Difference between anxiety and depression

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Health Assured team

23 April 2019

In this post, we explain the difference between anxiety and depression.

It’s important to distinguish them as one in four people in the UK experience mental health problems each year.

As a result, it's not uncommon for you to encounter employees experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. While there are similarities, they’re separate mental conditions.

What’s the difference between stress and depression and anxiety?

These conditions are, as we say, very similar. And it’s vital that you understand the fundamental differences before you can speak to employees about them.

There are a lot of complex and lengthy descriptions out there. But if you want to know ‘what is the difference between stress, anxiety and depression?’ then here are some simple definitions:

  • Stress is the body’s natural reaction to being under pressure.
  • Anxiety is a feeling of worry, dread, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
  • Depression is a feeling of dejection or unhappiness that can negatively affect how an individual thinks or acts. Many people with depression are likely to experience some symptoms of anxiety.

While some of the causes and treatments may overlap, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between stress, anxiety, and depression so employees may receive the correct help.

How to tell the difference between anxiety and depression

The feeling of anxiety at certain points in our lives is normal, however in some cases that feeling may become more constant. When that happens, it becomes harder to control our worries and can often affect our personal and professional lives.

A mental health assessment helps the health professional determine which disorder an individual may be suffering from. They’ll ask about any physical or psychological symptoms, how long it’s been happening for, your worries, fears, emotions, and details of your personal life.

Is anxiety a form of depression?

While both are different, they can happen in reaction to each other. People with depression often experience symptoms similar to people experiencing anxiety and vice versa.

Below are some examples of the physical and mental characteristics that can be displayed by an individual experiencing either of the conditions.

Mental characteristics of anxiety

  • Worry about the immediate or long-term future
  • Uncontrollable thoughts about something going wrong
  • Believing it’s better to avoid situations that could cause anxiety

Mental characteristics of depression

  • Worry that the future is hopeless
  • Not believing that positive experiences will happen in the future
  • Feelings of worthlessness

Physical characteristics of anxiety

  • Muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping and focusing due to racing thoughts

Physical characteristics of depression

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Disruption in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Aches and other physical pain without cause

As you can see, there are a great many differences between anxiety and depression symptoms.

Can you suffer from anxiety and depression?

Although different, it’s possible to have them at the same time.

It’s not uncommon for someone going through depression to experience spells of anxiety or vice versa.

Who to talk to about depression and anxiety?

It can be difficult to distinguish between anxiety and other mental health conditions such as depression. It’s important to seek help if you think you’re affected by either. The first port of call should be to your GP.

While it may be difficult to talk about your feelings with your GP, it’s important to do so.

This is because every piece of information you provide helps them to understand your symptoms so they can make the correct diagnosis.

The sooner you talk to a medical professional the faster you can be on your way to good mental health.

Get support with employee wellbeing with Health Assured

Create a healthy work environment and engage your team members by setting an example.

One way you can do this is by having an Employee Assistance Programme, which improves wellbeing. Our EAP also comes with a wellbeing app, which employees can use whenever to access wellbeing resources.

For urgent guidance on managing an employee with depression or to access anxiety counselling, contact the Health Assured team. Call us now on tel: 0844 891 0352

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