Home » Depression » An Overview of Anxiety and Depression

An Overview of Anxiety and Depression

When stress builds up, there is the potential for it to develop into longer-term problems. Anxiety and depression both are extremely widespread in the modern world, so an awareness of the common symptoms may help you recognize the patterns and stop them in their tracks.


In its most basic form, anxiety is a nagging fear that something bad is going to happen. This becomes a long-term problem when the anxiety isn’t based on a specific event, but is an ongoing pattern. It may have been learned in childhood from anxious parents.

Some anxiety in the face of stress is natural, but not when it is a constant feature of our lives. For people experiencing ongoing anxiety, as soon as one worry is overcome, another soon will replace it.

Types of anxiety problems

  • Generalized anxiety. Generalized anxiety is ongoing worry and concern with no obvious triggers. This is the most common form of anxiety. It can result in poor concentration, feeling ‘on edge’, having trouble sleeping, being easily startled, dizzy or fatigued. It often is reduced by exercise, relaxation, and other stress management strategies.
  • Panic attacks. These are short bouts of extreme, overwhelming fear. You might feel like you are dying, about to have a heart attack, or can’t breathe. However, panic attacks rarely are dangerous.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder. This involves persistent thoughts and the strong need to carry out certain actions, such as checking that objects are in the right place. These fixations can take up a lot of the sufferer’s time every day.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD develops in response to an intensely stressful, usually life-threatening event. It involves frequent intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, and can last indefinitely if not worked through.
  • Phobias. These arise when fear linked to something specific becomes so strong that it is out of proportion to its original cause. Some phobias — such as agoraphobia, in which people become afraid to leave their homes — can seriously interfere with everyday life.

These problems often will impact other areas of our lives, causing a vicious circle to develop. They can be effectively treated with counseling and medication, so don’t delay in seeking help.


Clinical depression is far more common than we like to believe, and it is increasing. Anyone can develop it, and an estimated five to ten percent of the population suffer from it to some extent at any one time.

Depression involves much more than ordinary sadness. Understanding more about it can help you get better — don’t let yourself believe that you’ll never beat it.

An Overview of Anxiety and Depression

Jane Collingwood

Jane Collingwood is a longtime regular contributing journalist to Psych Central, focusing on topics of mental health and dissecting recent research findings.

APA Reference
Collingwood, J. (2020). An Overview of Anxiety and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.