Anxiety and Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health problem that involves having a low mood or losing interest and enjoyment in things. It can also cause a range of other changes to how you feel or behave.

The symptoms you experience may vary. How intense they are, how long they last, and how much they affect your daily life can also vary.

If you experience milder depression, you might have low mood but still be able to carry on with your daily life. But things may feel harder and less worthwhile.

If you have more severe depression, you might find day-to-day life much more difficult. You may also experience suicidal feelings.

It starts as sadness then I feel myself shutting down, becoming less capable of coping. Eventually, I just feel numb and empty.


When does low mood become depression?

We all have times when our mood is low, and we feel sad or fed up. Often these feelings happen for a reason and pass on their own.

But it might be depression if the feelings become so bad that they interfere with our daily life. Or if they last for several weeks or months.

See our page on the symptoms of depression for more information.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.

Anxiety is a natural human response when we feel that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

For me, anxiety feels as if everyone in the world is waiting for me to trip up, so that they can laugh at me. It makes me feel nervous and unsure whether the next step I take is the best way forward. 

Most people feel anxious at times. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life. See our pages on how to manage stress for more information about stress.

What is the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response?

Like all animals, human beings have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from danger. When we feel under threat our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can be helpful. These hormones:

  • make us feel more alert, so we can act faster
  • make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most.

After we feel the threat has passed, our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake.

This is commonly called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response – it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it.

 When is anxiety a mental health problem?


Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem if:

  • your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  • you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  • you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

If your symptoms fit a particular set of medical criteria then you might be diagnosed with a particular anxiety disorder. But it’s also possible to experience problems with anxiety without having a specific diagnosis. Our pages on self-care and treatment for anxiety offer suggestions for help and support.

Are you anxiety aware?

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it’s  preparing for a job interview or bringing up a child. It is normal to experience anxiety in everyday situations, however persistent and excessive anxiety can cause more serious mental health problems.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in nearly every country in the world, and while a low level of anxiety can be a useful motivating force, in some cases it can take over your life.

Find out more about anxiety and how to develop positive coping strategies.

We are all individuals. 

We all think and behave in our own way and react differently to stresses and strains. Some people might be lucky enough to go through life with hardly any problems but, for most of us, life has its ups and downs.

Sometimes it can be hard to deal with things, but with the right help, support and a bit of understanding it can be easier to cope with the difficult times.

See Me

See me is Scotland’s programme for ending mental health stigma and discrimination – you can find information and help on mental health issues here

Did you know

“1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.” (Source – Well? What do you think survey, Scottish Executive, 2002 and Common mental disorders ­a bio-social model, Goldberg, D. & Huxley, P. 1992)

Support and information

If you think you may be suffering from anxiety or depression seek support from your GP.

Support is also available from  the Council’s EAP, Help@Hand and other specialist organisations and charities:

Home – Mind

Depression – NHS (

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen