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Understanding the difference between Anxiety and Depression


Understanding behavioral and emotional health can be confusing. Anxiety and depression are easily mixed up, so whether you are looking into information to take care of yourself or help out a friend, here are some facts about the differences between anxiety and depression to get you started.



The term anxiety is used broadly and applies to things such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, social anxiety disorders, and types of phobias, among others. Obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD are sometimes grouped into the anxiety disorders as well.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Constant worry and distress that interferes with everyday life
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks
  • Irrational fear of an object, place, or situation
  • Recurring nightmares or flashbacks
  • Other symptoms.

Some anxiety can be normal and is not harmful. Normal anxiety is usually caused by a stressor, like an exam, performance review, etc. If normal, everyday tasks like paying the bills or driving to work are causing large amounts of anxiety, talk to your doctor.



Depression, on the other hand, is a condition in which a person feels:

  • Discouraged
  • Hopeless
  • Unmotivated
  • Disinterested in life in general for more than two weeks.


Along with these symptoms, the feelings interfere with daily activities. About 3–5 percent of people will suffer from major depression at some point, and lifetime risk is about 17 percent.

It can be hard to distinguish depression from “the blues.” Everyone will experience the blues at some point. Grieving, sadness, or feeling lonely are all normal feelings. But when you feel like you can’t bounce back or shake those feelings; if your feelings of sadness linger, are excessive, or interfere with your work or sleep; or if you are fatigued and experiencing changes in weight along with these symptoms, you may be experiencing depression and should consult your doctor.


What to do if you are experiencing these symptoms: 

Mood disorders can be hard to diagnose, so when you are talking to your doctor, be honest and up front about what you’ve been feeling. For more information and other resources about these issues, talk to your doctor. You can also go to