Can’t Tell Whether It’s Anxiety Or Depression? Ask Yourself These 7 Questions

by | May 3, 2018 | Health

Sleeplessness, irritability, d-r-a-m-a with your moods, and a Debbie Downer view of the future: These are all things that could be symptoms of either anxiety or depression.

Which begs the question: How are you even supposed to know which one is wreaking havoc with your life?

“It’s very common for people to experience both anxiety and depression, which is why they may confuse them,” says psychologist Dr Alison Ross. In fact, the same neurotransmitters (i.e., chemical messengers in the brain) — including serotonin and dopamine – play key roles in both depression and anxiety, and antidepressants are often used to treat both.

READ MORE: Is It Possible For Dads To Get Postpartum Depression, Too?

But even though anxiety and depression share symptoms, causes and even treatments, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Your thoughts, feeling and behaviours will differ — and knowing which disorder affects you helps you to seek the right type of help.

Once your therapist makes a diagnosis, she’ll equip you with a specific toolset to help you face everyday stressors causing anxiety that are different than the tools she’d offer if you’re depressed and feeling defeated.

“Both disorders really impact your ability to function personally and professionally for a very long time,” says Ross. “If depression or anxiety is getting in the way of living a full life, medication or therapy can help you feel better.”

Take this quiz to start to determine whether you might be suffering from anxiety, depression, or both. Respond to each question honestly, then tally up your letters (next to each response) at the end to get your score and learn what leads to a diagnosis.

Note: This quiz is not an official diagnostic tool, and if you think you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you should seek the professional opinion of a therapist.

1) You feel gloomy most of the time and/or suddenly burst into tears.

  • Yes (A)
  • No (C)

2) You feel tense and stressed, and you constantly dread the future.

  • Yes (B)
  • No (C)

3) You often feel like there’s no point in trying.

  • Yes (A)
  • No (C)

4) It’s hard for you to concentrate and/or relax.

  • Yes (B)
  • No (C)

5) Your appetite is way bigger (or smaller), and you may have gained or lost several kilos over the last month.

  • Yes (A)
  • No (C)

6) You replay the same scenario (your boss firing you, your partner leaving you, your friends ignoring you) over and over (and over…) in your head.

  • Yes (B)
  • No (C)

7) You’re just not interested in things you used to love, like cooking or spending time with friends.

  • Yes (A)
  • No (C)

READ MORE: This Video Perfectly Captures What Depression Feels Like

Mostly As And Cs: You May Be Suffering From Depression

The following are common symptoms linked to depression but not anxiety:

Sadness. If you’re suffering from depression, the most common symptom is feeling down — like, really down. “Of all symptoms, sadness is the most prominent, and most people are more tearful,” says Ross.

Hopelessness. It’s also very common to feel hopeless with no way out. People who are suffering from depression may feel like things are horrible and will always stay that way. “You only know what you’re feeling in the moment,” says Ross.

Changes in appetite. Some people respond to depression with a huge increase or decrease in appetite, which can lead to gaining or losing five to seven kilograms in a month. “You may stop eating because you have no interest in food, or you may want to fill yourself up and start eating a lot,” says Ross.

Loss of interest in things you used to love. For many people with depression, activities that used to make them happy just don’t do it anymore. “People can’t motivate themselves. Many people who are depressed don’t enjoy socialising anymore. Everything feels futile, like life is over, why bother?”

Mostly Bs And Cs: You May Be Suffering From Anxiety

The following are common symptoms linked to anxiety but not depression:

Feeling stressed, tense and worried all the time. Constantly mulling over what’s going to happen in the future and feeling painfully on edge is anxiety symptom number one. You likely feel wound up, doubtful about your abilities and insecure about how life is going. You may question everything: whether you, your relationships, and even the world are alright. “One client who was very good at her job was constantly waiting to hear criticism from her boss,” says Ross. “Anything she did, she panicked about whether she’d made a mistake, if she was going to lose her job, what people thought of her, if what she said was stupid.”

Having a hard time concentrating or relaxing. If you’re suffering from anxiety, every time you try to read a book, watch TV, or enjoy a concert, your thoughts intrude — you might be preoccupied with what you said at a meeting or whether that twinge you felt in your gut could be cancer. “Relaxing means emptying your mind and just being,” says Ross. “If you’re constantly worrying whether you’re going to lose your job, or if a friend is mad at you, or if you’re healthy, you’re can’t enjoy whatever it is you do to relax.”

Racing or ruminative thoughts. Anxiety can mean constantly churning over the same issues until it gets in the way of getting things done. These thoughts are constant, repetitive, fast and take over in an overwhelming or paralysing way that affects your work performance or personal life. “As a therapist our goal is not for you to be Zen. It’s more managing life’s difficulties,” says Ross.

READ MORE: Everything We Know About Fear And Anxiety Might Be Wrong

Mostly Cs: You May Not Be Suffering From Anxiety Or Depression

Remember, everyone goes through tough periods. “All people feel sad or anxious from time to time. It’s part of the human experience. It shouldn’t be considered threatening or problematic,” says psychologist Dr Julie Pike.

Mostly As And Bs: You May Be Suffering From Both Anxiety And Depression

Feelings of anxiety or depression become a problem when they interfere with your ability to function and be happy. To be diagnosed with either disorder, your feelings must affect one or more areas of your life (e.g., they keep you from going to work, attending school, caring for your children, or otherwise living your life) and occur almost every day for two weeks.

If you do think you might need help, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill or that there’s something inherently wrong with you. “Life is hard. It’s about learning how to manage your feelings so you can enjoy your life,” says Ross.

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