Are depression and anxiety the same?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), a staggering 1 in 5 Australians (around 4.3 million people) experience a mental health condition in any given year. Among these, depression and anxiety are the most prevalent.

While both significantly impact a person’s well-being, they are not identical. It’s a common misconception to think they’re the same thing. This blog post from Capstone Medical Centre aims to clear up that confusion. We’ll explore the key differences between depression and anxiety but also acknowledge how they can sometimes occur together.

What is Depression?

Depression is a common and serious mood disorder that affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and home.

While we all experience feelings of sadness or low mood from time to time, depression is different. It’s a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest that interferes with your everyday life. 

There are some of the core symptoms of depression to watch out for:

  • Low mood and sadness: You may feel down, discouraged, hopeless, or tearful most of the day or nearly every day.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed: This could include hobbies, social activities, sex, or even watching TV.
  • Changes in appetite and weight: You may experience significant weight loss or gain (when not dieting) or a noticeable change in your eating habits.
  • Sleep disturbances: can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation: You may feel restless and agitated or slowed down and lethargic.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy: Even small tasks may require much effort.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt: You may persistently criticise yourself or feel like a burden to others.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions: Thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving may become more challenging.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide: You may have thoughts of wanting to die or harming yourself.

Seeking professional help from a doctor or mental health clinic if these symptoms persist for two weeks or more or if they significantly impact your ability to function in your daily life is crusial. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in managing depression and improving your quality of life.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural human emotion characterised by feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease. It can be a normal stress reaction, helping us stay alert and focused in potentially dangerous situations. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with daily life, it can be classified as an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions, affecting millions of people. They can manifest in various ways, often causing a combination of physical and emotional symptoms, including:

  • Physical Symptoms:
    • Increased heart rate
    • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
    • Sweating
    • Muscle tension
    • Feeling tired or easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
    • Sleep problems (trouble falling or staying asleep)
    • Irritability
  • Panic Attacks: Sudden episodes of intense fear that can come on rapidly and reach a peak within minutes.

One way to understand different anxiety disorders is by looking at the focus of the anxiety. For instance, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves chronic, free-floating worry about various aspects of life with no specific trigger. In contrast, specific phobias involve intense fear of a particular object or situation, like spiders or public speaking.

There are also other anxiety disorders with distinct features, such as:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Excessive fear of social situations and scrutiny from others.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety.

Depression vs. Anxiety: A Comparison

While depression and anxiety share some symptoms, they are distinct conditions with key differences. Here’s a table outlining these differences:

Core EmotionSadness, hopelessness, emptinessWorry, nervousness, fear
Physical SymptomsFatigue, changes in appetite and sleep, psychomotor changes (agitation or retardation)Increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping
ThoughtsNegative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicideCatastrophizing (overthinking worst-case scenarios), intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating
Impact on Daily LifeLoss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interaction, difficulty completing tasksDifficulty concentrating, restlessness, avoidance behaviours, irritability

Additional Points to Consider:

  • Sleep Changes: While both conditions can impact sleep, depression may involve excessive sleeping or difficulty waking up, while anxiety often manifests as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Motivation: Depression can significantly decrease motivation, making it hard to complete daily tasks. Anxiety, on the other hand, may lead to avoidance behaviours as a way to cope with worry, hindering daily routines.

Remember that this is a general comparison, and some people may experience symptoms of both depression and anxiety. If you’re unsure of your condition, seeking professional help from a doctor near you or a mental health clinic is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Living with Both Depression and Anxiety

It’s important to note that depression and anxiety often occur together, affecting a significant portion of the population. Research suggests this co-occurrence can be as high as 40%.

The two conditions can create a vicious cycle. For example, the constant worry and fear associated with anxiety can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, worsening depression. Conversely, the low mood and negative outlook characteristic of depression can amplify anxieties and make it harder to cope with stressful situations.

Despite this potential for a negative cycle, there is good news. Both depression and anxiety are highly treatable conditions. Practical treatment approaches exist, even for individuals experiencing both disorders simultaneously. A combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle 

Treatment Options for Depression and Anxiety

Fortunately, both depression and anxiety are highly treatable conditions with various effective approaches available. Here’s an overview of some standard treatment options:


Talking therapies, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), have proven highly effective for treating both depression and anxiety. CBT helps identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours contributing to symptoms. During therapy sessions, you’ll learn coping skills to manage stress, improve emotional regulation, and develop a more positive outlook.


 In some cases, medications can significantly help manage symptoms. Depending on the specific diagnosis and severity, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. These medications work by regulating brain chemicals that influence mood and anxiety. It’s important to note that medication should be used under the supervision of a doctor and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Lifestyle Changes 

While not a standalone treatment, healthy lifestyle choices can significantly improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Here are some key areas to focus on:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity is a powerful mood booster and stress reliever. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
  • Healthy Sleep Habits: Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and practising good sleep hygiene can significantly improve sleep quality.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Techniques like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help manage stress and anxiety symptoms.


In conclusion, while depression and anxiety share some similarities, they are distinct conditions. Recognising the differences and potential for co-occurrence is crucial. The good news is that both are treatable with various effective approaches, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, seeking professional help from a mental health clinic is the first step towards feeling better. 

Here in Australia, Capstone Medical Centre offers mental health services. Our team can assess your needs and develop a personalised treatment plan. 

Don’t wait to prioritise your mental health. Take charge and schedule an appointment with a doctor at Capstone Medical Centre today. Remember, you’re not alone, and there is help available.