Difference between Anxiety and Depression

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 15 December 2023| min read
Difference between Anxiety and Depression

Quick Summary

Anxiety and depression are two different emotions that can have similar symptoms. However, there are some key differences between the two.

  • Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry and fear, while depression involves a deep feeling of despair and sadness.
  • Anxiety can be triggered by specific events or situations, while depression can develop for no apparent reason.
  • Anxiety can be treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both, while depression is often treated with medication.

It is important to note that anxiety and depression can often co-exist, and it is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing symptoms of either condition.

The use of the words “anxious” and “depressed” has increased tremendously in recent years. With stress becoming a part of everyday life, anxiety, and depression have become normal emotions to experience. What needs attention here is that people use these words interchangeably to express their feelings of stress, sadness, and disappointment. But are they the same? No! While the causes, symptoms, and treatments of these two emotions may overlap, there are some significant differences between anxiety and depression. 

Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry and fear. On the contrary, depression involves a deep feeling of despair and sadness. Understanding the key differences between anxiety vs. depression is critical to ensure the right treatment and management approach. Wondering what are the differences between depression and anxiety? Let’s find out! Continue reading to learn about anxiety and depression differences based on their symptoms, causes, and treatment methods. 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety usually is a natural reaction to stressful situations and overwhelming fear. It is normal to experience anxiety when you are exposed to potential danger. Anxiety can be good sometimes. It tells you when to freeze, flee, or fight. In short, it is your body’s natural warning sign of threats. However, when the feeling of anxiety does not go away or is excessive, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. The various types of anxiety disorders include:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A long-term condition that causes uncontrollable worry about several occurrences and situations rather than one specific event.
  2. Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, is characterized by anxiety or fear in social settings.
  3. Separation anxiety disorder: One of the most common childhood anxiety disorders in which the child becomes anxious and nervous when separated from their parents. 
  4. Panic Disorders: An anxiety disorder characterized by regular and sudden episodes of intense panic or fear.
  5. Phobias: An uncontrollable and irrational fear of a specific activity, object, or situation. For example, acrophobia (fear of heights).
  6. Agoraphobia: Excessive fear of places or situations that may cause helplessness, panic, or embarrassment.
  7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A pattern of unwanted and unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviours. 
  8. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A mental health disorder triggered by experiencing or witnessing a shocking, scary, or terrifying event.
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What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that is more than just feeling down, experiencing the blues, or having a bad day. People who are clinically depressed have persistent sadness and loss of interest, lasting for several days, weeks, or even months. Depression can interfere with daily functioning and cause feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Some common forms of depression and depression-related conditions include:

  1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): A mental health disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest in activities, interfering with daily life.
  2. Psychotic Depression: A serious condition in which a person with depression experiences psychosis, showing symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. 
  3. Postnatal Depression (PND): A mood disorder that occurs after childbirth. 
  4. Atypical Depression: A subtype of major depressive disorder in which the person’s mood improves with a change in the circumstance.
  5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Depression that occurs at the same time every year.

Difference between Anxiety and Depression

Doctors usually come across one question while diagnosing mental disorders: Is there a difference between anxiety and depression? Yes! Despite the various similarities between these two mental health conditions, there are some key differences between anxiety and depression. These differences are as follows:


Normal emotion Mood disorder
Presence of a positive or negative attitude in the patient The presence of a negative attitude accompanied by a feeling of hopelessness in the patient
Symptoms occur after an intense attack Symptoms persist since the beginning of the attack
Symptoms are more or less similar among people Symptoms vary from person to person

Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors of Anxiety vs Depression

The reason why people find it challenging to identify the difference between anxiety and depression is their overlapping symptoms. Moreover, the causes of the two conditions are also similar. While there are several common symptoms and causes of anxiety vs. depression, there are also some significant differences. The following are anxiety and depression differences based on their symptoms, causes, and risk factors.


People suffering from anxiety and depression may experience several physical and mental symptoms. Anxiety and Depression symptoms are as follows:

Anxiety Physical Symptoms Depression Physical Symptoms
  1. Elevated heart rate
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Rapid breathing
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Chest pain
  6. Choking feeling
  7. Sweating
  8. Dizziness
  9. Lightheadedness
  10. Chills or hot flashes
  11. Shaking
  12. Dry mouth
  13. Tingling or numbness in arms and legs
  14. Digestive issues
  15. Avoidance of stressful situations
  1. Low energy or fatigue
  2. Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  3. Hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  4. Eating too much or too little
  5. Feeling restless
  6. Talking or moving slower than usual
  7. Changes in appetite and weight
  8. Pains and aches
  9. Digestive issues
  10. Issues like stomach aches, headaches, sexual dysfunction


Anxiety Mental Symptoms Depression Mental Symptoms
  1. Excessive worrying
  2. Frightening thoughts
  3. Fear of losing control
  4. The feeling of unreality or detachment
  5. Racing thoughts
  6. Fear of injury, illness, or death
  7. Confusion
  8. Poor concentration
  9. Poor memory
  10. Nightmares
  11. Hypervigilance
  1. Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  2. Feeling sad or anxious
  3. Being easily irritated and frustrated
  4. Losing interest in things
  5. Difficulty concentrating
  6. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide


The exact cause of anxiety vs. depression is unknown. However, some possible factors contributing to anxiety and depression include:

Anxiety Causes

Depression Causes
  1. Diabetes or heart disease
  2. Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
  3. A chemical imbalance
  1. Imbalance in the brain chemistry
  2. Physical changes in the brain
  3. Hormonal imbalance
  4. Inherited traits
  5. Chronic pain and conditions like diabetes

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase your risk of experiencing anxiety or depression. Risk factors for anxiety and depression include:

Anxiety Risk Factors Depression Risk Factors
  1. Environmental stressors, such as family issues or illness
  2. Genetics
  3. Mental health disorders, such as depression
  4. Certain personality types
  5. Trauma
  6. Effects of medication
  7. Substance misuse
  8. Substance withdrawal
  1. Stressful life events like the death of a close one
  2. A side effect of medications
  3. History of mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder or PTSD
  4. Alcohol or drug abuse
  5. Certain personality traits like low self-esteem and being pessimistic


Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications of Anxiety vs. Depression

Therefore, anxiety is a normal emotion and is not included in the outline of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, healthcare professionals can diagnose anxiety disorders based on the definitions outlined in DSM-5. The diagnosis and treatment approach for both anxiety and depression is more or less similar. The following are the diagnosis, treatment, and complications of anxiety vs. depression.


Doctors use several tools to diagnose anxiety and depression. The diagnosis for these mental health conditions includes:

  1. Physical exam
  2. Thorough understanding of your medical and mental health history
  3. Lab tests (such as blood tests to see if the symptoms are a result of an underlying medical condition)
  4. Psychiatric evaluation (filling out a questionnaire with items related to your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns
  5. Comparison of symptoms with the criteria listed in DSM-5

Diagnosis of Anxiety vs. Depression As Per DSM-5

A doctor will diagnose anxiety or depression problems based on the criteria in DSM-5. 

  1. Anxiety: A person has anxiety if they experience extreme, uncontrollable worry and three additional anxiety symptoms most days for at least six months. 
  2. Depression: A person has depression if they experience at least five main depression symptoms on most days for at least two weeks. 

If they meet both criteria, the doctor will diagnose them with anxiety and depression. 


The two primary treatments for anxiety and depression are medications and psychotherapy. Your doctor may recommend the following to treat anxiety vs. depression:

  1. Medications: They can’t cure anxiety disorders but can improve the symptoms and help you function better. Medicines include:Anti-depressantsAnti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepinesBeta-blockersSeveral anti-depressants can change the brain chemistry that causes anxiety or depression. These include:
          1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors
          2. SerotoninNorepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor, Pristiq, etc. 
          3. Tricyclic anti-depressants
          4. Atypical anti-depressants
          5. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
          6. Other medications, such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs, and stimulants
  2. Psychotherapy: Counselling can help you deal with your emotions better. Approaches to psychotherapy include:
  3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): It helps you recognize thought patterns and behaviours that lead to troublesome feelings.
  4. Exposure Therapy: It helps you engage in avoided activities, letting you deal with your fears.
  5. Brief Therapy: Solution-focused therapy is based on solution-building rather than problem-solving. The therapy is generally used to treat depression. Additional treatment for depression includes brain stimulation therapy. It can help people with severe depression or depression with psychosis. These include
    1. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
    2. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
    3. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)


Depression and anxiety are serious disorders that often worsen. If not treated on time, they can affect every area of your life. Complications of anxiety and depression include:

Anxiety Complications Depression Complications
  1. Depression or other mental health disorders
  2. Insomnia
  3. Bowel or digestive issues
  4. Substance abuse
  5. Social isolation
  6. Headaches and chronic pain
  7. Poor quality of life
  8. Problems at school and work
  9. Suicidal thoughts
  1. Obesity, leading to heart disease or diabetes
  2. Substance abuse
  3. Physical illness or pain
  4. Social isolation
  5. Problems in work, at school, family, and relationships
  6. Mental health issues include anxiety, social phobias, or panic disorders
  7. Premature death from medical conditions
  8. Suicidal feelings and attempts
  9. Self-harm


Home Remedies to Manage Anxiety vs. Depression

Generally, you cannot treat anxiety and depression alone. Most people with these disorders require medications and psychotherapy to get their symptoms under control. However, specific lifestyle changes can make a difference. These lifestyle changes or home remedies include:

  1. Use stress management and relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga to ease anxiety
  2. Pay attention to warning signs
  3. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling
  4. Do something you control, such as showering, making your bed, etc. 
  5. Reach out to friends and family
  6. Join a support group

Preventing Anxiety vs. Depression

Experiencing anxiety or depression is not something anyone wants. People with anxiety disorders or depression know the importance of preventing these conditions before they start interfering with a person’s daily life. While there is no certain way to prevent anxiety or depression, the following strategies may help:

  1. Get help at the earliest sign of the condition to prevent it from worsening
  2. Stay physically active and participate in activities that make you feel good
  3. Avoid using alcohol and recreational drugs
  4. Take steps to control stress, increase resilience, and boost self-esteem
  5. Get enough sleep to make sure you are well rested
  6. Eat a nutritious diet with colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fish
  7. Limit sugar, caffeine, and processed foods

Can you get both Anxiety and Depression Simultaneously?

Now you know what’s the difference between anxiety and depression. But the question remains: Can you get both these conditions together? Yes, you can! Since both conditions involve the same neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine, anxiety, and depression can develop sequentially or co-occur. One condition can easily trigger the other, with anxiety generally preceding depression. Symptoms that might indicate both anxiety and depression at the same time include:

  1. Persisting irrational fears or worries
  2. Physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, abdominal pain, etc. 
  3. Difficulty sleeping
  4. Eating too much or too little
  5. Trouble concentrating or remembering
  6. Constant sadness or feelings of worthlessness
  7. Loss of interest in usual activities and hobbies
  8. Inability to relax
  9. Feeling tired and cranky most of the time
  10. Losing a sense of internal control

When to Consult a Doctor?

Anxiety and depression can be highly uncomfortable. If not treated in time, the conditions can worsen to the point where patients have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. Therefore, it is essential to consult a mental health professional if you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. Consult a doctor if:

  1. Anxiety is harming your physical health.
  2. You have anxiety about multiple areas, such as career, school performance, interpersonal relationships, etc. 
  3. The symptoms begin interfering with your daily life.
  4. You need to gain interest in most activities.
  5. You feel sad and hopeless most of the time.
  6. You need more energy on most days.
  7. You are not able to sleep well.
  8. You experience significant weight gain or loss without overeating or dieting.


Anxiety and depression are common mental conditions experienced by many. Even though people use these words as synonyms, there are some significant differences between anxiety and depression. While anxiety causes feelings of extreme fear and worry, depression involves feelings of despair and hopelessness. Both anxiety and depression can also occur at the same time. If you experience changes in your mood or other symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical care. 

Feeling anxious or depressed is normal, and you should not feel ashamed. If you still wonder what’s the difference between anxiety and depression and which one you have, you can contact an expert at HexaHealth TODAY! Our team of experts will be more than happy to resolve all your queries. Furthermore, we will help you connect with the best mental health doctors to help you avail of the best treatment. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin. While the two have several similarities regarding their symptoms, causes, and treatments, there are also some critical differences between anxiety and depression. Anxiety causes feelings of excessive fear and worry. On the other hand, depression is the feeling of despair and hopelessness. While depression, a mood disorder, is a medical condition, anxiety is an umbrella term covering several conditions. 

Generally, signs and symptoms are similar for anxiety vs depression. However, some additional symptoms of depression include:

  1. A low, sad, and empty mood
  2. Loss of interest and enjoyment in usual activities
  3. Unexplained aches and pains 
  4. Thoughts of suicide or death
  5. Changes in appetite and weight

Anxiety and depression result from similar causes and risk factors. The causes and risk factors of anxiety vs. depression include:

  1. Chemical imbalance
  2. Medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, thyroid, etc. 
  3. Chronic pain
  4. Genetics
  5. Stressful life events
  6. Side effects of medications
  7. Mental health disorders
  8. Certain personality types

Stress, anxiety, and depression are the main reasons people visit mental health professionals. While these terms are used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between stress, anxiety, and depression. Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed. The feeling can arise from being under pressure for a long time and having an overstretched coping capacity. Anxiety is an extreme fear, worry or dread that something terrible will happen. Depression is feeling low most of the time and losing interest in things that used to bring joy. 

No, anxiety is not a type of depression. However, people with depression can have anxiety. Furthermore, having anxiety for prolonged periods can lead to depression. People can have both depression and anxiety at the same time. 

Yes, anxiety is one of the main causes of depression. Not treating anxiety can worsen and lead to other mental health conditions, such as depression. 

Both anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions. However, anxiety is a more common disorder than depression. Anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by many, especially children and teens. Anxiety and depression often develop together. Nearly 60% of people with anxiety also have symptoms of depression and vice versa. 

Anxiety and depression can be diagnosed based on the outline in DSM-5. You can tell if you have anxiety or depression by the severity and duration of your symptoms. You suffer from anxiety if you experience excessive, uncontrollable worry and three additional anxiety symptoms most days for at least six months. On the other hand, you have depression if you experience at least five main depression symptoms on most days for at least two weeks. If you meet the criteria for both, you have anxiety and depression. 

Yes, anxiety and depression are related and often go hand-in-hand. While anxiety is generally a high-energy state and depression a low-energy state, they are more closely related than a person might think. Anxiety and depression occur in a cycle. When you have anxiety, you tend to worry about some potential problem and feel bad about it. Then you feel as if you have failed and move to depression. When depressed, people often experience a lot of anxiety, sometimes to the extent of having panic attacks. 

Some common symptoms of anxiety vs depression include:

  1. Irrational worries or fears
  2. Trouble remembering or concentrating
  3. Digestive issues
  4. Irritability and restlessness
  5. Sleep problems
  6. Persistent fatigue

Yes, it is common to experience depression triggered by anxiety. When the feeling of anxiety persists for a long time, it can lead to depression. Similarly, people with depression may develop anxiety and fear related to perceived potential threats. 

The diagnosis of anxiety and depression follows a similar approach. The doctor will begin with a physical exam and understand your symptoms. Next, they will conduct lab tests, such as blood tests, to rule out physical conditions that may cause the symptoms of anxiety or depression. If physical conditions are not causing these symptoms, a mental health professional will conduct a psychiatric evaluation to understand your symptoms, thoughts, and behaviour patterns. Lastly, they will compare your symptoms to the outline provided in DSM-5 to make a diagnosis. 

Yes, the treatment for anxiety and depression are similar. In fact, both these conditions can be treated at the same time. Similar treatments for anxiety vs depression include medications like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs and psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Some of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression include medications and psychotherapy. While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (a common type of talk therapy that helps manage problems by changing the way you think and behave) is the most used psychotherapy for anxiety and depression, other therapies may differ. Patients with anxiety generally benefit from exposure therapy in which they are exposed to their fear or a stressful situation to help them cope with their emotions. Doctors prefer brief therapy for depression patients in which the focus is on solution-building rather than problem-solving. Additional treatment options for depression include brain stimulation therapy and mind-body techniques like acupuncture, meditation, spirituality, massage therapy, etc.

Yes, anxiety and depression can be managed without medication. Another effective treatment for these conditions is psychotherapy. Also known as talk therapy or counselling, psychotherapy includes a range of treatments that help a person identify and change troubling thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Anxiety and depression can also be managed with specific lifestyle changes, such as:

  1. Paying attention to warning signs
  2. Allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling
  3. Using relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.
  4. Doing something you have control over
  5. Reaching out to friends and family
  6. Joining support groups
  7. Staying physically active
  8. Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs
  9. Getting enough sleep
  10. Eating a nutritious diet

It might be difficult if someone close to you feels anxious or depressed. The following are some practical things you can do to help:

  1. Listen to how they feel
  2. Help them notice symptoms of stress, worry, and fear
  3. Take their feelings seriously
  4. Reassure them that things will get better
  5. Help them relax with techniques like yoga or meditation or simply a hug
  6. Support them in seeking help
  7. Celebrate their success

A person with anxiety may get anxiety or panic attacks. Therefore, the focus should be on making them relax. On the other hand, depression may make people feel low most of the time. Hence, the focus should be on encouraging them to make lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, staying physically active, and doing things they enjoy. 


All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

  1. MedicalNewsTodaylink
  2. Healthlinelink
  3. Clevelandcliniclink
  4. mayocliniclink
  5. Hartgrove Behavioral Health Systemlink

Updated on : 15 December 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


About Authors

HexaHealth Care Team

HexaHealth Care Team brings you medical content covering many important conditions, procedures falling under different medical specialities. The content published is thoroughly reviewed by our panel of qualified doctors for its accuracy and relevance.

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