What’s the difference between anxiety and depression?

With one in four adults in the UK experiencing a mental health condition each year, we’re beginning to come across the terms anxiety and depression more and more in our daily lives.

But what’s the difference between them?

In this article, we’ll walk you through what both anxiety and depression can feel like. We’ll also let you know what can help you if you think you might be going through either (or both) right now.

Before we start, it’s important that you know there’s nothing wrong with feeling anxious or depressed. In fact, anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health conditions in the UK, with anxiety affecting 5.9% of people and depression affecting 3.3%.  

However, it’s important you understand what each condition feels like – and the difference between the two  – so you can take the right steps to leave them behind.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety feels different for everyone, but it generally makes you feel tense and unable to relax. This is usually accompanied by a sense of dread or worry that you can’t get rid of, and you might not be able to stop yourself from dwelling on a bad experience from your past or worrying about things that might happen in the future.

Obviously we all worry from time to time, but if your anxious thoughts are uncontrollable and regularly keep you awake at night or stop you from enjoying your life to the fullest, you might be suffering from anxiety.

Anxiety can have a physical effect on your body, too. Your breath and heartbeat might speed up, and you might feel restless and unable to sit still. You can also feel dizzy or have a churning feeling in your stomach, and could suffer a headache, sweating, and hot flushes.

Anxiety can also bubble over into a fully fledged panic attack.

What are the causes of anxiety?

Anxiety has many causes. One of the most common is when a past or childhood experience is triggered by an event in your current life. If you’ve gone through stressful or traumatic experience in the past, this could be the root cause of your anxiety.

Your current life situation can also be a trigger. If you’re feeling stressed or under pressure in any area of your life it can quickly build into anxiety. If you’re out of work, going through money problems, or feeling isolated or bullied, you could develop anxiety as well.

What does depression feel like?

Much like anxiety, depression feels different for everyone. But generally speaking, depression makes you feel sad and hopeless, causing you to lose interest in the things you usually enjoy.

Of course, we all feel blue from time to time. But if these feelings last for weeks or months on end, you’re likely to be going through depression.

For some people, depression feels like a grey haze they can’t shift. It can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, and a loss of motivation. It often makes you feel apathetic, and can prevent you from getting any enjoyment out of life, which often leads you neglect your hobbies and interests and avoid contact with friends and family.

Depression can also cause a loss of appetite and a low sex drive, as well as make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night or wake up in the morning. It often causes a lack of energy.

If you’re going through depression, you might also have suicidal thoughts or think about harming yourself. You don’t have to struggle with difficult feelings alone – you can ring Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for free on 116 123. Help and support is available for you whenever you need it.

What are the causes of depression?

Again, like anxiety, depression has many different causes. A single traumatic event, such as a bereavement or relationship breakdown, could trigger a bout of depression.

Your current life situation could also cause depression. Feeling cut off from your friends and family, spending a long time unemployed, or having money worries can all be triggers, as can any stressful or traumatic life event.

Depression is often caused by a “downward spiral” of events. For example, if your relationship with your partner breaks down and then you go through a stressful period at work, you’re likely to feel low. You might stop attending social events and lose the motivation to engage in your usual hobbies to cope, which only makes you feel worse and leads to depression.

People also often turn to drink and drugs when life is getting them down. However, this can make things worse for a lot of people, as alcohol is categorised as a “strong depressant”, and cannabis is linked to depression too.

Lastly, it’s important to know that women may sometimes go through depression after giving birth. The hormonal changes going on in their body, combined with the added responsibility of a newborn child, can sometimes lead to postnatal depression.

Can you have anxiety and depression at the same time?

Anxiety and depression aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, according to Bupa, it’s believed that 85% of people with depression will also experience the symptoms of anxiety.

Mixed anxiety and depressive disorder (MADD) is now categorised as a condition in it’s own right. If you have MADD, you’ll feel tense and unable to relax or stop worrying alongside a feeling of sadness, apathy, and low energy you can’t shake.

What are the treatments for anxiety and depression?

While anxiety and depression feel different, they’re both treated through the same methods.

Anxiety and depression can be helped through psychological therapies, including counselling sessions and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

We offer both of these therapies through our private counselling, so if you would like help overcoming your anxiety or depression, contact us today to book your first appointment. We are able to offer support to individuals throughout the UK via telephone and video call appointments.

Not sure whether you’re going through anxiety or depression? Your first appointment with us will be a consultation in which we’ll get to know you and find out about your situation so we can offer you the right counselling to help you overcome your issues. We’ll make sure that you have your initial consultation within a week of ringing us, and it will cost £25 for your initial consultation and then £40 per session thereafter.

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