The Difference Between Depression, Anxiety and the Blues
Depression and anxiety are both mental health conditions that require a medical diagnosis. Odds are if you were to ask someone to randomly name two mental health conditions, anxiety and depression would be the two named. And yet, as many people know about depression and anxiety, a large portion of those suffering won't seek help. There is commonly confusion regarding what depression and anxiety actually are. Here is some quick information to help you understand the difference between general sadness, depression, and anxiety.
What Exactly is Depression?
The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5th Edition) has eight criteria for diagnosing depression. These criteria are:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
To receive a diagnosis, these symptoms “must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or other medical conditions” (DSM-5) The individual must have at least five of the eight criteria and experience them all within the same two-week period. Additionally, the five symptoms must include either criteria 1 (“Depressed mood most of the day…”) or criteria 2 (“Markedly diminished interest…”).
There are 7 different common types of depression. These include:
- MDD (Major Depressive Disorder)
- PDD (Persistent Depressive Disorder)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Postpartum Depressive Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
- Season Affective Disorder
- Atypical Depression
Sadness is a common symptom of all 7 of these depressive disorders. While sadness is a factory of depression, depression is not a factory of sadness.
The Difference Between Sadness and Depression
The key difference between sadness and depression is the length of time that the feelings persist and the severity of the feelings and actions. Depression is often thought of as an “extreme sadness”, but research shows differently. Depression is actually caused by inflammation in the brain. Sadness, on the other hand, is a transient emotion often associated with negative feelings.
Depression and sadness (or sometimes grief and similar emotions) can express themselves in similar ways. This is one of the primary reasons that depression goes without proper treatment. Often times a person may start experiencing symptoms of depression and neglect the severity of their experience, then more extreme symptoms of depression make it more difficult to take action (like lethargy) or they may experience guilt or shame that they did not address the problem sooner and so they hesitate to reach out. The other side of the coin is that if a person begins to express concern regarding their mood too early, their claims may not be taken seriously by health care practitioners. While sadness can be overwhelming, depression can lead to more severe fallout in the long-run.
What is Anxiety?
Like differentiating sadness from depression, anxiety can be hard to spot instantly. Anxiety can be expected on occasion throughout life, but anxiety disorders require proper care and lifestyle changes. Unlike “expected” anxiety, anxiety disorders do not go away after a long period of time.
The DSM-5 has three criteria for diagnosing a person with generalized anxiety disorder:
- The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
- The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
- The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (in children, only one symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):
- Edginess or restlessness
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
- Increased muscles aches or soreness
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)
Anxiety can also lead to other disorders including panic attack disorders, phobia disorders, and social anxiety. Anxiety is a serious mental disorder that is best supported through different types of therapy, mindfulness, movement, and lifestyle and diet changes.
The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression
While most people may associate depression and anxiety with one another, they two have different, distinct manifestations. On the other hand, at first glance, it may surprise you that anxiety and depression are often associated with one another because of their differences. Mainly, anxiety can look like hyperactivity, overthinking, nervousness and depression can look lethargic, inward-focused and numbness. Either way, knowing the difference between anxiety and depression can help you build your best path towards healing (or better understand those who you support that are healing).
Depression often looks like
- Depressed mood
- Lack of interest in enjoyable activities
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Slowing of movement
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Trouble concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
while Generalized anxiety can look like
- Excessive worry
- Being easily fatigued
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep disturbance
- Muscle tension
Often times, someone who is experiencing anxiety may also experience (and be diagnosed with) depression.
There is such a thing as high-functioning anxiety and depression. These people tend to be overachievers and it can be extremely difficult to spot the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Without proper care, these people can quickly find their lives have deteriorated. People that experience high functioning depression and anxiety have the same symptoms of depression and anxiety but they may not be able to identify them fully because they have suppressed these symptoms in order to achieve or succeed in other areas of their lives. Easier symptoms to spot might be things like moodiness, irritability, and even chronic illness.
There is a proven link between depression and/or anxiety and chronic illness. This is largely because of the increased inflammation, a stem for both mental health disorders and chronic illness.
Where Should You Start
Know the stats
- Major depression disorder alone impacts at least 17.3 million adult Americans today
- Those with MDD are 64 percent more likely to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease
- About 20% of women are living with polycystic ovarian syndrome also experience depression
- Nearly 2 out of 3 people do not seek treatment for their depression
- GAD impacts nearly 6.8 million adults in America today
- Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder to date
- The most common reason that those with anxiety do not seek proper treatment is because of the “shame” or stigma
These are just the tip of the iceberg. Even if you are not currently struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety, understanding these facts can make you better equipped to help the world around you. With these statistics, it is nearly impossible to make it through life without knowing someone who is affected by depression and/or anxiety. Equip yourself with knowledge and know that mental health disorders are “normal” in the sense that the majority of America will experience symptoms at some point in their life, and it is “personal” in the sense that your path to healing should be unique to you and your specific body and life needs.
Seek additional help
Mental health is not something that should be conquered alone! Thankfully, we live in a time when there are resources and conversation to end the stigma. There is no shame in seeking help.
Therapy is a great place to start. Other specialists you might want on your team might be a nutritionist or holistic doctor who specializes in mental health.
Additional resources include books, podcasts, and online communities. I personally love “The Inflammed Mind” by Edward Bullmore. Remember though that these resources and all of the knowledge you can possibly find do not replace a good support team. Use additional resources to supplement the health team that you choose to create.
Work on your gut health
Gut health and inflammation seem to have a part in almost all mental health concerns. Working on your gut health can help your body absorb nutrients that your mind needs to function well while decreasing overall inflammation. Remember, your gut is your “second brain”. If you are looking to clear up your mental health, then you must pay attention to the source that is feeding your mind.
If you have more questions about healing your gut, curing depression and anxiety naturally or how to secure your best health team, schedule a consultation with me here.
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