The Link Between Anxiety And Depression

What is the Link Between Anxiety And Depression?

Writen By: Sadia Mirza
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: November 28, 2023

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders, affecting millions of people globally. Do you know that these two conditions often go hand in hand? The link between anxiety and depression is so strong that it can have a profound impact on your overall well-being.

You may have heard the terms anxiety and depression a lot but understanding them deeply is important to face the challenges that come with them. They are highly comorbid with each other and are considered to belong to the broader category of internalizing disorders.

If you are here to gain an in-depth understanding of the link between anxiety and depression, their differences and similarities, and to discover strategies and coping mechanisms to break free from their grip, keep reading.

Understanding Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and its symptoms

Anxiety is a normal and natural human emotion that anyone can experience from time to time. It is a feeling of nervousness, worry, and discomfort about something with an uncertain consequence.

The condition of anxiety develops and interferes with daily life when it becomes excessive and persistent. The DSM 5 includes a major category of anxiety disorders, which consist of six main types. Anxiety can manifest in many ways, affecting your thoughts and your body. Some typical symptoms of anxiety include:

Physical signs

  • accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shivering
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth

Emotional symptoms

  • Feeling easily annoyed.
  • Difficulty in focusing and concentrating.
  • Worrying excessively and unnecessarily about things that are unlikely to happen.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
  • Having a sense of panic or impending doom.

Behavioral symptoms

  • Avoiding situations and events that trigger anxiety. 
  • Using drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety.
  • Procrastinating and delaying tasks due to anxious thoughts.

Depression and its symptoms

Depression is a prevalent mental health issue that can interfere with daily activities and is marked by persistent feelings of sadness and apathy. It is more than just feeling sad and going through a rough patch.

Depression can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, such as:

Physical symptoms

Emotional symptoms

  • Feeling of sadness, anger, or irritability.
  • energy loss or increased exhaustion.
  • Trouble thinking clearly, focusing, and making decisions.
  • Persistent low mood and feeling tearful.
  • Decreased self-esteem, feeling worthless and guilty.
  • Change in appetite 
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Substance abuse using alcohol or drugs.
  • Absence of interest for activities.
  • Decreased productivity and focusing ability.
  • Increased irritation and anger outbursts.
  • Developing poor eating habits like excessive eating or eating less.
  • Failing to take care of oneself.
  • Sleeping disturbances, such as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression

Research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that around 40 million people in the United States have anxiety disorder.

On the other hand, according to research, 17.3 million people in America who are 18 years of age and older suffer from depressive illness each year. Additionally, 1.9 million children aged 3 to 17 are diagnosed with depression. Depression affects all age groups—men, women, teenagers, and children. 

What is the Link between Anxiety and Depression?

Both anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders that often co-occur. So the question arises here: What is the link between anxiety and depression?

The link between anxiety and depression can be seen in a study that shows that people with anxiety are also often diagnosed with depression and vice versa. It suggests that anxiety and depression may not be separate disorders but rather two aspects of the same underlying condition.

The link between anxiety and depression can be complex, with one condition potentially leading to the development of the other. For example, someone experiencing chronic anxiety may become overwhelmed by the constant worry and stress, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair, which are characteristics of depression. Conversely, individuals with depression may feel trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts and low self-esteem, which can fuel feelings of anxiety and fear. This shows that major depression and generalized anxiety disorder can cause one another, leading to comorbidity.  

By exploring the link between anxiety and depression, you may also ask, Can anxiety turn into depression? Or Can depression cause anxiety? So let’s look at both of the terms and their comorbidity.

Anxiety can lead to feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem, which can contribute to the development of depression. Anxiety keeps us in our comfort zones and due to this, we may feel anxious about things that are important to us and avoid them. This results in you becoming less enjoyable and you may not like who you are, which develops depression. Anxiety also causes a ‘fight or flight’ mode in you easily and very often, the release of stress hormones may result in a depressed mood. Thus, individuals who have uncontrollable, consistent worry and fear, along with other depressive signs, would be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder with depressive features. 

It is important to note that the relationship between anxiety and depression is complex and not fully understood because of their comorbidity, the same symptoms, and the same risk factors. However, there is a growing body of research suggesting that it’s possible that anxiety leads to depression and makes the symptoms of depression feel worse.

On the other hand, a person with depression often experiences a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. Depression can make it difficult to cope with stressful situations, which can raise the likelihood of developing anxiety. For example, a person with depression may be more likely to avoid social situations or worry excessively about everyday tasks.

Moreover, depression causes individuals to become isolated and withdraw from social activities, which leads to increased anxiety. People who develop major depressive disorder (MDD) also struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Thus, we can say that GAD and MDD are both connected.

In a nutshell, the link between anxiety and depression is complex and bidirectional. This means that anxiety can lead to depression, and depression can lead to anxiety. Additionally, the person can occasionally find themselves in a vicious cycle where depression exacerbates anxiety and anxiety exacerbates depression.

Comorbidity Of Anxiety And Depression

Depression and anxiety are two mental health disorders that often coexist and can have a profound impact on an individual’s well-being. They both have overlapping symptoms and causes so it is not uncommon for someone to experience symptoms of both conditions simultaneously

In the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the diagnostic criteria for comorbidity involve looking at the specific symptoms associated with anxiety disorders (like excessive worry, restlessness, panic attacks) and depressive disorders (such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep or appetite).

When a person exhibits symptoms that meet the criteria for both anxiety and depressive disorders within a specified timeframe, they may receive diagnoses for both conditions. The DSM-5 helps clinicians understand and diagnose mental health conditions, considering various symptoms and their severity to provide appropriate treatment and support.

Risk Factors

The comorbidity of anxiety and depression is a prevalent issue. This overlap in mental health conditions stems from shared risk factors and triggers that contribute to their development and exacerbation.

  • A family history of both depression and anxiety increases the chance of experiencing both conditions.
  • Traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, loss, and rejection can raise the individual’s possibility of depression and anxiety. 
  • Exposure to stress can disrupt the brain’s function and raise your risk for depression and anxiety.
  • Individuals with certain personality traits, such as neuroticism and introversion, are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Triggers

  • Major life events such as job loss, the death of a loved one, and divorce can trigger depression and anxiety.
  • Chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, or chronic pain, can raise your risk for anxiety and depression.
  • Excessive use of alcohol and drugs can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Social isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor diet and inadequate sleep can disrupt mood and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Similarities in Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression share several overlapping symptoms due to the many factors and underlying issues behind both disorders. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Both anxiety and depression can cause tiredness, lethargy, and fatigue.
  • The link between anxiety and depression symptoms can be seen in sleeping disturbances such as excessive sleeping and insomnia.
  • Anxiety and depression both result in increased irritability, mood swings, and a short temper.
  • Problems focusing, memory issues, and difficulties staying on task are prevalent in both conditions.
  • Feelings of restlessness and agitation can be present in both anxiety and depression.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, digestive problems, and rapid heartbeat can be experienced in both anxiety and depression.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities occurs in both anxiety and depression.
  • Socially isolating and withdrawing yourself can be seen in both anxiety and depression.
  • Negative self-talk, rumination on negative experiences, and a pessimistic outlook can be experienced in both anxiety and depression.

Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

Many people, when reading about depression and anxiety, tend to think they are the same. They indeed fall under the same umbrella of mental health, but the differences between anxiety and depression, and stress are obvious. 

Here are the key differences between Anxiety and Depression:

  • Depression is typified by a persistent feeling of hopelessness, melancholy, and disinterest in once-enjoyable activities, whereas anxiety is known to be characterized by excessive worry, fear, and nervousness.. 
  • People with anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and trembling, while people with depression may experience physical signs such as tiredness, changes in appetite and sleep, and aches and pains. 
  • Anxiety can be triggered by specific situations or events that may occur in the future, or it can be generalized and persistent, while depression is not triggered by specific events; it is related to negative thoughts about past events and present circumstances.
  • Anxiety can result in avoidance of feared situations and excessive reassurance-seeking, while depression is withdrawal from social activities and loss of interest in activities.

Depression vs Anxiety

depression vs anxiety

The impact of anxiety and depression on an individual’s life

Anxiety and depression can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, affecting their emotional, physical, and social well-being. The connection between depression and anxiety can be seen in the effect they have on a person’s life.

  • You may isolate yourself from family and friends, feeling unable to go to work, and you start to avoid certain places that make you depressed and anxious.
  • You may start using drugs and alcohol and other substance abuse.
  • Your physical health may start to worsen and it may result in digestive disorders, heart disease,  obesity, and chronic pain.
  • You may get other health problems due to substance use such as thyroid issues and respiratory illnesses.
  • It weakens your immune system. 
  • Anxiety and depression in relationships can affect your bonding with others due to anger, irritability, and mood swings. These disorders can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships.
  • It becomes difficult to enjoy life or find the motivation to do things.
  • Depression and anxiety can cause fatigue, making it difficult to get out of bed or concentrate on tasks. They can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
  • Anxiety and depression can increase the risk for other disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, body dysmorphic and other eating or behavioral disorders.
  • Depression and anxiety can also interfere with your work life as difficulty in concentrating and completing tasks can lead to failure at work. This can cause school drop outs or job loss

Treating Comorbid Anxiety and Depression

There are many treatment options available that can be used to treat and address anxiety and depression. 

Therapy

Therapy is also known as psychotherapy and counseling. It is a form of treatment that involves talking about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with a psychiatrist. There are many different types of therapy, such as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Interpersonal therapy (IPT), and Psychodynamic therapy.

Medication

Medication can be an effective treatment option for anxiety and depression. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics make therapy more effective. There are many medications available and your doctor is going to prescribe the medication for your individual needs. 

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help improve cognitive function and mood. Getting enough sleep can also help improve your condition.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic approaches such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can be effective in reducing anxiety and depression. In yoga, breathing exercises can help treat the mind, body, and spirit. 

Helplines For Anxiety and Depression

Many helplines offer support and resources for people struggling with anxiety and depression.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

Crisis Text Line

Text HOME to 741741 

The Trevor Project

1-866-488-7386 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline

1-800-662-HELP (4357) 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline

1-800-950-NAMI (6264) 

Coping Strategies and Self-Help

Establish A Regular Routine

Having a consistent daily routine and structure is beneficial for depression and anxiety. Set regular times for waking up, going to bed, meals, and activities. Initially, it will be difficult for you but start small in the beginning, like going to bed ten minutes earlier, then slowly make the changes. Don’t force yourself. The one thing that can motivate you to make all of these changes in your life is to think and read about their benefits and how these changes will positively impact your life.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise has a positive impact on both mental and physical health. Start with a short walk or some light stretching, then increase it to moderate-intensity exercise. 

Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet is crucial for the positive development of the brain. Eating nutritious foods can improve mood and energy levels. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive caffeine, which can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Take more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. 

Getting Enough Sleep

One cannot forget the emphasis on sleeping to treat anxiety and depression. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as burning a scented candle (if you are not allergic to the smell), taking a warm bath, creating a comfortable sleep environment, keeping all distractions away, and avoiding caffeine and screen time before bed. Reading a good and positive book before sleeping can also make you happy and help you sleep peacefully. 

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help calm the mind and body, reducing symptoms of anxiety and promoting relaxation. These practices can be done regularly, even for short periods of time. 

You can also listen to beautiful, relaxing music with nature views to feel good and get rid of negative thoughts.

Engage in Enjoyable Activities

Make time for activities that make you happy and bring you joy and satisfaction. Whether it is reading, listening to music, exploring the outdoors, or picking up a hobby, pleasurable activities can lift one’s spirits and give them a sense of direction..

Socially Active

Make an effort to connect with friends, family, or support groups. Regular social interaction can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Practicing Gratitude

Focusing on the positive side of your life can shift your perspective and improve your mood. Keep a gratitude journal to note things you are grateful for every day. I recommend reading the book “The Magic” by Rhona Byrne, as it will help you establish an attitude of gratitude.

Remember, managing depression and anxiety is a journey. The link between anxiety and depression and their comorbidity sometimes makes it difficult to identify them but with proper and professional help, you can find what works best for you. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and don’t hesitate to seek help when needed.

Self-Help Books

There are many books available that can give you information on the link between anxiety and depression and help you overcome them.

1. ANXIETY RX: 50 HABITS TO OVERCOME ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

This is a book by Dr. R. Ahmed. It gives you a list of 50 ways to both prevent and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

2. Navigating The S.T.O.R.M.: A Guide to Anxiety and Depression Management

This book is by Marusya Wellness Publishing. It helps you discover your inner strength and free yourself from the hold that anxiety and depression have on your life through simple strategies that will make a difference from day one!

3. The Anxiety and Depression Workbook: Easy-to-Use CBT Methods to Control Your Mood and Feel Better Right Now

This workbook by Michael A. Tompkins offers evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) skills to help you target and tear down the emotional avoidance barriers that drive your anxiety and depression.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the link between anxiety and depression is undeniable, as we read various studies that showed their comorbidity that individuals with anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of developing depression and those who have depression also showed the symptoms of anxiety.

By understanding the link between anxiety and depression, healthcare professionals can develop approaches that target and treat both conditions simultaneously, which can lead to improved outcomes and a better quality of life for individuals struggling with these mental health disorders.

Raising awareness about the link between anxiety and depression can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage individuals to seek help early on. No one should feel ashamed of any of their mental health disorders and should be encouraged to seek help as early as possible.

FAQs

Is anxiety and depression the same thing?

No, anxiety and depression are not the same thing. Anxiety is nervousness, unease, or worry, usually about an event or something with an unknown outcome. It triggers the fight or flight response in an individual.

Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder that causes a constant feeling of sadness and a loss of interest. It is not simply feeling sad or blue for a short period of time. 

Why are depression and anxiety linked?

This is because the two conditions share some of the same underlying causes, symptoms, and risk factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences.

What is mixed anxiety and depressive disorder?

Mixed anxiety and depressive disorder (MADD) is a mental health disorder that is described by the presence of both anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

MADD can be a difficult condition to diagnose, as the symptoms can overlap with other mental health conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD).

What is the impact of anxiety and depression on relationships?

Anxiety and depression can cause conflict in relationships, as people with anxiety may be more likely to misunderstand their partner’s behavior and become easily irritated. This can lead to frequent arguments and disagreements.

 People with depression may be more withdrawn and passive-aggressive. This can make it difficult for partners to resolve conflict constructively.

It can also affect their intimacy and make it difficult to develop a deep and meaningful connection with a partner.

What is the science behind anxiety and depression?

Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, have been linked to anxiety and depression. Abnormalities in certain brain regions, such as the amygdala and hippocampus, have been associated with anxiety and depression. Research suggests that there is a genetic component to anxiety and depression, which means people who have a family history of these conditions are at a greater risk for depression and anxiety.

Is it possible to have depression and anxiety at the same time?

Yes, it is completely possible to have depression and anxiety at the same time and it is known as comorbidity when two disorders coexist in an individual.

What are the different types of anxiety?

There are six main types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Agoraphobia
  • Separation anxiety disorder

What are the different types of depression?

There are different types of depression:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Peripartum depression
  • Psychotic depression