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Anxiety vs. Depression: Which One Do I Have?

Navigating through the labyrinth of our minds, we often encounter moments of intense worry, fear, sadness, or emptiness. These emotional landscapes can be profoundly disorienting: you might struggle to get out of bed in the morning or be unable to leave the house. Simple tasks, such as cooking dinner or responding to friends, begin to feel impossible.

If you’re experiencing this, it could be anxiety or depression preventing you from doing the things you love. Understanding which, or whether you’re suffering from both, is a vital step to getting treatment.

Understanding the nuances between anxiety and depression can be challenging. Both can significantly impact one's life, yet they manifest in distinct ways. If you find yourself grappling with overwhelming emotions and negative thoughts, you might wonder, "Do I have anxiety or depression?" Let's dive into these mental health conditions to shed light on their differences and similarities.

What is Depression?

Anxiety may feel like an impending sense of doom, accompanied by racing thoughts and physical restlessness. Depression, on the other hand, might engulf you in a thick fog of hopelessness, draining your energy and enthusiasm for life.

But depression is more than just feeling sad. It's a complex mental health disorder marked by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or worthlessness. Around 5% of adults suffer from a depressive disorder (so you’re not alone). Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common form of depression, but there are other types, such as the milder persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Here are some of the common symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or oversleeping

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things

  • Irritability or restlessness

  • Physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, or body aches

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety, on the other hand, revolves around excessive worry and fear about future events or situations and again, there’s nothing uncommon about suffering from anxiety: over 40 million Americans, or almost one in five, suffer from anxiety.

Here are some common symptoms of anxiety that can help you recognize the disorder:

  • Excessive worry or fear about future events or situations

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge

  • Muscle tension or trembling

  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Sweating, nausea, or dizziness

  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

  • Irritability or mood swings

  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep

  • Avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety

Types of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders encompass a spectrum of experiences, each with its unique features. It’s important to understand the different ways anxiety can manifest into a condition and understanding how you experience anxiety can provide a clear path to treatment:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Chronic worry and excessive anxiety about various aspects of life.

Panic Disorder: Recurrent panic attacks characterized by sudden bouts of intense fear or discomfort.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations.

Specific Phobias: Intense fear or anxiety about specific objects or situations, such as heights, spiders, or flying.

Similarities between Anxiety and Depression

While anxiety and depression are distinct conditions, they often coexist: around 60% of people with anxiety also have symptoms of depression and vice versa. Here are some of the similarities between anxiety and depression.

  • Difficulty concentrating: Both conditions can impair cognitive function and make it challenging to focus on tasks.

  • Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or oversleeping are common symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

  • Physical symptoms: Headaches, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal issues can occur in both conditions.

  • Negative thinking patterns: Persistent negative thoughts about oneself, the world, and the future are prevalent in both anxiety and depression.

Do I Have Anxiety or Depression? How to Tell the Difference

Unravelling the difference between anxiety and depression is important: understanding the source of your symptoms gives you the opportunity to practice patience and

kindness towards yourself, as well as seeking the appropriate treatment.

  • Primary Symptoms: Anxiety primarily involves excessive worry and fear, while depression revolves around persistent sadness and hopelessness.

  • Physical Symptoms: Anxiety tends to manifest with more pronounced physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat and sweating, whereas depression often presents with changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

  • Triggers: Anxiety is often triggered by specific situations or events, whereas depression can linger regardless of external circumstances.

Treatment for Anxiety and Depression

Seeking professional help is crucial for managing anxiety and depression effectively, and there are often similar treatment paths for each. 

Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based therapies can help individuals learn coping strategies and challenge negative thought patterns.

oVRcome’s Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy: Our innovative app-based treatment programmes combine CBT with graded exposure therapy in a safe, virtual reality setting. This is a clinically proven treatment pathway for specific phobias and our programs include social anxiety and panic attacks. Face your fears from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Medication: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed antidepressants that can help alleviate symptoms. Examples include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and venlafaxine (Effexor).

It’s important to recognize that medication treats the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and shouldn’t be relied on alone. Medicate to give yourself the space and energy to tackle your anxiety and depression through therapy and lifestyle changes.

Exercise: Regular exercise has been proven to ease the symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Whether a big gym session or a short walk, exercise boosts your mood.

Sleep: Anxiety and depression make sleep challenging, but a bad night’s sleep compounds the symptoms of these disorders. Establishing a good bedtime routine can help you sleep better. Put down your phone, put the kettle on for a herbal tea and wind down.

Diet: A poor diet has been linked to depression, so making an effort to eat a healthy and varied diet can alleviate depression. While depression makes it harder to make healthy choices, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables could make a big difference.

Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, regular yoga or a meditation practice can complement therapeutic interventions. These mindful practices give you the tools to manage your mental health and a resource to draw on when you’re in the midst of a depressive episode or panic attack.


Anxiety and depression are complex mental health conditions that can significantly impact one's quality of life. While they share some similarities, understanding their distinct features is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Whether you're grappling with anxiety, depression, or both, remember that help is available. Why not explore oVRcome’s innovative treatment programs today?

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