Depression and anxiety are both extremely unpleasant, negative feelings that can be completely debilitating. 

While remaining the top two most common mental illnesses in the world, in what ways are depression and anxiety similar? How are they different?

Many times those with depression suffer from anxiety, and those with anxiety can suffer from depression. 

Untangling this web can be tricky, but I’m here to explain to you how anxiety and depression can appear similar, while still maintaining stark differences that set them apart. 

Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression:

Both anxiety and depression have recognizable symptoms unique to each one. However, they do have symptoms that overlap and can make it tricky to decipher which mental illness is manifesting. 

Symptoms of depression are categorized as sad, hopeless and lethargic:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Lack of self care 
  • Flat facial expressions 
  • Major weight gain or loss 
  • Thoughts of self harm 
  • Oversleeping 

While symptoms of anxiety are categorized as the inability to sit still, and overwhelming worry:

  • Fast paced heartbeat 
  • Fear of being out of control 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Pressure in the chest 
  • Insomnia 
  • The feeling of butterflies in your stomach 

While these two conditions seem drastically different on the surface, they can manifest in similar ways, causing major distress internally and externally. 

For example, someone struggling with panic attacks or social anxiety disorder, this can cause them to withdraw from friends or social settings, a common symptom found in those with depression. Due to social isolation, this can trigger feelings of loneliness and low self-worth, also an overlapping symptom of depression. 

Other symptoms of anxiety and depression that can overlap are:

  • Agitation 
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Worrisome thoughts 
  • Memory trouble 
  • Inability to relax 

How Depression and Anxiety Show Up In The Body:

Anxiety is often thought of as a high-energy state, and depression is often thought of as a low-energy state. The way our bodies physically react shows us this is particularly true. However, as with emotional symptoms, there are ways in which anxiety and depression can overlap. 

Anxiety In The Body:

Stomach digestive problems are associated with anxiety far more than with depression. 

When in an anxious state, the body is prepared for the worst possible scenario. This heightened emergency state sends our blood into our limbs in preparation for a fight. 

Then, systems like digestion are left without the energy they need. 

In addition, when we feel anxious, our body releases specific hormones that can cause an imbalance in our gut. 

Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ is also created during a heightened state of anxiety, causing our bodies to produce excess stomach acid. 

Depression In The Body:

Depression, on the other hand, causes the body’s systems to slow down.

Very little energy is made available for even the most basic tasks. This is why many people with depression find it incredibly difficult to simply get out of bed. 

Even smiling can seem like too exhaustive of a task. 

Constant fatigue, body aches, headaches, and pain are common in those suffering from depression. 

Overeating and weight gain is a common side effect of depression due to the comfort food can bring. By eating, someone with depression may be attempting to self-soothe, though it only lasts a short period of time. 

Co-Occurring Symptoms In The Body:

Depression and anxiety manifest themselves in the body by interrupting sleep. People that suffer from either depression or anxiety have reported the inability to fall asleep at night. Insomnia can cause a host of other problems such as a weakened immune system and panic attacks. 

Anxiety and depression together have been linked to eyesight problems, chronic coughing fits, asthma, hypertension, heart disease, and stomach problems. 

Treatment For Depression and Anxiety:

Despite their differences in symptoms, depression and anxiety are often treated quite similarly. Therapy and medication are the gold standards when it comes to managing these comorbid disorders. 


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of talk therapy that encourages a patient to talk freely about their emotions and thoughts. Through talking, a therapist and the client are able to recognize and address any negative thinking patterns that may arise. 

For patients with depression, this can be useful in redirecting negative thoughts like, “I’m a burden to everyone around me” and “my life will never get better” into more positive ones, such as “Life cannot stay this way forever.”

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy works with the client to engage them in social events, boosting their mood and energy levels. 

In patients with anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy works incredibly well to address overwhelming thoughts of worry and fear. By addressing that fear about the future is unproductive and often unnecessary, a client learns how to manage and redirect these negative thoughts into peaceful, productive thinking patterns. 


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) work by blocking the centers of the brain responsible for re-absorbing serotonin. When this blockage occurs, excess serotonin is leftover in the brain, causing elevated mood levels. 

SSRIs are used for both depression and anxiety and have been established as the go-to route when medicating a patient with either, or both conditions. 

Common SSRI’s include: 

Know The Difference, Know Yourself:

When you understand the similarities and differences between anxiety and depression you become more equipped with staying in tune with your body. You know yourself best, and you know when you don’t feel right. 

While depression and anxiety do share symptoms, they are very different mental illnesses and both can have devastating impacts on brain structure, body ailments, and general wellbeing. 

Conduct thorough research to determine what course of treatment is best for you.