Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/13/2021
We’ve all felt frazzled, stretched thin or bummed out.
But when we refer to “depression,” we’re not talking about 10-tissue tear-jerker Olympic montages that hit us right there in the feels.
Clinical depression is a serious mental health condition that impacts feelings, thoughts and actions.
And diagnosable anxiety is so much more than that nail-biting, “there’s not enough time in the day!” feeling.
Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or worrying about the future that’s out of proportion with reality and in a way that alters daily activities.
Depressive disorders and anxiety disorders have been remarkably common for centuries, but the pandemic has brought even more of these mood disorders to light.
According to February 2021 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, four in 10 adults say they’ve experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety in the past year, up from one in 10 in 2019.
Read on to discover more about the signs of depression and anxiety, then discover science-backed options for how to deal with depression and anxiety.
Both of these mental health conditions impact quality of life in very real and very persistent ways.
Major depression is one of the most common mental health challenges in the U.S. The latest estimates from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that more than seven percent of Americans have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
Worldwide, major depression affects more than 264 million people.
A personal or family history, substantial life changes or trauma and some illnesses and medicines can put people at increased risk for depression, which is categorized in these symptoms:
Feeling sad most or all of the time
Avoiding activities you used to enjoy
Difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up too early or sleeping longer than usual
Eating much more or less than usual
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Having aches and pains, such as migraines or stomach aches, that reoccur and don’t respond to treatment
Feeling worthless, irritable, frequently frustrated, helpless, guilty or suicidal
Subtypes of depression include seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
To be diagnosed with major depression, several of these symptoms of depression must coexist, last for two weeks or longer and seriously alter the person’s lifestyle.
Generalized anxiety disorder impacts about three percent of Americans each year. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, but men often experience symptoms of anxiety, too.
Feeling restless, charged-up or on edge more often than usual
Or, on the flip side, feeling easily fatigued
Troubles with concentration
Sleeping challenges, including trouble falling or staying asleep or waking up feeling extremely unrested
Frequently tense muscles
People exposed to extreme childhood stress, are very shy, have personal or family history or certain physical conditions might be at increased risk for anxiety disorders.
Phobias, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder are subtypes of general anxiety.
As you can see, depression and anxiety disorders are not the same.
That being said, these mood disorders are like a Venn diagram — you can have one, both or neither.
Individuals with depression often experience anxiety-like symptoms, such as nervousness, irritability and problems sleeping and concentrating.
However, depression and anxiety have their own causes, triggers and symptoms, which means recommended treatment strategies can overlap.
Read our guide to anxiety vs depression to learn more about their differences.
Mental health professionals often recommend one or several of the following methods for how to deal with depression and anxiety.
Many times, this is a combination of lifestyle changes, anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications and talk in person or online counseling.
A mental health provider works with their client to challenge the persistent negative thoughts and offer suggestions for healthy coping strategies, relaxation techniques and more.
This type of individual therapy aims to pinpoint the link between the onset of symptoms and current interpersonal challenges, such as some form of trauma, a job or relationship loss or other unexpected event.
The goal is to improve daily functioning and quality of life.
Whether it's due to an increase in feel-good chemicals coursing through the brain or simply a distraction from the worry cycle, exercise can be a terrific (and free) treatment for depression and anxiety.
Walking for just 10 minutes per day has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
By concentrating on breathing and being present, research has shown that a meditation habit lasting eight weeks or longer may ease symptoms of both anxiety and depression by slowing down racing thoughts and making it easier to release negativity.
Often prescribed in conjunction with lifestyle changes for how to deal with depression and anxiety, some studies suggest that the correct medication can make a major difference in mood in two to four weeks.
These generally fall under two umbrellas:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as like Prozac® (fluoxetine), Lexapro® (escitalopram), Paxil® (paroxetine), Celexa® (citalopram) and Zoloft® (sertraline).
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor® (venlafaxine), Cymbalta® (duloxetine) and Pristiq® (desvenlafaxine).
If you’re experiencing any of these signs of depression or anxiety, know you’re not alone and you’re not stuck.
Discover more mental health resources that have your back (and your brain) top of mind.
And when you’re ready to connect with a mental health professional, you may want to begin with an online psychiatry evaluation to secure personalized advice, counseling and if relevant and recommended, medication.