Depression and Anxiety

Depression and Anxiety (considered in the broader category of internalizing disorders) are a prevalent mental illness amongst the most common disorders facing Australians – with 44% of people experiencing a mental disorder in their life time

A mental illness refers to a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour, usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning (WHO 2022)

Research indicates anxiety disorders and major depression begins during development, with anxiety disorders commonly beginning during preadolescence and early adolescence and major depression tending to emerge during adolescence and early to mid-adulthood. In relation to the evolution of their comorbidity, studies demonstrate that anxiety disorders generally precede the presentation of major depressive disorder

Anxiety and depressive disorders are moderately heritable (approximately 40%), and evidence suggests shared genetic risk across the internalizing disorders. Among internalizing disorders, the highest level of shared genetic risk appears to be between major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder


Depression is more than just sadness. It is a mental health condition that significantly affects the way someone thinks and feels. It causes ongoing low mood, and/or a loss of pleasure or interest in things that someone would usually enjoy. Depression often involves a range of other physical and psychological symptoms that can interfere with day-to-day life

There are different types of depressive disorders (Persistent depressive disorder, Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Major depressive disorder, perinatal depression) which differ by how long you remain affected, when they occur, and possible causes – and can vary greatly from person to person. By spending less time doing the things that bring purpose and fun to your life, depression can lead to other problems. You may find yourself relying on alcohol or drugs to help manage your moods. This in turn can increase your depressive symptoms and make positive action seem more difficult.

The Facts

  • Depression affects thinking and emotions, causing low mood and a loss of pleasure in usual activities. 
  • Major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and perinatal depression are all types of depressive disorders.  
  • People living with depression can benefit from self-care strategies, psychological therapies, and community support.  
  • It is possible to live a full and meaningful life even if a person experiences depression
  • Depression is more common in women than men, and higher rates occur in people with disabilities or long term health conditions
  • Depression is one of the most common mental health issues. Around 7.5% of Australian adults experience depressive disorders each year

The Symptoms

Symptoms of depression can occur at any age. A person with depression will often feel low even if there is no obvious cause.

  • Feeling extremely sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful. 
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities. 
  • Significant weight changes, or changes to appetite. 
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia), or oversleeping (hypersomnia). 
  • Feeling physically agitated or jittery, or slowed down. 
  • Fatigue, or loss of energy. 
  • Negative thinking, such as feeling worthless or guilty. 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions. 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, planning or attempting suicide.

Tackling Depression

What can be done to help

A person with a depressive disorder will become increasingly inactive and socially withdrawn. One of the most useful things you can do is support them in rebuilding their engagement with the things that they enjoy and find satisfying. Help them to develop a realistic activity schedule, and encourage them to stick to it. Be patience and understanding. Try not to blame them for their inactivity and understand that you may need to do more at this time to maintain the relationship.

Some ways to take action if you are struggling with Depression is

  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Scheduling and planning to establish structure in routine
  • Eating well and forming positive lifestyle habits
  • Use a trusted support network and maintain social connection
  • Psychological treatments and professional help


Anxiety is an important emotional and physical experience that can protect us from harm. An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition involving longer-term fear and worry that is out of proportion to a situation, as well as unpleasant physical experiences. 

Anxiety disorders can take several forms. Common to all of these is anxiety so distressing it can interfere with day-to-day life. 

A person may experience more than one anxiety disorder. Some people may also experience anxiety disorders in combination with other mental health issues, such as depression, alcohol or drug use, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders, or obsessive and compulsive disorders. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalised anxiety disorder: Persistent, excessive or unrealistic worries about a range of situations, with anxiety happening more days than not.  
  • Social anxiety disorder (a.k.a. social phobia): intense anxiety about social situations, where a person fears judgment by others. 
  • Panic disorder: repeated and unexpected panic attacks, and ongoing worry about the risk of future panic attacks (for at least 1 month after a panic attack).  
  • Specific phobia: an intense anxiety about specific objects or situations that are rare, or have little or no danger. People with phobias will also avoid the feared object or situation.  
  • Agoraphobia: anxiety about situations such as public transport, open spaces, enclosed spaces, crowds, or being outside of the home alone.

Did you know

Every year, around 17% of adult Australians experience an anxiety disorder.

Managing and Treatment for Living with an Anxiety Disorder

There are strategies that can help people manage the challenging thoughts and physical sensations of anxiety: 

  • Understanding more about anxiety, why it has come up and what makes it better or worse 
  • Learning strategies to manage unhelpful thoughts, and developing mindfulness skills. 
  • Learning strategies to calm the body and mind, such as relaxation and breathing training. 
  • Looking after physical health through healthy eating, exercise and sleeping well. 
  • Managing panic attacks through mindfulness, deep breathing, and gradual exposure to feared situations. 

It’s a good idea to seek advise from a GP, as treatment and therapy can be very helpful in combatting Anxiety Disorder. Therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 
  • Exposure therapy 
  • Psychodynamic therapy 
  • Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) 
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy