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What is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression?

What is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression?

Date : 19 Aug 2022

Anxiety and Depression relations

Depression and anxiety are two examples of mood disorders. Depression is characterized by low mood, loss of motivation, and other negative emotions. Anxiety is characterized by an increase in nervousness, worry, or despair. Although the two are distinct, they are coexisting conditions. Depression often manifests itself in agitation and restlessness. 

Anxiety and depression are normal human feelings that everyone occasionally experiences. However, if you experience these emotions frequently and they have a negative impact on your daily life, you may have a treatable disorder. 

Anxiety and depression and their associated symptoms are examples of the comorbidity seen across all psychiatric disorders. According to a worldwide survey, nearly half of those diagnosed with major depression in their lifetime also suffer from anxiety. 

The positive point is that these disorders are manageable with treatment, allowing those who suffer from them to lead fulfilling lives.

What is Anxiety?

The DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria defines anxiety as “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation) about several events or activities (like work or performance in school) for at least six months.” Anxiety is further defined as the inability to control worrying, accompanied by other symptoms such as restlessness, feeling keyed up, on edge, easily becoming tired, having trouble concentrating, becoming irritable, tense muscles, and having trouble sleeping. 

While the aforementioned is a definition of anxiety in terms of generalized anxiety disorder, there is a spectrum of anxiety disorders that may include:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The symptoms of anxiety are: 

  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Irritability
  • Unable to focus
  • Insomnia

What is Depression?

Depression, also called a major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes you to feel sad or uninterested in life all the time.

The majority of people experience occasional feelings of sadness or depression. It’s natural to feel this way when faced with tragedy or hardship. But when overwhelming sadness, accompanied by feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, persists for days or weeks and prevents the individual from engaging in everyday activities, it may be more than sadness.

The DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria say that someone is depressed if they have at least five of the following symptoms: a sad mood for most of the day, almost every day; a lack of interest in all or most activities; a significant weight loss or gain; a decrease or increase in appetite; a slowing of physical movement; exhaustion; a sense of worthlessness or guilt; trouble concentrating; and frequent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts.

Depressive disorders are as diverse as anxiety disorders. Types of depression, or mood disorders, may include: 

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Situational depression
  • Psychotic depression
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Postpartum (Peripartum) Depression
  • Atypical depression

The symptoms of depression are:

  • Depressed mood persists throughout the day but is incredibly intense in the morning.
  • Struggle with fatigue or low energy levels daily.
  • Frequently experience feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Despair; experience feelings of hopelessness and despair.
  • Struggle to pay attention, retain information, and make sound judgments.
  • Sleep poorly or excessively daily.
  • Lack any enthusiasm for or enjoyment of regular daily activities.
  • Consider suicide and death frequently (not just a fear of death).
  • Experience a lack of energy or agitation.
  • Gained or lost weight.

The connection between anxiety and depression

Both anxiety and depression tend to cycle in and out of each other. When someone has depression symptoms, they may become anxious about how they are feeling. Alternatively, a person may experience persistent anxiety that can eventually lead to depression if it affects their day-to-day functioning or interpersonal relationships. 

Anxiety and depression have a shared biological foundation. Clinical anxiety disorders and mood disorders both involve alterations in neurotransmitter function, which can lead to chronic states of anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression are associated with low serotonin levels and neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine. Anxiety and depression share common biological roots but are experienced differently. Thus, anxiety and depression may be viewed as different sides of the same coin.

Both anxiety and depression can occur either in a chain reaction or simultaneously. The specific diagnoses of anxiety and mood problems are considered comorbid conditions when both issues simultaneously meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis.

It is difficult to determine whether one disorder caused another. Some people experience depression first and then anxiety later (or vice versa), making it appear that depression caused the stress. When looking at the root causes of mental illness, we find that they are far more nuanced and multifaceted than previously thought. 

Anxiety and depression are linked in a complex way:

  • When an anxiety disorder already exists, the chances of developing depression are much higher. Statistics show that severe and persistent anxiety affects approximately half of those with major depression. 
  • People with depression frequently experience worry and stress, and one can easily precipitate the other, with anxiety typically preceding depression.
  • Those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are particularly susceptible to depression.

The root cause of anxiety and depression

Family Background

A person’s age can determine whether or not anxiety or depression runs in the family, and it is more common in families where one of these conditions occurs before the age of 20. Most of the time, the younger an individual is when they experience anxiety or depression, the more likely it is genetic. 

Even if anxiety and depression appear in older family members, they can still be caused by genes. Nonetheless, painful or stressful life events are often associated with new conditions in people over 20.

Anxiety and depression tendencies are more likely to be passed down through immediate family members than through more remote ones. Because of the closeness of your relationships with them, you are more likely to develop anxiety or depression if your twin, parent, or sibling suffers from these conditions.

Childhood Trauma

Anxiety disorders and symptoms are strongly linked to traumatic experiences in childhood. Abuse of any kind is traumatic, as is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, witnessing parental substance abuse, and being abandoned. 

Therapists often differentiate between “Big T” traumas and “Little T” traumas when discussing trauma effects. “Big T” events, such as acts of violence or sexual abuse, are commonly thought to lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Milder forms of abuse, such as bullying, insulting, scapegoating, humiliation, etc., make up what is known as “little T traumas.” “Little T” traumas may not be as visible as those with “Big T” traumas, but they can be just as harmful, mainly if they occur frequently.

Some people are more prone to developing anxiety and panic disorders after experiencing trauma in childhood. These are linked to shifts in brain structure and function and the unpredictable nature of one’s early life environment, ability to interpret bodily sensations, and experience of those sensations.

Brain Chemistry

Disruptions in neuroendocrine function, neurotransmitter levels, and neuroanatomical structure all play a role in developing and maintaining mood and anxiety disorders. The extensive connectivity between the limbic system, brain stem, and higher cortical circuits containing neurotransmitters and neuropeptides makes it challenging to pinpoint the most functionally relevant differences.

Additionally, environmental experiences and underlying genetic predisposition can cause immediate changes in brain structure or function or neurotransmitter signaling, raising the risk for psychopathology.

How can you treat depression and anxiety?

No matter how minor your anxiety or depression is, it is still a good idea to get help to manage it. Think about how much and different aspects of your life are affected by this and use that information to help guide your decision about what kind of help might be most beneficial.


Various talk therapies exist to help with depression and/or anxiety-related issues. Anxiety and depression can be treated in several ways within structured psychotherapy modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help with both problems by instructing you to deal with negative thought patterns. Also, CBT is likely to have you increase your behavioral efforts for both issues. 

Psychodynamic talk therapy for anxiety and depression may have more in common than not. You will be encouraged to openly share your past and present experiences to identify the unconscious thoughts and struggles that fuel your symptoms.


Self-help interventions can be a good starting point if your symptoms are mild, fluctuate frequently, or if you have previously received formal treatment and are worried about relapse.

These methods can include self-help materials such as books and apps that provide a way to practice skills targeting a symptom by adapting evidence-based psychotherapies.


Medication belonging to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) class has been effective against anxiety and depression. Some antidepressants, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and anti-anxiety drugs are some of the other medications that may be prescribed based on the symptoms.

Bottom Line

Anxiety and depression are major mental illnesses because of which so many around the world suffer. Understanding each individual’s symptoms can help treat these disorders. Several methods and safe medications can treat these disorders, helping the individual manage them. Modifying your lifestyle with better sleep, more social support, stress-reduction techniques, and regular exercise may also be beneficial.

You should avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs if you have either of these conditions. Both conditions can be exacerbated by these factors and thus hampering the treatment.

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