“It can be confusing to sort out what exactly is anxiety and what is depression,” says Anne L. Wennerstrand, MS, MSW, LCSW-R. You got that right! Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues, and they often go hand-in-hand. But what sets them apart? And what attributes do they share? Wennerstrand, a licensed certified social worker based in Katonah, provides insight on the similarities and differences between the two.
Sufferers of anxiety and depression often experience many of the same symptoms, according to Wennerstrand. Changes in appetite, weight, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and reduced interest in activities can indicate either disorder. Additionally, those who experience either anxiety or depression typically cannot pinpoint the thought or event that triggered those emotions. “They just know they feel bad, sad, fearful, and/or avoidant,” Wennerstrand explains.
The primary difference between anxiety and depression, Wennerstrand says, is that anxiety is triggered by thoughts and fears related to the future, while depression is set off by events that occurred in the past. “Excessive, automatic, unexamined fears about future events and situations outside of our control can ‘hijack’ the brain, resulting in anxiety,” says Wennerstrand. “In depression, there is sadness, hopelessness, and oftentimes regret, shame, guilt, or remorse about events in the past.”
Both anxiety and depression can be anywhere from mild to debilitating. No matter how they may inflict themselves upon your life, it’s crucial that the symptoms are not ignored. Recognize whether the negative thoughts and emotions you’re experiencing are related to the future or the past. Ultimately, Wennerstrand recommends consulting a medical professional if symptoms persist beyond a few weeks.