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  • Writer's pictureHayley Whitehorn

Stress vs. Anxiety vs. Depression

Sometimes mental health and different conditions can get confusing as things might seem very similar in the symptoms people experience. But, there is a clear difference between Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, even though people use these terms loosely. Maybe, you or your friends might throw these words around without really understanding the meaning, like saying “Oh, I’m so depressed today” but you are really just feeling a bit overwhelmed and tired. It is important to know the meaning of these words and the differences between them so that we can all understand and help each other better.

What is the difference between Stress, Anxiety, and Depression?

So, let me explain this a bit more so it makes sense.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression are similar in a few ways, firstly, each is an individualised experience (what triggers these feelings in one person is not the same for another person), secondly, they all have changes in energy levels, mood, sleeping patterns, and ability to get tasks done, and thirdly, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed/’not yourself.

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Stress is a build-up of pressure felt towards normal daily tasks and people find different things stressful. Stress can actually be beneficial and push you towards your goals and getting tasks done. But when stress becomes prolonged, or chronic, this can turn into excessive stress which can lead to anxiety or depression.

Anxiety is severe stress and you may feel the same symptoms and worries as when you are stressed. But the key difference is that you cannot always manage it on your own and you ruminate around your negative thoughts (this means the thoughts do not fade when the stressor, e.g.: an assignment, goes away).

Depression is a severe low mood that lasts for extended periods and can be caused by prolonged stress. The key difference is that depression is specifically a sadness and hopelessness which is not common with normal stress. Depression can also stem from past or present events, unlike stress which stems from a present stressor. People who feel depressed may experience some of the same symptoms of stress and may have normal stress every day but depression can worsen to suicidal thoughts and needs a diagnosis and help from a psychologist and/or medication.

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Common Ways to Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

  1. Exercise, eat healthy, sleep well

  2. Deep breathing

  3. Muscle relaxation

  4. Journaling

  5. Have fun and laugh with friends

  6. Avoid alcohol and drugs

  7. Meditate/yoga

  8. Volunteer/help others

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It is not unusual to struggle with multiple different conditions and people can have different difficulties at different times in their lives. But it is also important to choose our words wisely and use the right terms so that we don’t undermine the experiences of others.

If you are not sure, reach out to a professional for clarification and help to manage your symptoms.

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