What's the difference between anxiety, stress and depression?
Anxiety, depression, and stress are three common mental health concerns that can deeply impact our daily lives. But sometimes, when you’re not feeling well, it can be hard to figure out exactly why. The symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression can overlap, but there are differences between these concerns that are worth exploring.
First, let's look at what each of these terms means.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear that can be mild to severe. When we talk about anxiety in a mental health context, we’re often talking about anxiety that’s ongoing and hard to manage, and that interferes with people’s daily lives.
Depression is a mood disorder (a type of mental health issue) that affects your feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. It can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
Stress is a physical and emotional response to a challenging situation, such as work, school or a difficult relationship.
It's important to remember that anxiety and stress are normal human experiences, and we all feel down from time to time. But when these feelings become persistent or overwhelming, they can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health.
Everyone feels anxious sometimes—it’s a normal response to a difficult situation, and sometimes it can even help us focus or stay alert when we need to. But when anxiety becomes an ongoing concern or starts to interfere with daily life, it may be time to seek support.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Overwhelming worry or fear about everyday situations
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension or aches, nausea or fatigue
Depression goes deeper than the normal sadness we all experience sometimes. It can have a big impact on a person's life and relationships. It might affect the way you think, feel, or behave, and it can lead to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide.
If you or someone you care about talks about feeling helpless or is showing warning signs of suicide, find help right away. Call the BC Crisis Line at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Ongoing sadness or feelings of emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Sleeping more or less than usual
Search for depression resources
Stress is a normal part of life, and we all experience it from time to time. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health and may lead to anxiety and depression. Some common symptoms of stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or anxious
- Fatigue or low energy
- Irritability or moodiness
- Headaches or body aches
- Difficulty sleeping
It’s worth remembering that many people experience different mental health concerns at the same time.
How to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
While anxiety, depression, and stress can be difficult to manage, there are many effective treatments available. Here are some tips for managing these concerns:
1. Seek Supports: If you're struggling with anxiety, depression, or stress, it's a good idea to seek support. A mental health professional can help you understand what’s going on and find a treatment that works for you.
2. Practice Self-Care: Practicing self-care and looking after your overall wellness is an important part of managing anxiety, depression, and stress. This could include things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and making sure to take time for yourself.
3. Connect with Others: Connecting with others can be a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. This could include spending time with friends and family, joining a support group, or calling a help line to talk about what’s going on.
Showing 5 Resources
Mental Health Check-in
This free, anonymous self-assessment tool helps you understand how you are feeling and reflect on your wellbeing.
310 Mental Health Support
Provides a toll-free number connecting callers to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. Offers emotional support, information on appropriate referral options, and a wide range of support relating to mental health concerns.
Tools, resources, anxiety plans and courses to help anyone living with anxiety.
Foundry Stress Self-Check
Free, stress self-check tool that can help young people identify experiences related to stress.
Mood Disorders Association of BC
Find support for people living with a mood disorder.