CARE TALK: Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

CARE TALK is a monthly advice column in Aurora Magazine where a registered psychologist offers answers to common questions around mental health and counselling.

Q I am wondering about the differences between anxiety and depression. I do believe I have had depression for some time but also find myself feeling physically sick in the stomach in social situations. I have withdrawn socially due to my depression and avoid this more and more.

A Anxiety and depression do have similarities, particularly in relation to thought processes. It is common to have worrying thoughts with both anxiety and depression but the ways in which these worrying thoughts express themselves may differ.

If you relate to one or both sets of symptoms below, consider seeking additional support so you can identify strategies to suit your needs and goals. Support is available through counselling, from your GP and a multitude of online resources.

Signs of depression include:

  • A persistent low mood: sadness, feeling flat, being overwhelmed, and for some people, irritable and aggressive.
  • Reduced or no interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Inability to concentrate, which may include forgetfulness and difficulty making decisions
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and work colleagues
  • Negative change in sleep patterns
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation for many activities (housework, self-care, attending events, shopping etc)
  • Change in appetite
  • Thoughts relating to worthlessness, helplessness, failure, excessive guilt, burden on others, questioning the value of life.

Signs of anxiety include:

  • Tightness in the chest, with or without heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing at times
  • Feeling like there is a lump in your throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Hot or cold flushes; sweating in the absence of physical exertion
  • Nausea or repeated trips to the toilet
  • Headaches or muscle aches and pains
  • Increased illness (eg colds and other viruses)
  • Difficulty thinking clearly during times of high anxiety or stress
  • Feelings of fear in general or in specific situations
  • Avoidance of feared situations or interactions with people
  • Inability to relax
  • Ruminating thoughts or obsessive thinking
  • Difficulty in falling/staying asleep due to racing thoughts.

As you can see, there are similarities between anxiety and depression. You will also notice that the symptoms of anxiety appear to be more ‘physical’ than those of depression. However, the above lists are guides only and formal diagnosis requires more exploration. There is effective treatment for anxiety and depression; the treatment centres around what is important to you.

Often, depression and anxiety go hand in hand, with up to 50 per cent of people with depression also experiencing anxiety. This is understandable as it can be so overwhelming dealing with depression. We know that approximately 3 million Australians are living with depression and anxiety; learning more about their symptoms and about yourself is a proactive step to discovering new ways of living well and moving towards a healthier state of mind and body.

For more support visit the following websites and please contact us at CatholicCare if you have questions regarding making a counselling appointment. P 4979 1172.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, phone Lifeline - 13 11 14.

For a life at risk, phone 000.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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