What is known as mood disorders or affective disorders are mental health conditions where a person feels sad or worried much of the time, or fluctuates between periods of intense sadness and intense happiness. Depression and anxiety fall into this category.
While it may seem like they would be easy to distinguish from one another, they can be surprisingly difficult for a person who is suffering from one or the other (or for their loved ones) to tell apart. This partly because the conditions share certain symptoms and also because both conditions can be present at the same time.
What is Major Depression?
What is commonly called depression may be referred to by healthcare providers as major depression or clinical depression. Its symptoms include:
• Depressed mood
• Changes in appetite
• Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
• Feelings of worthlessness
• Lack of energy
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Restlessness or irritability
• Persistent medical problems such as headaches or pain that don’t respond to treatment
• Suicidal thoughts or actions
If any or all of these symptoms are present for more than two weeks, the diagnosis of major depression or a related condition may be made.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
What people often call anxiety is known as generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, by mental health professionals. The symptoms of GAD include:
• Feeling anxious or worried much or all of the time
• Trouble concentrating or mind going blank
• Muscle tension
• Sleep disturbances including the inability to fall/stay asleep or achieve restful sleep
If any or all of these symptoms occur on most of the days in a six month period, the condition may be GAD.
Volume of teens with anxiety by state
Seek Insight from the Experts
When considering the symptoms associated with major depression and GAD, there is clearly a great deal of overlap. That is why people not trained in assessing these conditions find it hard to know which is present. What’s more, as noted above, the two conditions can be co-occurring.
Consequently, if any of the symptoms of these two debilitating mental illnesses are present for a significant period of time, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider. There are effective treatments for both depression and anxiety — from “talk therapy” to medication — and the sooner you start them, the sooner you can return to more normal functioning and better mental and emotional health.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America