How to Recognize Depression and Anxiety

4 min read  |  March 06, 2024  | 

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, whether from a job change, a relationship change, or family or financial concerns. That’s why it can be difficult to differentiate when you’re feeling normal emotions that come from life’s constant flow and when you might have depression and anxiety, actual medical conditions that require treatment. 

Depression and anxiety were already common in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic only increased the risk and prevalence rate of these conditions. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety disorders increased by nearly 26% in 2020, and depression also jumped 27%. All told, every year, about 40 million American adults, or 18% of the population, are affected by anxiety and depressive disorders. 

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) says that about one in every eight women experiences depression, a rate that is twice as high as men. 

Since the primary symptoms of depression and anxiety can produce emotions that people experience any given day, it can be challenging at first to identify whether you’re experiencing something normal or something that requires medical assistance. The National Institute of Mental Health says it often comes down to the duration and severity of symptoms. 

Suppose your sad mood, irritability, disinterest in activities, and trouble eating, sleeping, or working diminish after a few days. In that case, it may be a normal reaction or expected adjustment to one of life’s stressors. It’s still worth monitoring, but it’s probably not an illness. On the other hand, if symptoms persist for most of the time for at least two weeks and cause dysfunction, then it might be an anxiety or depressive disorder. 

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

It is important to identify and understand the full scope of symptoms that people with anxiety or depression might experience. That way, you can look for warning signs in yourself or in a loved one. 

Depression is typically characterized by:

  • Marked sadness, irritability or mood swings
  • Isolating yourself from other people or losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy
  • Recurring negative thoughts or feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness 
  • Changes in your sleeping or eating habits
  • Difficulty concentrating or having trouble at work  
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Death wishes or thoughts of suicide

Anxiety frequently overlaps with depression but can lead to additional symptoms to look out for, as well. These can include:

  • Racing thoughts, usually related to constant worries
  • Feelings of panic or losing control
  • Restlessness, such as moving constantly or unable to stay still
  • Other physical symptoms, such as chest tightness, palpitations, rapid breathing, abdominal pain, sweating or shakiness 

Individuals with undiagnosed or untreated depression or anxiety may experience difficulties at work, loss of productivity, decline in health status and relationship problems. Hence, if any combination of depressive and anxiety symptoms seems to persist and affect your quality of life, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider. 

If you are struggling, ask for help. 

Mental health treatment helps individuals living with depression and anxiety to minimize the risk of complications. Asking for help allows you to get access to mental health care, to understand that your symptoms can be treated, and to know that you have more support available. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing severe anxiety or depression, crisis intervention may be warranted. These include: 

  • feelings of despair most of the time
  • distress or impairment that disrupts your ability to function
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide

You have options, including:

  • call or text 988 for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
  • go to the emergency department for a mental health evaluation
  • enter a treatment program until symptoms improve enough to continue with outpatient mental health services

Medically reviewed by Vanessa Padilla, M.D., a psychiatry expert at the University of Miami Health System.

Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news services.


1) Identifying signs of anxiety and depression, Mayo Clinic, 2022,

2) Women and Depression, ADAA, 2024,

3) Depression, National Institute of Mental Health, 2023,

4) What Are the Symptoms of Depression in Women?, Healthline, 2024,

5) Input from Vanessa L. Padilla, M.D.


Tags: depression on the rise, Dr. Vanessa Padilla, mental health, mental health counseling

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