What Is The Difference Between Anxiety And Depression?

If you have been feeling blue or worried for long periods of time and it is starting to affect your everyday life, you may have a condition that needs treating. Nearly 18% of American adults (almost 40 million) suffer from anxiety disorders and about 3–5% from depression. Both disorders can be treated if diagnosed. However, the symptoms are similar and because they often occur together, there is much confusion on how to tell them apart.1

Anxiety Versus Depression

An anxiety disorder is an illness where people experience fear, uneasiness, or distress for no perceptible reason. This may be the result of prolonged or sustained stress or sudden trauma which causes nerve cells to malfunction or modify the way they send information to different parts of the brain. One branch of study is even exploring the possibility of a hereditary side to anxiety issues.2

Sometimes an underlying medical condition like hypoglycemia, a heat stroke, or even a heart

attack can cause anxiety. High altitude sickness, pulmonary embolism or clots in the lung’s blood vessels, or emphysema can cause anxiety stemming from a shortage of oxygen. Which is why looking out for those early warning signs of an anxiety attack become even more important.

As with anxiety, depression can be a short-lived, affective state but which puts “a negative spin” on everything in life.3 If the feelings of sadness, despair, and disinterest in daily activities persist it could be a case of clinical depression.4

Telling Them Apart – Are You Depressed or Just Anxious?

It is possible for people to have both anxiety disorder and depression. Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. For everyone else, there are ways to figure out which one you are dealing with.

Feelings of being wound-up, restless, or “on the edge” are typical of anxiety disorders, while the hallmark of depression is

a sense of despondency, emptiness, and hopelessness.5 Fear is the fundamental emotion and a major component of clinical anxiety. By contrast, the fundamental emotion of all depressive disorders is sadness.6

While both mental health issues result in the person feeling irritable and fatigued and having sleep problems, there are some signs that separate the two. While a person who has an anxiety disorder usually has restless sleep and finds it hard to stay asleep, someone with depression typically wakes up early or oversleeps but may not experience restless/interrupted sleep.

When it comes to concentration and decision-making, with anxiety, blanking out for a bit is typical; while those who are depressed also have issues with decision-making in addition to facing memory problems.

Depression is also additionally marked by a feeling of being worthless or a prevailing sense of inexplicable guilt. There may be more obvious manifestations of depression like a sudden increase or loss of appetite, change in

weight, a tendency to move and talk slower than normal, and an overall lack of energy. Digestive problems, aches and pains, cramps, and headaches that are unexplained may also crop up. A depressed person also slowly loses interest in things that give them pleasure, like their hobbies. Thoughts of death and suicide may cross the mind. These are not typical for anxiety disorders.7

Differences In Treatment

For both anxiety and depression, the most common treatment includes either medication or psychotherapy or both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps a person overcome social anxiety problems. Stress management techniques help limit episodes of anxiety. In some cases antidepressants may help, while a second line of treatment involves benzodiazepines.

For depression, antidepressants are typically prescribed and some form of psychotherapy suggested. In cases where intervention does not reduce symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies might be used.8

Alternative Medicine

Ayurvedic cures for anxiety include a blend of almonds and milk, with saffron and honey, or

orange juice, nutmeg powder, and honey. Honey is believed to produce a calming effect, while nuts and milk give the body a serotonin and tryptophan boost to regulate mood better. Consuming ashwagandha helps ease anxiety, making it a popular Ayurvedic course of treatment. Processed foods are best avoided.9

For depression, Ayurveda recommends you eat the appropriate pacifying foods depending on whether the depression is connected to vatta(linked to loss/death), pitta(perception of failure/not living up to expectations), or a mix of both. Fresh food that is chemical-free and rich in sattvic spices like basil, ginger, and cardamom are considered healing and open up the mind and body.10

In addition, some exercise can help get endorphins flowing and boost the mood of the person.The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health suggest the use

of yoga, tai chi, and meditation to augment pharmacotherapy. While complementary alternative medicine (CAM) may not have any serious side effects, it might not be wise to depend solely on it for complete recovery. As some studies suggest, it is better used as a third-line strategy.11