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The Difference Between Depression and Anxiety

Depression or Anxiety

Anxiety and Depression are both common mental health diagnoses. They are associated with feeling anxious and depressed, respectively. It is because of this that they get used frequently in casual conversation. Sometimes, they are even used interchangeably. Because of all their similarities, it can be hard to tell the difference between them. However, they share many of the same symptoms and can be co-occurring. So how do you tell the difference?

Biologically, Depression and Anxiety are similar. Both are associated with low serotonin levels and imbalances in dopamine and epinephrine. Chemically similar, they often occur together- either in reaction to the other or simultaneously. However, there are a couple of key differences between the two.

Physical Differences

Anxiety and Depression differ in a couple of areas. Physically, both can leave you feeling fatigued. However, the duration of fatigue varies. There is often constant exhaustion experienced with Depression. In contrast, fatigue from anxiety is more likely to result from a specific trigger.


  • Fight-or-flight responses (shaking, sweating, jittery)
  • Physical symptoms that resemble health disorders, especially if accompanied by health worries
  • Fast heart rate or hyperventilation
  • Bowel issues


  • Severe lack of energy or motivation
  • Lack of emotion
  • Slow thinking and behaviors
  • Severe appetite changes
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While both disorders affect various physical aspects, they do so differently. Anxiety presents as a state of heightened arousal. Depression presents more as a lack of energy. Depression usually has more powerful mental symptoms, whereas anxiety has stronger physical symptoms.

Mental Differences

There are also variances in mental symptoms. For example, anxiety often causes someone to worry about the future. People with Depression also assume a dire future, but they don’t worry or try to prevent it. There can be a fixed mindset. So whatever they do, the outcome will be the same. This leaves them with little motivation to try new things or new behaviors.


  • Apprehension about the near or far future
  • A belief that something could go wrong
  • Feeling a need to avoid things that could cause further anxiety


  • A feeling of sadness or hopelessness about the future
  • A lack of belief that positive things will occur
  • Certainty of future negative emotions
  • Possible suicidal thoughts
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These symptoms will vary from person to person. But in general, anxiety causes exaggerated worried thoughts. Similarly, Depression also can bring on persistent thoughts. The difference, however, is that a trigger does not usually cause these thoughts. Instead, these thoughts are more general and constant.


The treatment plan will vary by severity of symptoms and personal preference. Often, the goal of Depression treatments is to improve mood and gain energy.  Anxiety treatments focus more on decreasing avoidance behavior and increasing positive thinking patterns. The methods to achieve these goals can include:

Within psychotherapy, various methods can be helpful.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy can all be beneficial. Exercising regularly, utilizing relaxation techniques, and creating a support system can also help.

As always, feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or set up a free consult with one of our therapists at Shoreside Therapies if you want information on where to start.

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