Anxiety vs Depression: How to Tell the Difference & Ways to Cope with Both

"Though the conditions may share some similar symptoms, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating, there are also some crucial differences."
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Anxiety and depression are two types of mental health conditions that affect the lives of millions. Though they have distinct psychological features, sometimes these conditions occur together. In fact, some estimates show that 60 percent of those with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression.1

Read on to compare the symptoms of anxiety and depression, how to tell the two apart, and how to cope with both.

How to Differentiate Between Anxiety & Depression 

Anxiety and depression are frequently confused. This could be attributed to their overlap in symptoms and because they frequently co-occur. But the mental health conditions are not the same, and being able to distinguish the difference can help you get the help you need. 

According to Talkspace, anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying or stress about the outcome of a situation.2 Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder that causes overwhelming feelings of sadness or apathy. Though the conditions may share some similar symptoms, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating, there are also some crucial differences. For example, excessive worry is much more prevalent with anxiety, whereas thoughts of suicide are more common with depression. 

Though it's normal to have feelings of anxiety or feel sad from time to time, especially during stressful situations, when these feelings happen often and interfere with your life, you may have a disorder that is treatable.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response (for anyone and any age), to stressful situations or events. But when it persists and interferes with daily life, it can be a sign of a deeper issue. Anxiety disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 American adults each year.3 Characterized by excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, these disorders encompass the following conditions:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: A persistent feeling of anxiety or dread, which can interfere with daily life, from job stress to family issues to financial concerns
  • Panic disorder and panic attacks: Recurrent and unexpected episodes accompanied by excessive worrying about having another attack
  • Agoraphobia: An intense fear of leaving home, using public transportation, being in an enclosed or open spaces, and crowds  
  • Social anxiety disorder: Characterized by an excessive fear of judgment and a tendency to avoid social situations
  • Selective mutism: Failing to speak in specific social situations despite having normal language skills; associated with extreme shyness
  • Separation anxiety: Extreme fear about being apart from people to whom they are attached, accompanied with worry about harm affecting their attachment figures while separated
  • Specific phobias: Irrational fears of situations or objects, such as heights or certain animals or insects
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): The compulsion to perform certain behaviors or an influx of unwanted, intense thoughts or images 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Intense nightmares, flashbacks and psychiatric symptoms that occur after a serious trauma

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Understanding Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest and can interfere with your daily life. According to research from John Hopkins Medicine, approximately 9.5% of American adults ages 18 and over, will suffer from a depressive illness in a given year.4 Depression can develop at any age, with the average age at onset is the mid-20s. Women are twice as likely to develop symptoms than men. Depressive disorders encompass the following conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): A persistently sad mood accompanied by a number of psychological and physical symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Manifests in the week before the onset of menses and subsides within days after onset of menstruation
  • Postpartum depression: Major depressive episodes occurring during pregnancy or within four weeks after delivery
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Onset of a depressive illness during particular times of the year, typically during the winter months, when there is limited natural sunlight

Signs & Symptoms of Both 

Though signs and symptoms vary and don’t always look the same in every person, there are some general clues that anxiety and/or depression are affecting your life. For instance, avoiding people and situations that once brought you joy may be an early indicator. Some other shared symptoms of anxiety and depression include:

How are They Different? Related? 

Though they are distinct conditions, anxiety and depression are also closely related and it is even possible that anxiety can cause depression and vice versa. For instance, anxiety can lead to an avoidance of pleasurable experiences and self-isolation. Isolation can then result in a lack of connection, which then leads to a depressed state. 

The relationship between anxiety and depression may also be biological. Low serotonin levels are thought to play a role in both, along with other brain chemicals such as dopamine and epinephrine, which is why most prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and depression involve these same chemicals. 

Despite the connections between them, anxiety and depression are experienced differently. Where people with anxiety are prone to worrying about the immediate or long-term future, people with depression feel hopeless about themselves and the world around them. While people with anxiety may experience racing and uncontrollable thoughts, leading to avoidance of triggering situations, people with depression feel worthless and empty with no desire for experiences. The physical symptoms of anxiety include a racing heart, dizziness, muscle tension, sweating, GI distress, and insomnia. People with depression are more likely to feel fatigue, heaviness, and loss of appetite. 

How to Cope with Both

No two people experience anxiety or depression the same, which is why there is no cookie-cutter approach to reducing symptoms. However, many people find that a combination of talk therapy and medication can help significantly. 

While both antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are effective for many individuals, especially when combined with talk therapy, these prescription drugs are also associated with a range of undesirable side effects such as nausea, headache, diarrhea, dry mouth, fatigue, weight changes, and sexual side effects. And for many individuals, these medications can be habit-forming and cause withdrawal effects if stopped suddenly, especially in the case of benzodiazepines.5

A gentle and impactful alternative to prescription medications is Brillia, a homeopathic medication specifically targeted to reduce anxiety, restlessness, and irritability without harsh synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, an important regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. These antibodies zero in on the brain processes that cause symptoms of mood disorders and stop them in their tracks without impacting any other systems in the body or changing blood chemistry. As a result of the regulating effect of Brillia, the level of monoamines (dopamine,  norepinephrine, and serotonin) in different parts of the brain normalizes, which are the exact neurotransmitters targeted by prescription drugs for anxiety and depression. Brillia can even be safely used in conjunction with other medications or supplements because there are no contraindications. This can be beneficial if you are already taking a prescription medication but do not want to increase your dose or you are thinking of eventually coming off your medication. (Learn more about how to take Brillia with prescription medication and how to transition effectively.)

Aside from its antibody ingredient, another unique factor about Brillia is our holistic approach. Brillia produces the best results when combined with healthy lifestyle factors outlined in our 5-Pillar methodology, which consists of proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen times, and mindfulness practices.

Learn more about how Brillia works and find more tips on how to reduce anxiety without prescription drugs at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/january-2018/the-comorbidity-of-anxiety-and-depression, 2https://www.talkspace.com/mental-health/conditions/articles/anxiety-vs-depression/, 3https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/03/understanding-anxiety-disorders, 4https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics, 5https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety-drugs

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