Depression vs. Anxiety: Which One Do I Have?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on January 18, 2023
5 min read

Anxiety and depression are types of mood disorders. Among other things, depression causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and reduced energy. Anxiety creates feelings of nervousness, worry, or dread. Although the two conditions are different, you can have both at the same time. Agitation and restlessness can be symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

It's normal to have feelings of anxiety or depression from time to time. But when these feelings happen often and they interfere with your life, you might have a disorder that’s treatable.

Your symptoms can help your doctor figure out which of these two conditions you have, or whether you have both. Some of the same treatments work for anxiety and depression.



Depression affects how you feel and act. When you're depressed, you may have symptoms like:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, or anxiousness
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • A lack of energy
  • Eating more or less than you used to
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating

For your symptoms to be considered depression, you need to have them most of the day, almost every day, for at least 2 weeks. And they shouldn't have a medical cause, like a thyroid problem. Your doctor can check you for medical conditions that cause symptoms like those of depression.

Worry and fear are normal parts of life. But when these feelings don't go away or they're excessive, they can be signs of an anxiety disorder.

You may have a problem with anxiety if you often feel:

  • Overwhelmed by worry
  • Cranky or on edge
  • Sweaty or shaky
  • Like you're out of control

There are a few types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms.

Generalized anxiety disorder is when you worry about many different things.

Social anxiety disorder is excessive worry when you're around other people.

Panic disorder causes sudden feelings of fear, with symptoms like chest pain and a pounding heart.

Phobias are intense fears of places or things, like closed spaces or animals.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is when you have a pattern of thoughts or fears that causes you to repeat certain behaviors.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually happens after you’ve been through something  difficult or traumatic. It can show up as flashbacks, panic attacks, or anxious feelings when something triggers your memory of the event.  

The main difference between depression and anxiety is the symptoms. Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness. You also have no energy and you lose interest in activities you once loved. Some people with depression think about hurting themselves.

Anxiety involves fear or worry that you can't control. Depending on the type of anxiety you have, the worry can surface during everyday activities like meeting new people.

Both depression and anxiety are very common, and they often happen together. About 60% of people with anxiety also have symptoms of depression, and vice versa. Each condition can make symptoms of the other get worse or last longer.

The same genes may be behind both conditions. Anxiety and depression could also stem from the same structures or processes in the brain. Stress and trauma early in your life can trigger both depression and anxiety.

If you have anxiety, you may be at a greater risk for depression. Experts say that avoiding the things you fear might lead to depression.

It can be harder for doctors to diagnose and treat depression and anxiety when they happen together. That's why it's important to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms.

Treatment for anxiety and depression involves talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. 

Talk therapy (counseling)

A professional therapist can develop a plan to treat your anxiety, depression, or both. Some types of therapy that can help are:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is one of the main types of talk therapy. It teaches you how to think and behave differently to stop triggering your anxiety or depression.

Interpersonal therapy. It shows you how to communicate better.

Problem-solving therapy. It gives you skills to manage your symptoms.

You can find a therapist who specializes in these through the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Or ask your doctor for a referral.

Anxiety and depression medication

Your doctor can prescribe an antidepressant drug to treat both depression and anxiety symptoms, such as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), an SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), or others such as bupropion and mirtazapine.

Some examples of SSRIs are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Symbyax)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

Some examples of SNRIs are:

  • Desvenlafaxine (Khedezla, Pristiq)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Examples of bupropion include:

  • Aplenzin
  • Wellbutrin
  • Wellbutrin SR
  • Wellbutrin XL

Tell your doctor about all your symptoms so they can decide which medication might be best. Mention any supplements you take, even if they’re herbal or natural ones, in case they could affect your treatment.

It may take a few weeks or months for your medicine to work. You might have to try a few kinds before you find one that’s right for you.


It’s a proven mood-booster that’s good for your body and mind. Exercise also raises your self-esteem and confidence and can improve your relationships. It’s considered to be a treatment for mild to moderate depression.

Relaxation techniques

Give yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises a try. Meditating for just 2-5 minutes during the day can ease your anxiety and lighten your mood. Try simple strategies such as these:

  • Focus on your breath.
  • Picture a beautiful image in your mind.
  • Repeat a simple word or mantra, like "love" or "happiness."

Check your diet

Nutritious foods can boost your mood and energy. Choose lean proteins along with a little bit of healthy fats, like nuts and seeds, to help you feel calmer and more satisfied. Fill half your plate with colorful fruits and veggies. Limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.

That doesn’t mean you need to banish treats entirely. It’s OK to eat everything in moderation. Just make baked goods, sweets, or whatever else you crave an occasional indulgence.

Get support

Strong relationships help you feel better. Reach out to family and friends and let them know what you’re going through so they can support and encourage you. 

If you think you need more help than they can give, reach out to your doctor or a licensed therapist or counselor. Or join a support group, where you'll meet people going through some of the same things you are.

If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, or if you know someone who’s in danger of suicide, call or text the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Trained counselors are available 24/7 and can offer help and resources for you and your loved ones.