What Is The Difference Between Anxiety & Depression?

Both depression and anxiety are mood disorders that can have physical and neurological symptoms. Anxiety may cause feelings of restlessness, worry, or fear, while depression often causes a person to feel sad, hopeless, or generally low. Both disorders can negatively impact daily activities, work, and relationships, but they are different disorders.

It is normal for people to feel anxious or depressed at times, but prolonged anxiety or depression that disrupts daily life can indicate a need for immediate intervention. It’s not uncommon to have both anxiety and depression at the same time, as they can run together.

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has used non-drug, non-invasive treatment protocols to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  

Our treatments allow patients to leverage the mind-body connection to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about anxiety vs. depression, symptoms, treatment, and more.



What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) defines anxiety disorders as “disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances.”

It is completely normal to experience fear and anxiety at different times in your life. Stressful events like moving, financial difficulties, getting a divorce, or the death of a loved one may trigger these feelings. Usually, these feelings go away with time. However, when fear, worry, or other anxiety-related emotions are persistent, excessive, disruptive, or out of proportion with the situation, an anxiety disorder might have developed. [i]

Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by symptoms that affect emotions, mood, and physiological responses.

When the brain interprets an experience or event as a threat, it sends the body into a “fight-or-flight” mode. Blood flows away from the extremities, heart rate increases, muscles contract, the brain’s frontal lobe may partially shut down, and adrenaline is released. This often leads to the following symptoms:

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Easily fatigued
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tensions in the neck and shoulder
  • Somatic symptoms (sweating, nausea, diarrhea)
  • Frequent urination
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Headaches
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Palpitations (heart pounding)
  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Trembling

Anxiety Symptoms in Adults

  • Panic attacks
  • Disturbed sleep (falling or staying asleep)
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on edge
  • Emotional over-reactivity
  • Easily fatigued
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Debilitating fear
  • Excessive worrying
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Social avoidance
  • Low self-image
  • Excessive self-doubt
  • Inner restlessness
  • Phobias
  • Substance abuse (self-medication)
  • Eating disorders

Anxiety Symptoms in Children

  • Stomach aches
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Clinging behavior
  • Fear of separation from parents
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Temper tantrums
  • Fear and avoidance of social situations
  • Headaches
  • Fear of sleeping alone
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks

What Causes Anxiety?

Anxiety can arise when the brain sends signals to the rest of the body that there is a threat nearby. For instance, imagine you get out of your car and you stand on an object that feels like a snake, but which is actually a garden hose. Your brain’s misperception that it’s a snake will send adrenaline through your body as part of the fight or flight response to perceived danger.

In reality, that snake may actually be just a garden hose, but before you can realize there is no danger, your brain has already sent notice to the body that it needs to prepare to defend itself or flee. All of that preparation results in excess energy and nervousness. Once you recognize the snake is just a garden hose, however, these symptoms dissipate.

However, with an anxiety disorder, the feeling of anxiety persists or shows up regularly, regardless of an actual or perceived threat.

Symbolically, individuals can have worrying thoughts about job performance, finances, or some other potential problem that can trigger the same feeling of facing a life or death threat. For example, someone waiting for the results of a job interview may experience a panic response the minute the phone rings because of an exaggerated anxiety response. The results of the job interview are important, but it’s not life or death and the mind-body interaction may react as if it is.

What Is Depression?

You might be wondering if anxiety and depression are the same thing, but they are different conditions.

Feeling sad or low is a normal response to lots of situations. Depression, including major depressive disorder, is much more serious and negatively impacts everyday life. It is a common disorder, with an estimated 21 million American adults having experienced at least one major depressive episode.

As a mood disorder, common feelings associated with depression include hopelessness, sadness, and the sense that life isn’t worth living. Depression can also impact our physical health.

Screening For Depression

Depression can often be challenging to diagnose, especially in children and teens. Often, symptoms are incorrectly attributed to “typical teenage behavior” and causes are overlooked. Depression screening helps achieve a proper diagnosis and treatment.

A depression screening includes questions about your general mood and emotions as well as sleep habits. In some cases, blood tests may be done to eliminate physical issues like vitamin deficiency as a cause of depression.

Symptoms Of Depression

Depression can affect how you behave, think, and feel. That means that symptoms can be both mental and physical. Not everyone with depression will experience all symptoms. However, any symptoms can cause disruptions to daily life.

Here are the primary symptoms of depression.

  • Irritability (primary mood symptom in adolescents)
  • Anhedonia
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive guilt
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal ideation or crises
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Hopelessness/helplessness

Anxiety vs. Depression: How Do They Compare?

Because anxiety and depression are both brain-based disorders, they have some similarities and can even frequently occur together. In fact, around 60% of people with one of the disorders also have the other. Often, the symptoms of one disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of the other. [ii]


While depression and anxiety are characterized by different symptoms, they do still have several similarities. Research has shown that the same genes that are responsible for anxiety disorders may also be responsible for depression. It’s also possible that anxiety and depression arise from dysfunction in the same region or similar functional network of the brain. Specifically, a lack of sufficient dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin can contribute to depression and anxiety. [iii]

Anxiety and depression could also be triggered by similar events, childhood trauma, or other stressors. The presence of one disorder makes a person much more likely to develop the other.


Though both disorders can arise from the same causes, they are marked by distinct physiological, mood, and mental symptoms. The difference between anxiety and depression is mainly in the types of symptoms present.

Anxiety is characterized by nervousness, restlessness, and fear. Depression is more associated with low mood, sadness, and lack of energy.

With depression, people often lose interest in favorite pastimes and hobbies while those with anxiety may feel inappropriately threatened during daily situations. 

Does Anxiety Lead To Depression?

If you have found yourself experiencing several symptoms from both conditions, you may wonder why you have anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression can occur together at the same time, and in some cases, one may be triggered by the other.

For example, feeling anxious about social situations could cause you to feel depressed about not enjoying spending time with friends or meeting new people. In turn, you may feel even more anxious.

So, while anxiety and depression aren’t immediately related, it is possible that, if left untreated, anxiety may lead to depression, and vice versa.

Can You Have Anxiety Without Depression?

Anxiety and depression do not always occur together. You can have anxiety without depression; you can also have depression without anxiety. However, due to their shared causes and triggers, it’s possible that one may lead to the other.

If left untreated, anxiety may easily lead to depression and accompanying symptoms. If you begin experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it is best to treat it immediately to prevent developing depression.

How Are Anxiety & Depression Treated?

The conventional treatments for both anxiety and depression include counseling and medication.

Therapy with a qualified individual can help you identify triggers and learn coping mechanisms and other skills to manage symptoms.

Medications can help the brain increase serotonin and improve mood. However, finding the right medication can be difficult, and side effects may be unpredictable and challenging.

How The Drake Institute Treats Anxiety & Depression

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has been using specialized technology like biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation to help patients reduce symptoms linked to brain-based disorders, including disorders like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, depression, anxiety, and more.

Each treatment protocol is customized for each individual patient’s needs so they can learn the self-regulatory skills needed to reduce symptoms long-term.

We utilize the following treatment technologies to address the needs of our patients:


We perform stress testing with Biofeedback instrumentation to measure any elevated levels of physiologic tension. Through Biofeedback treatment/training a patient can learn to reduce excessive levels of physiologic tension that reduce symptoms. The treatment process enables patients to achieve self-regulation for long-term improvement.

Brain Mapping

Before treatment can begin, we map the brain’s activity through a process called qEEG brain mapping. To do this, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in predesignated locations related to memory, cognitive function, critical thinking, and more.

The sensors measure and record the brainwave activity. The results are then processed through an FDA-registered normative reference database of same-age group, asymptomatic individuals for comparison. The comparison will indicate which areas or functional networks of the brain are experiencing unhealthy brainwave patterns and need improvement.


Neurofeedback treatment at the Drake Institute is a self-guided process that helps patients learn self-regulation skills for long-lasting improvement. Neurofeedback therapy is non-invasive and non-drug-based. Instead, it is a process that teaches patients how to improve their own brainwave patterns to reduce symptoms.

Neurofeedback treatment is safe and effective in treating a number of brain-based disorders in children and adults.


In some cases, we use neuromodulation to assist in the neurofeedback process. This technology allows us to gently guide the patient’s brain towards desired, more functionally healthier and more appropriate brainwave patterns to reduce symptoms.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

Anxiety and depression can go together and can be challenging to manage on your own. If left untreated, one disorder can easily lead to the other.

To learn more about how neurofeedback therapy at the Drake Institute can help you reduce symptoms and gain control over your daily life, call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form.


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t15/

[ii] https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/The-Comorbidity-of-Anxiety-and-Depression

[iii] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-psychiatry/article/abs/role-of-serotonin-in-depression-and-anxiety/1C3F6D135D7507C1CC4A0896B6E35154

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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