The Difference Between Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder

Obtaining a diagnosis is the first step in seeking mental and behavioral healthcare. Once you understand your specific mental health condition, you can obtain the support you need to thrive. However, it can be tricky to understand the nuances between the many diagnoses, especially when discussing anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Here’s how to distinguish between these common conditions.

How Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder Differ


About 18% of American adults experience anxiety every year, so this is a common behavioral health diagnosis. There are several types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.

The symptoms of anxiety vary greatly and can be physical, emotional, and mental. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Nervousness and worry
  • Sense of fear or doom
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Lack of focus

A mental health professional will perform a psychological assessment to diagnose anxiety, as well as the specific type. Common treatments include talk therapy, group counseling, and anxiety medication. Lifestyle changes can also support clinical anxiety treatment.


Depression, or major depressive disorder, affects fewer people than anxiety but is still prevalent. About 7% of American adults fit the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. Some people may experience anxiety and depression at the same time.

Much like anxiety, the symptoms of depression vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite or weight

Following a diagnosis of depression, a mental health professional will recommend a treatment course based on your needs. Depression medications are often part of these treatment plans. Individual therapy can also help patients cope with their depression symptoms in a safe and confidential environment.

Bipolar Disorder

Affecting 2.8% of the adult population in the United States, bipolar disorder is the least common condition on this list. It may also be less familiar to many people. Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes significant fluctuations in moods and behavior.

There are two main types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar I: Bipolar I disorder is a condition that causes periods of “ups” and “downs” that can last a week or more. These periods of mania or depression often require professional care.

Bipolar II: This is a less severe version of bipolar disorder. There are still ups and downs, but the behavior is less intense.

When discussing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s helpful to distinguish between the periods of mania and depression. During periods of mania or less severe “hypomania,” individuals may experience increased energy, racing thoughts, distraction, feelings of euphoria, and a lack of impulse control. They might sleep less, notice racing thoughts, talk more, and experience periods of agitation.

The depressive episodes often bring about the symptoms of depression listed above. The individual may feel empty, sad, or hopeless. They may lose interest in activities, feel fatigued, experience thoughts of suicide, and notice changes in sleep patterns.

In the moment, the symptoms of bipolar disorder may mimic those of anxiety and major depressive disorder, depending on the state of the individual. This is why it’s important to see a mental health professional to understand the full scope of the condition. Treatment includes medication for bipolar disorder, as well as specialized counseling services.

The team at SOL Mental Health is proud to offer diagnostics and treatment for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Our Denver counseling solutions take a holistic approach to mental health care, putting individual needs at the center. We offer psychiatric services to help clients with comprehensive medication management. Contact us today to get started.

Does My Insurance Cover a Therapist at SOL Mental Health?

SOL Mental Health is partnered with several insurance providers to make our services more accessible to you. You can verify your insurance through our website before scheduling an appointment.

Recent Posts

How to Rebuild, Strengthen Broken Family Ties

3 Tips to Mend Your Familial Relationships   Strategies for Healing Fragile Family Bonds   National Siblings Day occurred on April 10th. It's great to celebrate our bonds with family members, but at times, these holidays can be a reminder of some people's...

Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks

What's the Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks? Here's What You Should Know   Anxiety and panic attacks are common mental health issues, but they can be difficult to distinguish. So, in order to help you better understand how to manage your mental...

Stress, Anxiety Moving to A New City

We Can Help You Manage the Stress and Anxiety Around Moving   Here's How to Ease Your Stress When Relocating   Moving can be an exciting life change, but it can also bring about unpleasant feelings of stress and anxiety. In addition, adjusting to a new place...

Why Do People Seek Therapy?

Therapy Can Be Beneficial to Many People   It’s Not Limited to ‘Extreme’ Cases   Therapy can be highly beneficial for many people, and there are various reasons why people decide to go. However, some may be under the impression that therapy is only for a...

Coping With Change

You Got This! Unfortunately, we can’t see the future. While we can do our best to build habits and stick to routines that give us structure, sometimes, things happen that we can’t control. Whether it’s a breakup, global pandemic, loss of a job, death of a loved one,...

But it doesn't have to be a circle.