Are Anxiety and Depression Related?

We’ve all had times in our life where we have felt anxious or depressed. These feelings are natural. However, some people don’t just experience these emotions after a loved one has died, or after failing a big test and are fearful of their grades lowering. For some people, these emotions are a constant in their life and stop them from performing some of the most basic functions, like getting out of bed for work.

Anxiety and depression can be considered related mental health issues. They both arise out of the same biological malfunction and share many of the same symptoms. Anxiety is a mental health disorder that can often lead to depression if left untreated. This form of relationship is often considered as comorbid.

To better understand how the two issues are related, it’s essential to understand what the mental afflictions are and what they result in.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety can best be described as being constantly worried, even when there isn’t anything to really worry about. This chronic worry is usually about the future, even though the concern might not be a real one.

As a person’s anxiety progresses, they go from worrying about something all the time to purposely avoiding situations where that worry might be encountered. In the most extreme cases of anxiety, the person might start experiencing panic attacks.

A panic attack is best described as someone suffering from an immense fear while also experiencing physical repercussions such as shortened breath. These physical anomalies are usually considered harmless and shouldn’t result in medical emergencies in most cases.

Understanding Depression

Depression is described as a lasting sadness or numbness that can’t be tied to a reason, such as a loved one’s passing or the loss of a job. For younger people, depression might be more likely expressed as irritability instead of sadness. The person’s motivation to do anything and their energy levels are usually much lower than usual.

This results in the person not wanting or not being able to perform routine tasks such as getting up in the morning or lightweight cleaning. The individual also usually starts losing interest in things or activities they previously enjoyed or felt happy to do, like exercise.

A person’s level of depression can range. Women are also more likely to suffer from depression than men. Research has shown that depression is caused by multiple factors, including biological as well as environmental.

Similarities Between Anxiety and Depression

Scientists believe anxiety and depression both occur in the same location in the brain when there’s a lack of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. This, then, manifests itself as either anxiety, depression, or both. Due to their location, it is possible to see depression and anxiety as two sides of the same coin, meaning they are basically like sister mental afflictions.

Anxiety and depression are two closely related mental illnesses. They share many of the same symptoms, ranging from fear to loss of feeling. Such diseases are known as comorbid, meaning that they are two separate illnesses experienced at the same time. The presence of these symptoms could be an indication you have anxiety and/or depression:

Irrational Worries or Fears That Won’t Go Away

This symptom is usually more often associated with anxiety than depression. However, worries for the future can cause you to start feeling hopeless about months or years ahead and where it might lead. This can easily be a sign of depression, and you should consider taking someone immediately to get help if they express this kind of symptom.

Physical Symptoms

Both anxiety and depression are often accompanied by many physical symptoms, indicating to your body that something is not right with the mind. Fatigue is often linked to depression because persistent sadness leads to eventually quitting past well-liked activities. Also, people that are always worrying tend to almost “fly about,” so they are more likely to feel tired.

Other physical conditions that can be associated with either anxiety or depression or both include labored breathing, headaches, abdominal pain, or a rapid heartbeat.

Trouble Sleeping

This applies to both trouble staying awake and problems going to sleep. When you are always worried about your future or the next step, you might find it hard to fall asleep as ideas appear in your head. For people with depression, they might feel they have no energy to get up and take care of any everyday needs.

As the inability to sleep becomes a larger and more significant problem, the affected person will suffer from fatigue without knowing exactly where it’s coming from. All the worrying from anxiety can also cause a person to suffer from tiredness.

Lifestyle Changes

Do you find yourself eating way more than you usually do? Are you struggling to eat as much as you had before? Both situations can be attributed to either anxiety or depression. As both illnesses progress, the affected person finds it harder and harder to perform everyday tasks, such as cooking for oneself. Also, if you get less sleep than is recommended, your body might try to overcompensate by encouraging you to eat more food.

Trouble Concentrating

If you’re constantly worrying about something, then you’ll have trouble remembering things that have recently happened around you. A lack of memory retention or memory loss are also severe side effects of taking drugs you do not know the impact of.

Constant Feeling of Worthlessness

This can be feelings of sadness or worthlessness. As previously mentioned, when anxiety and depression progress, the affected individual usually can’t perform many normal daily functions. As the person becomes less able to do things, their feelings of worthlessness could end up becoming larger.

Loss of Interests

The loss of interest towards things an individual used to be interested in can be because of either condition. A person suffering from depression would feel no need to participate for any kind of reason. A person suffering from anxiety, on the other hand, might not actually lose interest but stop participating in activities simply because they are afraid to join and have something happen to them.

Difficulty Relaxing

People suffering from depression are unable to relax and live in the moment. The same is true for people suffering from anxiety. People with anxiety are too busy thinking about what could happen in the future to relax while people suffering from depression are too tired to do anything due to their sadness.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks occur in the later stages of anxiety, but they can also be associated with depression. As one’s inability to do anything by themselves increases, the likelihood of panic attacks increases. Panic attacks usually aren’t physically harmful after the patient has calmed down.

Differences Between Anxiety and Depression

Because so many of the symptoms for anxiety are like symptoms for depression, many people think you can develop anxiety issues along with depression. While this is true, it is often more common that an individual has anxiety first, and then their anxiety develops into depression. Here are a few things that make the two disorders distinct from one another:


The timing associated with determining if someone has anxiety or depression is different. To have anxiety, you must exhibit many of the symptoms mentioned above for six months before the doctor will determine you have an anxiety disorder. For depression, a doctor will usually check if you have been in this state for two or more weeks and if any significant events had happened in your life recently.

Self-Esteem Issues

While anxiety makes you overthink issues in your life, it usually doesn’t include tearing yourself down negatively. Depression, however, in its emphasis on being sad and lonely, tends to create self-esteem issues within those affected by it.

Highs vs. Lows

People suffering from anxiety are typically in what is considered a high mood. They are always worrying and stressed, with their minds moving very fast and jumping from one thought to the next. The person almost enters a constant fight or flight phase, where they feel like they are always in danger, even though nothing presenting a threat can be found. Because of this, their movements will also be somewhat fast and perhaps sporadic as they try to keep up with their thoughts.

This is the opposite of depression, which is considered a low mood affliction. With depression, the person’s thoughts and actions slow down. In the worst cases, the functions will slow down so much that someone else must be called to get things done for you.

Different Types

There are multiple different types of anxiety disorders, while depression disorders are usually limited to two main categories: clinical (major) depression or less severe depression. Anxiety disorder can be broken up into general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and so on.

While depression doesn’t typically focus on one point, anxiety disorders are more likely to start based on anxiety towards one subject, such as public speaking. If left untreated, the dysfunction could just rest at an unhealthy dislike towards the one issue, but more often than not starts spreading, resulting in generalized anxiety disorder.


While fear can be present for someone that has depression, it is usually much stronger and much more noticeable in someone that suffers from anxiety. People with anxiety disorders are often greatly concerned, sometimes frantic, about their future or one particular aspect of their life and how it relates to their future. People with anxiety are much more likely to express this concern and worry, and most of their interactions are centered around that concern.

Someone suffering only from depression will be much less focused on the future. This is usually because they have taken on a somewhat “giving up” attitude. They are so sad and unhappy that they don’t concern themselves with the future because it is most likely bad for them or devoid of meaning.

Anxiety & Depression: Getting Help

Roughly 50% of depression cases are also linked to anxiety. Because so many depression cases also deal with anxiety, there are methods developed to help someone suffering from both afflictions to get them treated at the same time.

Go to Therapy

Therapy is the best method for taking care of your mental health challenges, even more so when you’re suffering from two at the same time. While there are steps you can take to help you better take care of yourself, regular therapy sessions are the best choice to get to the root of any problems you might be facing.

Therapists are trained professionals that know how to ask the right questions so they can figure out where your depression and anxiety stem from, as well as enlightening you to their cause if you weren’t quite sure before. Knowing the root of the problem will help you either avoid it or address it, whichever will help you get over your current predicament. This whole process would be much harder if you tried to sort through both illnesses on your own.

The method usually used when treating someone suffering from anxiety and depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Use Medication

The next most effective method to take care of both illnesses is through using medication. This is often paired with therapy since you need a prescription from a therapist to get most anti-depressants and other such drugs. Most anti-depressants also work to relieve anxiety, since the modern-day favorite is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which improves a person’s serotonin levels. It is because the two diseases originate from the same brain problem that they can be fixed together by using one type of medication.

Along with medication, some therapists might suggest a supplement you can take if you would prefer. Supplements have varied effects on the condition based on patients and are more likely to assist with solely depression instead of both diseases like typical medication.

Stop Harmful Activities

One of the biggest proponents of mental health issues is engaging in activities that can harm your mental health. Substance abuse and being in abusive situations are more likely to result in mental health issues.

When you actively engage in a lifestyle that pulls you away from your goals for the future, this is more likely to create anxiety towards it and lead to depression. While it can be hard to make changes, especially if they’ve become long-term habits, making behavioral changes is one of the best ways to help yourself overcome mental health issues.


Because both conditions are influenced by mood, getting regular cardio exercise, or doing yoga, can help combat the two illnesses. This is because of endorphins that are released from this type of activity. These endorphins tend to make you happy, thereby uplifting your mood and relieving anxiety and depression conditions somewhat. This step might be harder for someone experiencing a more severe form of depression.

Eating Healthy

An improved diet will help you control any anxiety and depression issues one has. A lack of a healthy diet that includes the intake of lots of minerals and vitamins usually contributes to more severe forms of anxiety and depression.

By eating a healthier diet and focusing more on what you eat, you will be able to replenish any vitamin or mineral deficiencies you have collected over a long period of bad eating. Common foods that help boost vitamin D, a vitamin that is often linked to mood disorders, are dairy products such as milk or eggs.

Relaxation Techniques

People who suffer from depression and anxiety can find it really hard to relax, which leads to a greater buildup of negative emotions. Some standard relaxation techniques include meditation and practicing mindfulness. You’ll find that as you strive to create a more relaxing atmosphere, the negative feelings from anxiety and depression will usually dissipate somewhat.

Another popular method to promote relaxation is using essential oils. Very little research has been done on the subject, but there are some essential oils known to help ease the tension buildup from anxiety and depression.

In Summary

Many scientists believe anxiety and depression are comorbid conditions. They are often found together in patients and tend to result in one another if left untreated, though it is usually anxiety that deepens into depression. The two mental health issues share many symptoms, which can make it hard for doctors and therapists to diagnose both together. This requires careful probing during a counseling session to see where the patient’s true worries lie.

While the two mental health issues are related, they also have substantial differences. It is usually easier to determine someone has depression than an anxiety issue. Also, one’s anxiety issue could make it harder to spot depression because of the counteracting behaviors between the two conditions.

Even though the two illnesses have differences, both can be treated by similar methods. By visiting a therapist and aiming to live a healthier, more goal-oriented lifestyle, you can overcome both conditions.

Written by Kasia Ciszewski, LPC on

Kasia is a licensed professional counselor servicing the Charleston area. She helps individuals heal, better understand their emotions, energize & become more aware of their inner strength. She specializes in helping teens, adults and seniors and has been able to regularly achieve impressive results for her clients throughout South Carolina. Instagram - Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Linkedin

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