DepressionDepression and Anxiety Link

Let's Talk About the Link Between Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are a notorious duo, often striking at the same time. Being depressed can make us more anxious, and anxiety can make us more depressed. Here’s what you need to know to break the cycle.

    Our Pro PanelDepression and Anxiety

    We asked some of the nation's top depression and anxiety experts to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    James B. Potash, M.D., M.P.H.

    James B. Potash, M.D., M.P.H.Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Department Director and Psychiatrist-in-Chief

    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    Baltimore, MD
    Carol A. Bernstein, M.D.

    Carol A. Bernstein, M.D.Psychiatrist, Vice Chair for Faculty Development and Well-Being in the Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    The Bronx, NY
    Jennifer L. Payne, M.D.

    Jennifer L. Payne, M.D.Director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry

    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    Baltimore, MD

    Frequently Asked QuestionsDepression and Anxiety

    How common are anxiety disorders?

    More common than you think! Nearly one in five Americans has an anxiety disorder, so if you do too, you’re definitely not alone. That equates to 40 million people every year—more of the XX chromosome variety. Specifically, women are affected nearly twice as much as their male counterparts. This could be because of differences in brain chemistry, fluctuations of reproductive hormones, or how men and women tend to cope with stress differently (women tend to ruminate more while men are more problem-solvers, according to research).

    How do I know if my physical symptoms are from anxiety or if I actually have an undiagnosed medical problem?

    That’s a valid concern…and it’s also exactly what someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder would ask. It’s true that sweating, racing heart, headaches, stomach problems, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath can all be signs of underlying medical conditions, so it’s not unreasonable to see your physician for a routine workup. The most common physical health issues that can be confused with an anxiety disorder are thyroid problems, B12 deficiency, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which can trigger anxiety. If your doc clears you but you’re still excessively worried that they missed something, don’t insist on undergoing more and more exploratory tests. Discuss those fears with a therapist first (particularly if you might have a touch of hypochondriasis—a.k.a. health-focused anxiety).

    If you have both depression and anxiety, which one should you treat first?

    Depression and an anxiety are so closely related that any therapist worth their degree (and please, please check that they are licensed) will be able to create a treatment plan that can help you with both, since therapeutic approaches for both conditions are similar. If your depression is so severe that you don’t have the motivation to give therapy your best go, they might focus on lifting the black cloud of depression more aggressively at first. Since depression and anxiety can exacerbate one another, it’s important to treat both disorders to stop their self-perpetuating cycle.

    Does exercise help depression and anxiety?

    It does. And while motivating to suit up and go for a jog may take every ounce of determination you’ve got, it’ll likely be worth it. Working out releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, revs your circulation, and boosts your self-confidence. You don’t have to go full-on HIIT for an hour to get the benefits. A recent review in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that even as little as 10 minutes of physical activity per week can increase your level of happiness.

    Meirav Devash

    Meirav Devash


    Meirav Devash is a writer, editor, and beauty, health, and wellness expert, reporting on topics from mental health to goth fitness and cannabis law.