What Is Anxiety and Depression?
Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.
Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities.
Several key differences can help distinguish between symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It’s not at all unusual to feel sad, low, or hopeless from time to time, especially during difficult or painful life situations. Along with a low, sad, or empty mood, depression can also involve the following symptoms:
- loss of interest or enjoyment in your usual activities and hobbies
- a sense of hopelessness or pessimism
- anger, irritability, and restlessness
- a lack of energy or a sense of feeling slowed down
- chronic fatigue or sleep problems
- changes in appetite and weight
- difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering information
- unexplained aches and pains or gastrointestinal concerns
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- thoughts of suicide, death, or dying
Most people experience some anxiety feelings of fear, nervousness, and worry from time to time. Anxiety is part of how you respond to stress, after all, so you might experience some anxiety:
- before major life events
- when making important decisions
- when trying something new
If you’re not feeling quite like yourself, a good next step involves reaching out to a mental health professional or other clinician who treats anxiety and depression.Your clinician, if you have one, can offer a referral to a therapist. Depending on your symptoms, they might also recommend blood, urine, and other lab testing to help rule out underlying medical concerns. Certain health conditions, including thyroid conditions, can involve depression and other changes in mood.
- You can’t stop worrying about all the things going wrong in your life, or thinking about the ways things could get worse. These fears eventually drain your energy and motivation to keep trying, leaving you feeling low and hopeless.
- Social anxiety keeps you from connecting with people in the ways you’d like. You want to make new friends but generally end up avoiding interactions instead. This leaves you feeling lonely, sad, and guilty, especially when thinking of those missed opportunities, but helpless to do anything differently.
- A mental health care professional may recommend combining treatment approaches, since what helps ease depression symptoms may not always relieve anxiety symptoms, and vice versa.
- Find ways to handle stress and improve your self-esteem.
- Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly.
- Reach out to family and friends when times get hard.
- Get regular medical checkups, and see your provider if you don’t feel right.
- Get help if you think you’re depressed. If you wait, it could get worse.