Anxiety and depression: what are their differences

Mental health problems represent 8 percent of the total loss of years of quality of life. In countries with developed economies, neuropsychiatric diseases account for 12 percent of all diseases.

The forecasts of the World Health Organization estimate that by 2020  depression will become the third cause of morbidity next to coronary heart disease and traffic accidents and as the first cause of disability. In Spain, it is estimated that around one and a half million people suffer from this disorder and that, throughout their lives, between  20 and 25 percent of women and between 7 and 12 percent of men will suffer some depressive episode.

According to WHO data,  a man has half the risk of anxiety throughout his life as a woman. The age of onset of this pathology is between 20 and 40 years, and the possibility of suffering from it decreases as age increases; then it gives rise to other forms of anxiety that are based on depressive states.

Differentiating anxiety and depression is not always easy due to the similarity of some of their symptoms and even their causes: in the face of the same episode, a person can react by developing anxiety or depression, since deep down both pathologies are ways of adapting to the environment. However, these are their main differences:

Interpretation mode

Both anxiety and depression are ways of reacting to external or internal events: if we interpret that event as a  threat, our alert or anxiety system will be triggered, while if we perceive it as a  loss or failure, it is likely to be activated the energy conservation system that will lead to depression.

Fear or sadness

In general terms, anxiety is an emotion that appears when the subject feels threatened by external or internal danger. The fear is the feeling prevalent. In the case of depression, the predominant feeling is sadness.

Clinical picture

Anxiety manifests itself in the form of various cognitive and psychophysiological imbalances. Its most frequent symptoms are abdominal pain,  diarrhea or frequent need to urinate, dizziness,  headaches, muscle tension, rapid breathing, fast and irregular heart rate, sweating, tremors, fatigue, irritability, and insomnia problems. On the contrary, depressive states involve feelings of guilt or lack of self-esteem, drastic changes in appetite, feelings of fatigue, and lack of concentration. They can also cause sleep disturbances.

Future or present

Anxiety is related to the prevention of the patient regarding the future, with a  fear that the unpleasant consequences that are supposed to happen will occur. Depression, on the other hand, has to do with an undervaluation of the patient himself and deep sadness in the present moment. In other words, the future is not part of the depression.

Variations in the same day

In anxiety there are no variations of state throughout the day (except in some profound cases, where patients tend to feel worse upon waking up and in the early hours of the day ) or during the different seasons of the year. These alterations do occur in depressed patients.

Enjoyment capacity

Loss of enjoyment or pleasure is not necessarily affected in anxiety disorder, as is the depression case.

Psychological or external factors

While the origin of depression is usually psychological, the causes that cause anxiety are more varied: substances such as alcohol,  bronchodilators, or drugs such as cocaine or marijuana are clear triggers of this type of disorder. A poor diet (for example, low levels of vitamin B12) can also contribute to stress or anxiety. In very rare cases, an adrenal gland tumor can cause anxiety or stress-like symptoms.

Despite these differences, the WHO, within its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), includes mixed anxiety-depressive disorder, in which there are possibilities of combining symptoms typical of anxiety and depression.

Why magnesium is reputed to be an anti-stress mineral

With the -mal call- spring asthenia prowling and generalization of associated symptoms to pandemic fatigue, many people feel the need for activators of the mind and life energy. Just enter any internet search engine to see how the word magnesium appears in a matter of seconds.

But what is true about the revitalizing, calming, or pro-humor properties attributed to this nutrient? And, above all, what is the best way to incorporate it into the diet to obtain those –or other- benefits?

The pharmacist and nutritionist Rocío Narbaiza, member of Food of the Official College of Pharmacists of Guipúzcoa, puts us in context: “Recent studies show that magnesium acts on the GABA receptors in the brain, therefore it has a relaxing effect on brain activity, reducing stress and anxiety. It is also known that this mineral is involved in the regulation of the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter of vital importance in the mood. In fact, low levels of this neurotransmitter are related to depressive states ”, he tells CuídatePlus.

Along the same lines, Beatriz Robles, dietician-nutritionist and food technologist, explains that magnesium, like all micronutrients, plays an important role in our physiology and intervenes in very important functions for the body. “In fact, its deficit is related to symptoms such as depression, psychosis, irritability, confusion, muscle weakness, or fatigue. Therefore, meeting the requirements helps normal psychological functioning and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, as recognized by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) “.

Good sleep ally

Team Gerben van Ooijen, Faculty of Biological Sciences of the University of Edinburgh (UK), whose line of research focuses on circadian rhythms, has spent several years on the trail of the important role that magnesium plays in the regulation of sleep patterns and quality. Thus, these experts verified the impact of this nutrient on the ability of cells to adapt to natural day and night environmental cycles and also on cellular metabolism, specifically in its ability to rapidly convert nutrients into energy, throughout one day.

On the other hand, the results of some research point to the potential benefits of magnesium in and relief l symptoms of migraine and in regulating levels of blood glucose.

Also, as Robles comments, there is some evidence that magnesium supplementation can help in the treatment of certain mental illnesses, “but there is no clear consensus on this.”