Anxiety – The Causes, Symptoms and Its’ Relationship to Depression

  • Do you know the difference?

It has been asserted in studies that depression is the number one mental health issue disorder identified in the work place. Other studies assert that anxiety is the number one issue facing employees.

Let’s take a look at what’s behind these two issues.

Depression arises when a person is constantly ruminating about the past ‘If only I’d done this or that then my life would have been different.’ It is as though by going over and over something the past will miraculously change.

Anxiety arises when a person is constantly ruminating or trying to control the future ‘What if this happens or that then I can be prepared.’ They need to control the outcomes so that they can feel safe. Yet, the more they try the worse it gets as the number of items to control goes beyond their reach.

Some of the literature states that anxiety springs from depression and is in fact, one of the issues related to depression. These two disorders are at opposite ends of the stress spectrum. It would be difficult to maintain physiologically, as you would be constantly zotting between two extremes and the cortisol levels emitted would be extreme. You would be fatigued beyond words and would find it difficult to function at any level.

The DSM-5 (The Diagnostical and Statistical Manual on Mental Health Disorders) outlines several types of anxiety disorders such as: separation anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, panic disorders and attacks, PTSD. Obsessive compulsive disorders and generalised anxiety disorder(GAD), the most common being GAD.

DSM-5 outlines signs and symptoms such as:

  • Excessive worry, a lot of the time for at least six months, for several issues
  • The person cannot control this state
  • The worry is associated with 3 or more of the following, experienced often over a six-month period
  • Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance
  • The worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social or work functioning
  • The disturbance is not attributable to substance abuse or a medical condition
  • The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder

There was a study done on countries prescribing medication for depression. In Korea fewer people per thousand than the US take prescribed medication, however, the suicide rate is much higher there. Why would that be so? It is because Koreans feel that any mental health issue: depression, anxiety or psychoses are signs of personal weakness. In fact, a lot of people world-wide, do not think that mental health issues are real diseases, especially if they are self-inflicted such as substance abuse, and this gives rise to the stigma attached to persons having those disorders.

Having an anxiety disorder means that any criteria outlined above are felt in the extreme and can be crippling, extreme and persistent, and hence will affect quality of life.

Anxiety disorders also comprise a range of different mental illness that have specific traits of: excessive fear and apprehension, avoidance of feared items or situations and places. This means that a person’s ability to fully participate in everyday life is compromised.

In Australia research was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008) – a National Survey of Mental Health & Wellbeing during 2007. A summary of results highlights the following:

  • Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and on average 1 in 4 will experience anxiety
  • In a 12- month period over 2 Million Australians will experience anxiety
  • Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are most likely to have anxiety
  • Every year approximately 14% of the population experience anxiety disorder
  • Research suggests 10% of the population experience social phobias during a lifetime and it affects women more.
  • Around 12% will experience PTSD in a lifetime. It states that serious accidents are one of the leading causes of PTSD
  • Up to 40% of the population will experience a panic attack at some time in their lifetime.

What causes anxiety?

It has been stated that anxiety is not caused by a single factor but can be attributed to a number of issues such as:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • On-going stressful events (family, major emotional shock or trauma, death of a loved one, workplace stress and so on)
  • Physical health problems (diabetes, hypertension, asthma)
  • Other mental health issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Other unknown causes

Treatments or Remedies

Treatments commonly suggested include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Social support
  • Medication
  • Psychological – talking therapies
  • Various alternative therapies such as breathing techniques


When you look at the stats and what people worry about one of the biggest issues external to the work place that affect people on a daily basis is worry about personal finances. At work they worry about job security and not having sufficient control over the outcomes of their tasks which make many jobs task- oriented instead of being more creative. This leads to lack of engagement and a feeling of lack of being valued. These issues, together with the emotional baggage employees bring to work each day can impinge enormously on a person’s mental health and make them feel not only invalidated but also anxious.