Do I Have Anxiety, Depression, or Both?

Feb 13, 2023
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Anxiety and depression are often grouped, but are entirely separate mental health issues. That said, they do cross over quite frequently. Here’s a look at each, separately and together.

We often hear anxiety and depression grouped as if they were one condition, but the reality is that these are two entirely separate issues. Though different, there is a good deal of crossover between the two mental health illnesses.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with mental health but are unsure how to classify the problem, the experienced team here at Clarity Psychiatric Care can help. In the following, we explore anxiety and depression — the two most common mental health issues in the United States. 

Here’s a look at the differences between anxiety and depression and the rate at which they can cross over and become a dual diagnosis.

Depression at a glance

Technically called major depressive disorder (MDD), this mental health illness affects nearly 25 million adults and adolescents in the US.

We all feel sad sometimes, but MDD goes far beyond these temporary blues. MDD is a mood regulation disorder in your brain that leads to:

  • Overwhelming sadness
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Loss of interest in the world around you
  • Shame and guilt
  • Fatigue or low energy

Depression can manifest itself in your sleep patterns (too much or too little), eating habits, and physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach upset.

In severe cases, MDD can lead to suicidal ideation and, unfortunately, suicide.

Ultimately, moderate-to-severe MDD can hijack your life and seemingly imprison you in a hopeless, sad, and futile world.

Anxiety basics

The first thing to understand about anxiety is that it’s a catchall term for many different disorders, including, but not limited to:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

In the US, a little more than 19% of adults have an anxiety disorder, and the news is worse among adolescents — nearly 32% struggle with an anxiety disorder.

All anxiety disorders stem from a stress response in your body — your nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. This response is designed to help us when we’re in danger, but with an anxiety disorder, you become stuck in the response.

While symptoms vary among the disorders, the symptoms of anxiety often include the following:

  • A sense of doom or fear
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sleep issues
  • Inability to focus

Like MDD, anxiety disorders can lead to behavioral changes and physical symptoms (upset stomach, muscle aches, etc.).

When anxiety and depression come together

While anxiety and depression are different, they do co-occur with alarming frequency.

To put some numbers to the connection, one study reports that nearly 46% of people with lifetime MDD also had a history of one or more anxiety disorders. 

Going in the other direction, the same study reports that half of the patients with panic disorder experience depressive symptoms, as well as 48% of patients with PTSD and 43% of those who have GAD.

While scientists don’t know the exact cause-and-effect mechanism in the brain that creates the connection, it makes sense that being in a constant state of stress can wear you down and lead to depression. By the same token, being stuck in a world that feels hopeless and dark can lead to a stress response and an anxiety disorder.

The one takeaway that we want to leave you with is that separate or together, there are effective solutions for depression and anxiety that can help you reclaim your life and your peace of mind.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and depression, please contact our office in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to schedule an appointment.