Written by cycleguy on June 30th, 2014

Welcome back! I have asked Kari Scare to write a series of posts on depression due to her response during the Second Chance series. Her first two installments are here and here. We decided to run this series like an interview. I asked her a series of questions and she answered them. Here is #3:

What is the difference between depression and anxiety? How are they related? Or, are they even related?

First, let me clarify that while I was formally diagnosed with chronic depression, I was never officially diagnosed with anxiety. I self-diagnosed anxiety because I knew it wasn’t depression, which I knew very, very well, and because I had learned the power of educating yourself as a way to help heal yourself.

Depression and anxiety hold many similarities. They both involve uncontrollable feelings of often vague origin, and they both involve some level of hopelessness and helplessness. Both are also deep to the point of affecting every part of a person.

The differences between anxiety and depression, for me, was that depression felt like a dark pit while anxiety felt like a heightened (too aware) state of awareness. In other words, depression was a low energy state while anxiety is a high energy state.

Another connection between the two involves the idea that any lack of control can lead to depression without the right thinking to surround it, and anxiety certainly feels like no control. Yet, all my efforts to gain control as much as I could over whomever I could were fruitless. Only when I finally gave up seeking control did I discover healing and victory over depression.

Note that I said “was” for depression and “is” for anxiety, that I declared healing and victory over depression but not anxiety. This is simply because I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. Two things cause anxiety to flare up for me. One is becoming overwhelmed, a topic you know I’ve addressed at length on my blog.

Another is the physical component, which I cannot ever dismiss or consider too lightly. It has a huge role to play both in depression and anxiety, and I’ll address it a little more in another one of your questions. Suffice it to say, the physical aspect of the self – my health and wellness – played a significant role in my whole depression/anxiety story. Staying physically healthy and making adjustments as I age goes a long way in maintaining mental health. The two – mental and physical – go hand-in-hand, and neither part should be ignored.

Any thoughts/questions you care to share? Kari is very good about responding to any you may have.


38 Comments so far ↓

  1. Daniel says:

    I regularly deal with anxiety too. It is part and parcel of my ongoing battle with depression. I like the way that you have captured the connection between the two. For me, one of my frustrations is that I feel like some things that affect me should not be that big of a deal. I figure that as an intelligent man, I should have more control over my emotions and the things that pull me down. But dang if my thinking and pondering don’t just make things worse!

    • Kari Scare says:

      Depression usually makes no sense, certainly not to those outside looking in nor to those on the inside looking in. Realizing that in myself I truly could not control my emotions was freeing. I had to give that control up to another, to Christ. Only then did my emotions become a tool and not the master. And still today, too much thinking and pondering turn my wandering eye back toward the pit. One reason I write is to take my thoughts captive before they take me captive. If this sounds like a completely won battle for me, Daniel, it’s not. It’s a regular struggle of varying degrees, but one I now find victory in even while still struggling. Does any of this make sense?

  2. Jeff says:

    I have a family member battling a similar situation. I have done a fair amount of reading and I think science generally agrees that anxiety and depression tend to go hand in hand. One tends to feed the other. Anxiety is the brains overreaction to certain fears and depression is the hopelessness of dealing with that fear. To control one is to gain control over the other. Unfortunately science understands the brain about as well as it understands the cosmos.
    Religion often is a helpful method of hoping and coping. I think religions were invented for that reason.
    My experience indicates that it takes a combination of good professional advice, sometimes medication, a strong and understanding support group and a lot of willpower.
    Everyone has an immense amount of worth to themselves and to others. Hang in there, allow others to care and share, stay focused, moderate the highs and lows, and learn all you can.
    Thanks for the story which I am sure others in similar situations find very helpful whether dealing with it themselves or supporting those that do.

    • cycleguy says:

      It is hard when you see a family member going through something like this. I like your comment “Unfortunately science…cosmos.” It isn’t just science. Many religious people think they know it all as well and miss on so much. Sort of like telling a person they need a doctor or medication.

    • Kari Scare says:

      Your experience proves to be right on, Jeff. It does take a combination of approaches (good professional advice, sometimes medication, a strong and understanding support group and a lot of willpower) to overcome depression. Though, willpower never did much for me. Allowing others to care and share is key, too, and it means going against what you’re feeling, which is to push people away. Learning is important too. I can tell you have a lot of experience with this and understand how to help others going through it.

  3. I totally get not having victory over anxiety. I think it hits us all from time to time.

  4. floyd says:

    I’ve never heard the differences between anxiety and depression stated so simply and clearly. Thanks for the clarity and willingness to share, Kari.

  5. Very enlightening, Kari. I can’t say I’ve felt as if I were in a dark pit, but I definitely have felt the hopelessness and helplessness and it just overtakes me. I honestly feel like a different person (if that makes any sense). I deal with anxiety to a degree as well. You’ve given me a lot to ponder and pray on! Thank you so much.

    • Kari Scare says:

      Yes, it makes sense. I often felt like I didn’t know who that other person was because I knew it certainly wasn’t me. Yet, it was me. Eliminating that disparity, not having those extremes, certainly is a freer way to live.

  6. Betty Draper says:

    Kari, I too love how you defined the difference between depression and anxiety. I do not have chronic depression but have suffered from periods of situational depression. As for anxiety I think it’s been the chronic one I battle. In my early years the doctor would say you just have a lot of energy. So I never seen it as anxiety until a few years ago when I allowed the doctor to put me on some meds for a short time. The difference the meds made helped me to understand what anxiety was. Like you lots of reading and talking to others and also finding the right doctor to help me has made a huge difference. Just yesterday the doctor ask me if I felt anxious and I said no but I am sure I am because of a few other issue chronic anxiety causes such as high blood pressure and not sleeping well. It helps a lot if I exercise daily in some way, laugh a lot, keep short accounts with others and most of all trust Him who knows my frail body. Anxiety along with depression and all other illness is a result of the fall and just knowing someday the frailness sin caused will be gone gives hope that alone can calm my anxious heart. Kari I can’t say enough good about these post, thank for being willing to share what God has taught you. And Bill, my brother, thank you for highlighting Kari freeing post. I am copying them for future use.

    • Kari Scare says:

      You have highlighted several great ways to struggle through depression and anxiety and find victory within and through them. There are physical and mental indications for sure, which means there are physical and mental approaches for managing. Most importantly, as you know, involves relying on God and trusting Him to make good out of our struggles simply because He promised He would. I’m glad these posts have been beneficial to you. That both blesses and humbles me.

      • cycleguy says:

        I was out riding today Betty and was thinking about these posts by Kari. I cannot begin to say how happy I am to have asked her to do them and for her to be willing to do them. She is a jewel. And thank you for your honesty in your comment.

  7. Caleb Suko says:

    Very interesting how you define depression and anxiety. I’ve never thought of the two in that way before but it does make sense. Anxiety it seems to me is more like an overload of thoughts and concerns while depression almost seems like it could be a result of anxiety, when your mind and body can no longer keep up.

    • Kari Scare says:

      For me, an overload of thoughts sometimes led to depression and sometimes to anxiety and sometimes anxiety and then depression. Anxiety feels more like an inability to deal with even normal flow of thoughts, let alone an overload of them. In other words, I don’t think overload needs to happen. Depression and anxiety happen simply when unable to deal with “normal” life. Overload wasn’t even possible. Now, overload can do this to me, but before, when I was in the pit, I didn’t even have the chance to get to overload.

  8. Jan says:

    You hit the nail on the head explaining the difference from anxiety and depression. Another very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Mark Allman says:

    I like the format you have done here breaking this up to easy quick reads and great points by you. I think the physical is tied closely with the mental and spiritual. Taking care of one helps the other. We have to be careful not to let something we can not control from a physical standpoint hurt us mentally or spiritually which can be very difficult and take a lot of effort to overcome.

    • Kari Scare says:

      Thanks, Mark. The physical, mental and spiritual are intricately connected for sure. Each impacts the other in mysterious ways. In my experience, getting the physical as healthy as possible makes a huge difference in being able to get the others right. to me, this speaks to the truth Jesus illustrated when he often sought to meet physical needs first or at least right alongside spiritual and mental.

      • Mark Allman says:

        I admire those that have severe physical issues and still they thrive spiritually. I know that must be difficult.

        • Kari Scare says:

          Many, it seems, thrive spiritual because of the physical issue in some ways. Amazing what can be seen when one looks past the physical (defeats it, so to speak) and refuses to be confined by it, knowing it’s only a tent.

          • cycleguy says:

            I have to agree with you Mark. To watch someone who struggles with physical issues become a strong follower of Jesus is inspiring.

  10. Dan Erickson says:

    I have never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but have struggled with paranoid schizophrenic symptoms. I turned to God and worked through it. But it was not easy and it was an off an on battle for 10-15 years.

    • Kari Scare says:

      How does one work through paranoid schizophrenic symptoms? In my limited knowledge of this, it seems like something you live with and manage with medication. I’d like to learn more.

      • Me too. What I call my mom’s nervous breakdown was really this very thing. She absolutely cannot cope without medication.

        • Kari Scare says:

          In many cases of mental illness, medication is essential, though not in every case. Everyone is unique, that I’ve learned for sure, and treatment, healing, whatever you call it, is unique to the person. I don’t have medication for depression, but take away my thyroid meds and some of my supplements, and I go downhill pretty quickly.

    • Dan Erickson says:

      Many of my symptoms were likely due to my upbringing in a cult. Maybe undiagnosed PTSD. I was also using alcohol and marijuana. Quitting using was my first step. Relying heavily on keeping my mind busy with other material was the next. I was never diagnosed with schizophrenia, so I cannot speak for those who have been. My book A Train Called Forgiveness would give you an idea what I was dealing with though.

      • cycleguy says:

        I haven’t said much in this stream, but I have to step in now and say, “I agree with you Dan.” Your book was an eye-opener of what someone in a cult goes through. While not “clinical” by any stretch, it was most definitely helpful.

      • Kari Scare says:

        I actually do have the book on my Kindle, Dan, and am planning to read it soon. And, the funny thing is, I bought it to help me sort out how to write a book of my own… on depression.