful with both anxiety and depression, and are now the preferred medication treatment for people who receive medication for anxiety disorders. Sometimes people with anxiety disorders receive these medications, find out they're taking an anti-depressant, and then wonder if that means they're depressed. It doesn't, not by itself.
It's often difficult to come to grips with the confusion and uncertainty that characterize the problems of anxiety and depression when you keep them to yourself and try to figure it out on your own. A consultation with a professional therapist can often help you through that doubt and uncertainty. If you are in need of a therapist, there are several good national organizations which can help you find a professional in your area.