Depression and anxiety can occur at the same time. In fact, it’s been estimated that 45 percent of people with one mental health condition meet the criteria for two or more disorders. One study found that of people with either anxiety or depression have the other condition.
Although each condition has its own causes, they may share similar symptoms and treatments. Read on to learn more, including tips for management and what to expect from a clinical diagnosis.
Some symptoms of depression and anxiety overlap, such as problems with sleep, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. But there are several key differences that help distinguish between the two.
Feeling down, sad, or upset is normal. It can be concerning feeling that way for several days or weeks on end.
Physical symptoms and behavioral changes caused by depression include:
- decreased energy, chronic fatigue, or feeling sluggish frequently
- difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recalling
- pain, aches, cramps, or gastrointestinal problems without any clear cause
- changes in appetite or weight
- difficulty sleeping, waking early, or oversleeping
Emotional symptoms of depression include:
- loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies
- persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
- feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- anger, irritability, or restlessness
- feeling guilty or experiencing feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- thoughts of death or suicide
- suicide attempts
Anxiety, or fear and worry, can happen to anyone from time to time, too. It’s not unusual to experience anxiety before a big event or important decision.
But, chronic anxiety can be debilitating and lead to irrational thoughts and fears that interfere with your daily life.
Physical symptoms and behavioral changes caused by generalized anxiety disorder include:
- feeling fatigued easily
- difficulty concentrating or recalling
- muscle tension
- racing heart
- grinding teeth
- sleep difficulties, including problems falling asleep and restless, unsatisfying sleep
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
- restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
- difficulty controlling worry or fear
- If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- • Stay with the person until help arrives.
- • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
You know what’s normal for you. If you find yourself experiencing feelings or behaviors that aren’t typical or if something seems off, this might be a sign you need to seek help from a healthcare provider. It’s always better to talk about what you’re feeling and experiencing so that treatment can begin early if it’s necessary.
With that being said, some online self-diagnosis tests are available to help you better understand what may be happening. These tests, while helpful, aren’t a replacement for a professional diagnosis from your doctor. They can’t take other conditions that may be impacting your health into account, either.
Popular self-help tests for anxiety and depression include:
In addition to a formal treatment plan from your doctor, these strategies may help you find relief from symptoms. It’s important to know, though, that these tips may not work for everyone, and they may not work each time.
The goal of managing depression and anxiety is to create a series of treatment options that can all work together to help, to some degree, whenever you need to use them.
1. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling — and know that it’s not your fault
Depression and anxiety disorders are medical conditions. They aren’t the result of failure or weakness. What you feel is the result of underlying causes and triggers; it’s not the result of something you did or didn’t do.
2. Do something that you have control over, like making your bed or taking out the trash
In the moment, regaining a bit of control or power can help you cope with overwhelming symptoms. Accomplish a task you can manage, such as neatly restacking books or sorting your recycling. Do something to help give yourself a sense of accomplishment and power.
3. You could also create a morning, evening, or even daily routine
Routine is sometimes helpful for people with anxiety and depression. This provides structure and a sense of control. It also allows you to create space in your day for self-care techniques that can help you control symptoms.
4. Do your best to stick to a sleep schedule
Aim for seven to eight hours each night. More or less than that may complicate symptoms of both conditions. Inadequate or poor sleep can cause problems with your cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous symptoms.
5. Try to eat something nutritious, like an apple or some nuts, at least once a day
When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you may reach for comforting foods like pasta and sweets to alleviate some of the tension. However, these foods provide little nutrition. Try to help nourish your body with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
6. If you’re up for it, go for a walk around the block
suggests exercise can be an effective treatment for depression because it’s a natural mood booster and releases feel-good hormones. However, for some people, exercise or a gym can trigger anxiety and fear. If that’s the case for you, look for more natural ways to move, such as walking around your neighborhood or looking for an online exercise video you can do at home.
7. Do something that you know brings you comfort, such as watching a favorite movie or flipping through a magazine
Give yourself time to focus on you and the things you like. Down time is a great way to let your body rest, and it can distract your brain with things that bring you a boost.
8. If you haven’t left the house in a while, consider doing something you find soothing, like getting your nails done or getting a massage
Relaxation techniques can improve your quality of life and may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Find an activity that feels right for you and you can practice regularly, such as:
9. Reach out to someone you’re comfortable talking to and talk about whatever you feel like, whether that’s how you’re feeling or something you saw on Twitter
Strong relationships are one of the best ways to help you feel better. Connecting with a friend or family member can provide a natural boost and let you find a reliable source of support and encouragement.
Symptoms that last two weeks or more may be an indication you have depression, anxiety, or both. Severe symptoms may include:
- problems with sleep
- unexplained emotional changes
- sudden loss of interest
- feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
If you’re not feeling like yourself and want help understanding, make an appointment to see your doctor. It’s important to be open and honest so they can fully understand what’s happening and get a clear picture of what you’ve been feeling.
There’s no single test that can diagnose depression or anxiety. Instead, your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam and a depression or anxiety screening test. For this, they’ll ask you a series of questions that help them get a better insight into what you’ve been experiencing.
If the results aren’t clear or if your doctor suspects the symptoms may be the result of another condition, they may order tests to rule out underlying issues. Blood tests can check your thyroid, vitamin, and hormone levels.
In some cases, general practitioners will refer you to a mental health expert, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, if they don’t feel equipped to properly manage your symptoms and conditions or if they suspect you’re experiencing more than one condition.
Although depression and anxiety are two separate conditions, they share many of the same treatments. A combination of these may be used to treat both conditions at the same time.
Each type of therapy has unique characteristics that make it more suited to some people and not others. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With CBT, you’ll learn to adjust your thoughts, behaviors, and reactions to be more even and rational.
- Interpersonal therapy. This type focuses on learning communication strategies that can help you express yourself better.
- Problem-solving therapy. This therapy focuses on using coping skills to manage symptoms.
Several types of medication may be used to treat depression, anxiety, or both. Because the two conditions overlap in many ways, one medication may be enough to treat both conditions. Your doctor may prescribe:
- Antidepressants. Several classes of this drug are available, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Each carry unique benefits and risks. The type you use will depend largely on the severity of your symptoms.
- Antianxiety medications. These drugs can help reduce symptoms of anxiety but may not help with all symptoms of depression. Some of these medications should only be used for a short amount of time due to risk of addiction.
- Mood stabilizers. These drugs may be used to stabilize mood when antidepressants don’t work by themselves.
Hypnotherapy isn’t widely used in psychotherapy treatments, but research suggests this alternative approach may actually help ease some symptoms of both conditions. This includes loss off focus, greater emotional control, and better management of feelings of self-consciousness.
You don’t have to live with unusual feelings, thoughts, or other symptoms of either depression or anxiety. Talk with your doctor if these feelings or changes last longer than a week or two. Early treatment is the best way to manage the conditions and find treatments that are effective in the long-term.
Finding the right treatment for you may take some time. Most medications require two weeks or more to be effective. Likewise, you may have to try several medications to find the right option for you. Your doctor will work with you to find the best option.