What Is the Difference between Anxiety and Mood Disorders?

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  • Written By: Amanda Livingstone
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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The difference between anxiety and mood disorders is the type of feeling or state-of-mind being described. Abnormal instances of fear, worry or nervousness describe an anxiety disorder. Examples of anxiety disorders are phobias, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Mood disorders describe varying degrees of extreme sadness and elation. A depressive or bipolar mental state is indicative of a mood disorder.

Anxiety and mood disorders are both divided into three different classifications. The three anxiety disorder classifications are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias and panic attacks. Mood disorders are listed as major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder (BD) and substance-induced disorder.

GAD sufferers typically have an abnormally chronic non-specific fear and worry over normal daily activities. As a result of GAD, everyday decisions become difficult and worrisome. Unlike GAD, phobias are rooted in a specific trigger such as an object or location that causes irrational fear. Sufferers’ fears are often times disproportional to the actual danger that an object poses.

A disorder with a specific trigger such as stress or fear along with an extreme physiological reaction is considered to be a panic attack. These attacks are often brief but intensely terrifying for the sufferer. Racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing and trembling are just a few visible characterizations of a panic disorder.


In comparison to anxiety classifications, mood disorders describe depressive behavioral patterns. Depressive disorder is a mood classification that deals with intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The classification describes conditions such as clinical depression, or MDD, which is defined as one or more bouts of a major depressive episode. A well-known mood disorder called postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of MDD where giving birth is a trigger for depressive behavior.

BD is similar to MDD, except the disorder has alternating moods of mania and depression. In some instances, stimulants such amphetamines can trigger episodes of mania and depression. When substance abuse is the direct cause of a mood disorder, it is considered to be a substance induced mood disorders. When used as directed prescription medications can be beneficial in treating anxiety and mood disorders.

Anxiety and mood disorders can both be treated with various antidepressant type medications such as tricyclic, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Benzodiazepines and buspirone are known for treating anxiety disorders; while norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are generally prescribed for mood disorders. Mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants can also be used to treat mood disorders.


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Post 3

@SarahGen-- I have depression whereas my sister has anxiety, the differences between mood and anxiety disorders are so apparent if you were to compare the two of us.

I'm sad all the time, I don't feel like doing anything, I just want to lay around and sulk all day long and I cry often. My sister on the other hand doesn't sulk, she panics. She worries about something all the time. She is also very irritable.

Post 2

@SarahGen-- Absolutely. I used to suffer from both anxiety and depression and when I was diagnosed, I was very surprised. My doctor said that these are usually seen together, just the intensity varies.

For example, some people are mostly depressed with some anxiety symptoms and others are mostly anxious with some depression symptoms.

This is why some of the same medications are used for both conditions, because they go hand in hand.

Post 1

It's possible to have both an anxiety disorder and a mood disorder, right? I know someone who is receiving treatment for anxiety and mood swings.

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