Mood Disorders: Depression vs. Anxiety

Two of the most common mental health disorders among people in the United States are depression and anxiety. Nearly 8 percent of people over 12 suffer from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control, while the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) states that anxiety disorders affect more than 18 percent of adults.

While these two types of disorders are very different on the surface, there are a number of similarities between them that can make it difficult to distinguish between the two without a deeper knowledge of how each disorder manifests. At the same time, many people will experience both disorders at the same time. This page will explain the similarities and differences between depression and anxiety.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that impacts the way a person thinks and feel, and can also have an impact on physical health as well. Depression can seriously impact a person’s quality of life.

Depression has a number of subtypes, which include:

  • Major depression.
  • Dysthymia (persistent depression).
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • Postpartum depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression include more than just persistent sadness or an empty feeling. Depression can manifest in many additional ways, according to NIMH, with the following symptoms, among others:

  • Feelings of anxiety, restlessness, or irritability.
  • Hopelessness and loss of motivation.
  • Decreased feelings of pleasure.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances.
  • Inability to focus or concentrate.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Digestive problems.

Many of these symptoms may be surprising, given the typical understanding of depression. Not every person diagnosed with depression will experience all of the symptoms. It is important to note that alternating periods of seeming depression with periods of high energy and intense activity could indicate a different kind of mood disorder, known as bipolar disorder.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders grow out of a basic feeling of fear, anxiousness, or apprehension in situations where people without anxiety disorders would not have these feelings. In everything from phobias to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and related conditions represent an extreme response to what might otherwise be considered benign or only mildly stressful.

Anxiety is generally not considered to be a type of mood disorder. In fact, anxiety is perceived to entail its own category of mental disorder types, containing its own broad range of disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5).
Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • General anxiety.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Specific phobias.
  • Social anxiety disorder.
  • Agoraphobia.
  • Substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder.
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety disorders can sometimes appear to be depression in many ways. People with anxiety often experience similar feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and decreased energy. However, it is the root of these symptoms in anxiety disorders that is the key to determining the difference.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include, among others:

  • Persistent worry to a higher degree than is warranted by the situation.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Trouble making decisions.
  • Irritability.
  • Changes in sleep patterns and feelings of low energy.
  • Changes in digestive patterns.
  • Jumpiness or being easily startled.
  • Body aches and pains, including headache.

A person who is struggling with an anxiety disorder may also show symptoms of depression, which could correlate to the anxiety itself or be a separate but co-occurring depressive disorder. As can be seen, many symptoms of anxiety are similar to or the same as those for depression. It is the persistent fear in anxiety that differentiates it from depression.

Treatments for Depression & Anxiety

Treating depression can be a challenge, especially in those who either have a co-occurring disorders or a substance-induced mood disorder. Many people who receive treatment for depression are given antidepressant drugs.

Depression tends to respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy. In this technique, individuals learn to recognize and understand their symptoms, how symptoms are triggered, and how to actively change behavior patterns.

Anxiety disorders are often treated with antidepressants or with anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines. Similarly, anti-anxiety medications are sometimes used to treat depression. Particularly with medications like benzodiazepines, addiction or abuse is a serious risk. Similar to depression, however, cognitive therapies can help people learn to manage the symptoms of anxiety.

Behavioral therapy can help people learn different ways of managing the symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Learning to recognize symptoms and their triggers, and to substitute other behaviors that diffuse the symptoms, is a successful method of helping people recover from these often debilitating mental health disorders.

In addition, exercise, hobbies, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation are just some of the alternative methods that have been used to help people handle anxiety. In many cases, these can help with depression as well.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment in New Jersey

On their own, depression and anxiety are both difficult disorders to deal with. Managing them may become even more challenging when addiction is involved. It’s easier to face them with the right support.

At our inpatient rehab in Lafayette, NJ our treatment specialists understand that unique needs of people struggling with co-occurring disorders. We use evidence-based treatments to develop individualized treatment plans to help people find meaningful recovery.

Contact our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about our different levels of care. Our navigators are on hand to answer all of your questions, including about how to pay for treatment, using your insurance for rehab, and how to start the admissions process.

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