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How To Tell The Difference Between Anxiety And Depression

Posted Jun 10 2009 5:19pm

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Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: stevendepolo
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Torley

Unlike the common cold or the flu anxiety disorders follow a much slower progression.  It could all start with panic attacks, then hypochondria, racing thoughts, palpitations and then, well then depression becomes a real possibility.  After years of being anxious a person can and often will develop depression and I want to detail how one can tell the difference between anxiety and depression.  Let’s start by taking a look at the symptoms for both anxiety disorders and depression.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders: AND                Symptoms of Depression:

Chest pain or tightness                                               Problems concentrating

Cold chills or hot flashes                                             Fatigue and decreased energy

Dizziness                                                                     Feelings of guilt, worthlessness

Feeling of falling                                                          Feeling pessimistic

headaches                                                                   Insomnia

Heart palpitations                                                        Trouble getting out of bed

Nausea                                                                        Irritability

Muscle twitching or muscle aches                                Eating too much or too little

Numbness                                                                    Lost of interest in things you like

Shooting pains                                                             Thoughts of suicide

Easily startled                                                               Frequent thoughts of death

Lump in the throat                                                       Crying Spells

Frequent urination                                                       Trouble making decisions

Diarrhea                                                                       Low sex drive

Fear of dying                                                                Headaches

Fear of going crazy                                                      Hypersomnia - Sleeping too much

Memory loss                                                                 Apathy

Problems concentrating                                               Feelings of deep sadness

Feelings of unreality                                                    Feelings of anger

GERD or frequent heartburn                                        Chronic pain


Blurred vision

Fear of heart attack

Panic attacks

There is more … but you get it.

After looking at the various symptoms what jumps out at you right away?  Probably a couple of things but the one big difference is how anxiety is rooted in the body and mind, whereas depression lives more in your feelings.  Feelings about yourself, people you love, things you love, and your general outlook on life.

Anxiety can do this too to some degree since it can create a sense of frustration and impatience with being anxious for long periods of time.  Depression however is in many ways more sinister precisely because it can create a sense of emotional detachment and deep sorrow.  It’s the kind of sadness that hurts.

How an anxiety disorder can give life to depression isn’t really rocket science.  That frustration and anger I mentioned about having anxiety, well overtime this can “settle” in your thoughts and feelings.  Anxiety is the thing that makes you afraid and makes you grab at your chest, depression is the thing that makes you say, “damn it I’m tired of this”.  It literally sucks the life and joy out of a person.

Anxiety disorders are clearly a more phyiscal ailment.  Anxiety disorders are based on phyiscal symptoms that give rise to disturbing thoughts.  Those thoughts, over time, can and often do morph into depression.  Taken together this is the world’s nastiest soul crushing combo. And although anxiety disorders are not the only possible cause of depression, far from it, it can play a significant role in developing depression.

But even with all this in front of us, there is hope to be had.  Depression and anxiety are treatable.  And later this week I’ll be talking about the best coping strategies to deal with this two headed monster.  Until then stay frosty and don’t let anxiety or depression impress you too much.

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