What is the link between depression and anxiety disorders?

"Anxiety disorder is common with depression," William Marchand, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, says. If you have it, it's important to establish that upfront, since some antidepressants can initially worsen anxiety. Treatment for anxiety and major depression may include medications, psychotherapy, or both. For people with less severe symptoms, medication isn't always necessary. Talking through feelings of sadness and anxiety with a skilled therapist is sometimes enough to alleviate the condition. "The brain changes in response to our experience," Marchand says. A new experience changes your brain function. In this way, psychotherapy can help you find constructive ways of coping with the stress that brought on the depression or anxiety, and help you feel more like yourself again.

Almost two-thirds of those diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) will suffer from major depression. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is diagnosed after one or more depressive episodes (each lasting at least two weeks). The most common symptoms are depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and changes in weight. Those with GAD are more likely to develop MDD after a stressful life event. Often, antidepressant medications are prescribed when a patient is diagnosed with both GAD and depression.

Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, often co-exist with depression. But anxiety problems do not always go hand in hand with depression.

Dr. Robin Kerner
Psychology Specialist

Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. For many people anxiety can be a symptom of an underlying depressive disorder. Similarly, someone suffering from an anxiety disorder may feel depressed due to the negative impact of the anxiety disorder on his or her overall functioning. However, while anxiety symptoms can be present during a depressive episode and an individual can suffer from both a depressive and anxiety disorder, it would be very unusual for a clinical depression to turn into an anxiety disorder. If you notice this type of mood shift, especially if it is sudden, it could be a sign of a bipolar illness and warrants mental health consultation.

Dr. Tamar Chansky
Psychology Specialist

Depression and anxiety often go together. For example, if someone has an anxiety disorder such as social anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder and has not received treatment and relief, feelings of hopelessness are common as the disorders take over more and more of one's functioning. These hopeless, helpless feelings are the pathway to depression. Fortunately anxiety is very treatable and so a positive prognosis is very likely. 

In terms of depression turning into anxiety, what can happen for people who are depressed is that they may also have symptoms of anxiety: worrying, for example, if people will notice that they are depressed, that they aren't participating in conversations. These fears can lead to anticipatory anxiety about going places and can in turn feed the depression as now both anxiety and depression conspire to keep you away from activities and life. Once again, fortunately there are very powerful, effective treatments for depression and anxiety, so if you or someone you know is struggling with these conditions, please seek out help. It can make a world of difference.

Anxiety and depression are not simple disorders. They occur together 75 percent of the time. These disorders are, in large part, the result of brain dysfunction. There are many forms of anxiety and depression—seven different types, or patterns, within the brain have been identified. There are a number of effective treatments that are specific to each type. Identifying your type lends to a more precise, targeted treatment plan that simply works better, while reducing the likelihood of negative side effects.

Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist

It is common for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. People with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability and problems sleeping and concentrating. But each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms.

There is an important link between depression and anxiety. In fact, depression actually causes some of the problems people attribute to anxiety or stress. Likewise, some forms of stress can make people more likely to become depressed.

Rushing to meetings and gatherings with friends and family, taking the kids from place to place, meeting deadlines, cleaning the house . . . some days it feels like it goes on and on. At one time or another, almost everyone has felt stressed or anxious by demands at work or at home. Stress can take a toll on how people feel both physically and emotionally and also interfere with their ability to live their whole life to the fullest.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Tarique D. Perera, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Generalized anxiety can evolve into depression. Other forms of anxiety, such as PTSD and panic disorders, are linked to depression. In this video, Tarique Perera, MD, a psychiatrist with Contemporary Care of Connecticut, elaborates.


Dr. Kenneth M. Rogers, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Depression and anxiety disorders are different, but people with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating. But each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms. Anxiety, like depression, frequently begins with a stressful event such as the death of a loved one; however, in many cases there are no identifiable triggers. There is evidence from recent studies that suggest that the two disorders may be more linked than scientists have previously thought.

Dr. Michael J. Mufson, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Two-thirds of people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and 58 percent of people with depression also have an anxiety disorder. This combination is so common that many mental health experts now consider it a distinct disorder, known as mixed anxiety-depressive disorder (MADD). The hallmark of MADD is pronounced anxiety and rumination—often veering toward morbid thoughts—that occurs during an episode of major depression. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with MADD.

The presence of depression in people with anxiety disorders increases the severity of the illnesses, the likelihood of alcohol or substance abuse, and the risk of suicide. It also reduces the chances that treatment will succeed, unless both disorders are fully treated.

In other cases, people may have one of these disorders first, recover from it, and then develop the other. Anxiety can also be a symptom of depressive disorders, and depression can be a symptom of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and depression are much more closely linked than was once thought. Many scientists now believe that anxiety and depression are different expressions of a single, shared underlying biological problem. They point out, for example, that the same kinds of abnormalities in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) that promote depression can also trigger anxiety. Researchers have also found that the brain structures that react to perceived threats are hypersensitive in some people who have either depression or anxiety disorders, or both.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.