To those suffering from either anxiety or depression, there’s a definite difference in symptoms. But what about the physiology of both conditions? Are there differences between the two in cause and treatment?
Anxiety and depression aren’t completely separate entities. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. But it’s important to note that anxiety and depression each have their own sets of causes, symptoms, and treatments, even though in some cases they overlap. Broken down by symptoms, cause, and treatment, here are some key differences between the two diagnoses.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Often the confusion between anxiety and depression lies in the symptoms. Clinically depressed people can exhibit signs of anxiousness, which can lead to patient confusion. When many people think of depression, they automatically envision someone who is lethargic and sad, but a depressed person can experience a variety of emotions. Often someone who is depressed feels hopeless and overwhelmed, and anxiety can certainly go hand-in-hand with that feeling.
Whereas depression may leave a patient feeling overwhelmingly sad, anxiety can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including chest tightness, difficulty breathing, nausea, or a “panic attack” feeling. While anxiety is something almost everyone will experience at some point, a true anxiety attack can be debilitating, especially if they happen frequently.
Tracing the Cause
Both anxiety and depression can be traced back to a chemical imbalance, there can be environmental causes, as well. Both depression and anxiety can be traced back to a trauma during the course of a sufferer’s life, with abuse named as a primary inciting factor for both conditions.
Researchers have linked both anxiety and depression to the physical makeup of a patient’s brain. With anxiety, scientists have noted abnormal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that are believed to lead to generalized anxiety disorder. Scientists believe the brain’s structure causes an abnormal reaction in certain situations. Depression, however, is believed to be more chemical in nature, with similar neurotransmitter problems leading to an imbalance in chemicals in the brain that leads a patient to become depressed.
In both cases, the medical community believes there is a genetic link, with those whose parents suffered from either condition being predisposed to potentially developing symptoms. Pinpointing the specific gene could eventually lead to improved treatment options.
In both anxiety and depression, treatment hinges on the nature of symptoms. Therapy can help both conditions, although in some instances a combination of therapy and medication may be required to achieve results. For depressed patients, antidepressants are often prescribed, but antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed for patients suffering from severe anxiety. Antidepressants can have side effects, so it’s important that whichever condition is being treated, a patient do so under the supervision of a licensed therapist.
Another commonality between anxiety and depression is that sufferers frequently procrastinate seeking treatment. This can lead to a decline in the quality of a person’s life that can possibly be improved under the care of a counselor – perhaps an online counselor. Whether symptoms are mild or severe, if they’re interfering with a person’s life, it’s important that they seek treatment to begin enjoying life to its fullest.