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Depression and anxiety: differences and similarities

You’d think depression and anxiety would almost be opposites, wouldn’t you? We think of depressed people as quiet, morose and passive, while anxious people are excitable, tense and hyperactive. And yet anxiety and depression can occur in the same person at the same time.

It isn’t uncommon, either. Almost half the people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Many people who develop depression have experienced an anxiety disorder in the past, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Some doctors think that depression can be triggered by these conditions.

Depression can also “cause” anxiety, in the sense that anxiety can be a symptom of major depression. Depression can cause a surprisingly wide variety of symptoms, including nervousness, irritability, difficulty sleeping and problems concentrating – all symptoms that can also affect people with anxiety.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, does it matter which condition you have? Maybe and maybe not. Your doctor will want to make sure that you don’t have another underlying disease that could cause similar symptoms. For example, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, vitamin B6 deficiency and the flu can all cause depression. Similarly, head injuries, asthma, heart failure and even fever can all cause anxiety.

However, if it appears that you have a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety or both together, you might find that the treatments are similar.

Depression vs. anxiety