Although depression and anxiety are two different medical conditions, their symptoms, causes, and treatments can often overlap. Discover the differences between depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety are common disorders that are often confused with each other, but the two couldn’t be more different. They are often treated in the same way, and according to one study, 85 percent of people with major depression were also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
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What is Depression
Depression is essentially an illness. Although it has many different symptoms and can feel very different in different people, the term refers to only one condition.
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.
- Unwanted changes in usual sleep pattern
- Thoughts of death and suicide.
For a diagnosis of depression to be made, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
Be aware that some medical conditions such as thyroid problems, brain tumors, or vitamin deficiencies can mimic the symptoms of depression. This is why it is important to rule out medical causes before making a diagnosis.
This condition affects one in 15 adults for a year, and at least one in six people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Depression can occur at any time in life, however, it usually appears for the first time in adolescence and until the mid- 20s. Also, women are often more likely than men to experience it. Some studies indicate that a third of women will have a major depressive episode at some point in their lives.
Depression can appear as a relatively sudden and severe problem, or it can consist of a longer-term set of symptoms that are less severe.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety is a general term that encompasses a range of more specific conditions. The most common of these is a generalized anxiety disorder. They are characterized by a sense of doubt and vulnerability to future events. Anxious people’s attention is focused on their future prospects and the fear that those future prospects are bad.
Some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are as follows.
- excessive worry
- Being easily fatigued
- trouble concentrating
- Sleep disturbance
- Muscle tension
The causes of anxiety disorders are complicated. Many may occur at the same time, others may lead to others, and others may not lead to an anxiety disorder unless another is present.
Possible causes include:
- Environmental stressors, such as job difficulties, relationship problems, or family problems
- Genetics, as people who have family members with an anxiety disorder, are more likely to experience one themselves.
- Medical factors, such as symptoms of a different disease, the effects of a medication, the stress of intensive surgery or a long recovery
- Brain chemistry, just as psychologists define many anxiety disorders as imbalances of hormones and electrical signals in the brain.
- Withdrawal of an illicit substance, the effects of which could intensify the impact of other possible causes
Differences between depression and anxiety
People with the biological disorder of depression often experience emotions of hopelessness, despair, and anger, making it difficult to carry out daily tasks.
However, when someone is affected by an anxiety disorder, they experience overwhelming fear and panic, similar to any creature fighting for its life in the wild. This is one of the most relevant differences between depression and anxiety.
A person who suffers primarily from anxiety will focus on future prospects and be overwhelmed by the fear that everything will go wrong. These feelings can restrict a person’s ability to work, have relationships, or leave the home.
Comparatively, depressed people don’t usually worry about what might happen to them in the future, but rather believe that they already know what will happen and believe that it will inevitably be bad. Key symptoms include loss of interest and enjoyment in usual activities, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating.
Another difference between depression and anxiety is the physical manifestations. Those who suffer from depression often experience severe appetite changes, headaches, and trouble sleeping.
While anxiety produces side effects that resemble health disorders, such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, intestinal problems, and hyperventilation. In general, depression tends to have fewer physical symptoms, but the mental manifestations can be more dangerous than the results of anxiety.
Doctors have observed that when anxiety and depression are present in a person simultaneously, the symptoms of both are more severe.
When treating these conditions there are also certain differences between depression and anxiety. There are several medications available to treat depression and most commonly they include certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors; tetracyclic antidepressants; drugs with unique mechanisms; and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
Antidepressant medications are generally used for anxiety. Meanwhile, behavioral therapy has been proven to help people overcome both conditions.
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