Anxiety vs. Depression: What’s the Difference

February 24, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life

Top points

  • Anxiety and depression are separate but related disorders that can occur at the same time and independently.
  • Depression is characterized by low mood or emotional numbness, while anxiety involves distress caused by excessive worry or fear.
  • Ketamine offers hope for chronic anxiety and depression because it helps the brain establish fresh thought pathways.

Did you know that approximately 18% of adults in the US struggle with an anxiety disorder each year? In addition, nearly one-half of the 16 million Americans diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These two conditions need addressing, and if you’re struggling with either, you deserve to find healing.

So today, let’s talk about anxiety and depression. By looking specifically into these common mental disorders, you can take the next step into your own mental wellness, so let’s dive in.

Do Anxiety and Depression Always Occur Together?

There is a distinct relationship between anxiety and depression. As we mentioned above, people who experience depression often experience comorbid anxiety along with it. But this is not always the case. It is quite common for each of these conditions to occur independently.

What Is the Relationship?

There are a few different theories about why these two conditions are related. The prevailing theory focuses on their origin.

Major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders are often caused by excess, prolonged stress. High cortisol levels, the stress hormone, for extended periods can lead to these mental health conditions.

This isn’t the only cause for these illnesses, but a common theory can help explain the comorbidity relationship between the two.

How Do Anxiety and Depression Differ?

Even though these two mental struggles are closely related, there are some big differences in expressing themselves. While anxiety expresses itself with further distress, depression tends to cause incredibly low mood or emotional numbness.

But before we dive in, remember that both anxiety and depression are treatable mental illnesses. You can take steps to find healing, and your journey can have a beautiful destination.

With that in mind, let’s look at the specific symptoms of each condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety can be characterized by excessive worrying about a specific situation or set of situations. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, and phobias. They have their own unique expressions, but these are some common symptoms between the different types.

Nervousness and Restlessness

This is the most characteristic symptom of anxiety. A person with anxiety experiences excessive worrying about a situation, and it typically consumes their mind and dominates their thoughts.

Constant stress about a situation can lead to other problems, like muscle tension, changes in appetite, or insomnia

Anxiety can also cause irritability.

The constant, intense stress can cause a person to be on edge and snap at relatively insignificant things. In extreme cases, it can also lead to trust issues and paranoia.

Rapid Heart Rate

High stress can also cause an increased heart rate. Part of the body’s natural stress response is to increase heart rate, but when stress goes on for too long and the heart rate remains elevated for extended periods, it could potentially cause damage.

Shallow Breathing

Anxiety is also characterized by shallow breathing. This is especially true in cases of panic disorder or panic attacks. A person might experience a tightness in the chest or throat and have difficulty breathing because of it.


When your body is constantly stressed, it puts strain on your body. If your heart is pounding all day, that takes a lot of energy out of you. Thus, fatigue, or low energy, are also common anxiety symptoms.


In more severe cases of anxiety, people can experience weakness in their bodies. Anxiety can cause changes in eating habits, and the combination of lack of nutrients with increased heart rate could cause weakness in your limbs and muscles.

Difficulty Concentrating

Having a hard time focusing is one of the more common anxiety symptoms. Your anxieties can distract you and preoccupy your mind, keeping you from the present moment.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Depression expresses itself quite differently from anxiety. Depression can take many forms, such as major depressive disorder (major depression), dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder), bipolar depression, or postpartum depression. These are some of the common depression symptoms.

Feelings of Sadness and Hopelessness

This is the symptom most people associate with depression. Depression can cause you to have a bleak outlook on life and focus your mind on sad or negative things. It can also cause feelings of worthlessness or feelings of hopelessness. When these emotions become particularly destructive, they can lead to attempted suicide in serious cases.

Loss of Pleasure in Activities and Hobbies

These feelings can often take away the joy you used to find in certain activities. It can diminish your motivation to go and do the things you love to do.

Agitation and Irritability

Depression and anxiety can both cause irritability. Constant feelings of sadness can, understandably, cause someone to become frustrated and upset with their situation, and it often comes out in the form of agitation and irritability.

Social Withdrawal

Because feelings of joy have likely been lost, it can be difficult to want to spend time with your loved ones. Many people with depression find it easier to withdraw and hide away from their friends and family.

Changes in Appetite and Weight

Depression can also lead to changes in your appetite and weight. This varies from person to person. For some, depression makes them not want to eat at all. Others experience an increase in appetite and weight.


Both mental and physical slowness are common with depression. Depression tends to bring your whole self lower, including your mental and physical function.


The constant emotional battle presented by depression is an exhausting one. And the lack of positive emotion sucks away your energy. Fatigue is a common symptom of depression.


Crying is a very natural response to feelings of sadness, so when sadness increases with depression, crying tends to follow.

Can Anxiety and Depression Cause Physical Symptoms?

There are both physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression. We’ve talked about symptoms like increased heart and breathing rates. But they can both also lead to headaches, IBS, or even chronic pain.

How Are Anxiety and Depression Treated?

Anxiety and depression have similar treatment strategies. The first main component is therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a therapist or counselor is a common and effective treatment for both conditions. Therapy for anxiety emphasizes coping skills, but with depression, a therapist may focus on finding the root cause of negative emotions and behaviors before developing coping skills.

Medications are also commonly used for treatment. Benzodiazepines are commonly used to numb anxiety for short-term relief. Some people recover quickly, and benzodiazepines are all they need.

For long-term treatment for both conditions, antidepressants are used. Like SSRIs and SNRIs, these drugs alter brain chemistry through serotonin and norepinephrine to promote positive feelings. But these drugs regularly come with side effects and are quite often ineffective.

Scientists have now discovered the effectiveness of ketamine therapy for anxiety and depression. Ketamine works with glutamate, a common neurotransmitter, to help your brain’s neuroplasticity and your ability to establish positive thought patterns.

The Bottom Line

Anxiety and depression can be complex mental illnesses to surmount, but it is absolutely possible. Healing is available to you. You can obtain the healing you deserve and achieve mental wellness with the right treatment.

Nue Life allows your brain to form new neural connections and establish fresh thought pathways. Consider Nue Life for ketamine therapy. Take back your mental wellness and experience the healing that ketamine offers.


Anxiety Disorders | UC Santa Cruz

Depression: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

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