Depression & Anxiety – Fact Sheet for Friends, Colleagues and Managers

Whilst anxiety and depression are two different conditions, it is quite common for people to experience both at the same time. This fact sheet outlines different types of depression and anxiety and the treatments that may help manage these conditions.

Please seek the support of a GP in diagnosing and managing any mental health condition.


There are many types of depression, and everyone experiences them a little differently. Whilst different types of depression have particular symptoms, they may also appear at different times in our life. For example, postnatal depression occurs with women around childbirth. Some examples of depression include:

MAJOR DEPRESSION (also known as clinical depression or depression)

This is when you feel down, sad and flat most days, have experienced this for more than two weeks and it interferes with your daily activities across work and social relationships and with your ability to care for yourself.

BIPOLAR DISORDER (previously called manic depression)

This involves extreme shifts in mood from emotional highs (mania) to lows (depression) that are unpredictable. When you become depressed you may feel sad, hopeless or lose interest and pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania you may feel full of energy, frustrated and irritable, have racing thoughts and talk quickly. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, judgement, and behaviour. Some people with bipolar experience multiple episodes of mood swings in a year while others experience mood swings only rarely across their lifetime.


During pregnancy, around 10% of women experience depression.  In the first three months after birth, this increases to 16%. There are specialised resources available within NSW Health to help identify and treat antenatal and postnatal depression.


SAD is quite rare in Australia since it relates to variations in light exposure across different seasons. As a result, this condition is more common in the Northern Hemisphere where winter is marked with short days and long periods of night/darkness. SAD is usually diagnosed when the same symptoms of depression are experienced over consecutive winters.


Anxiety is our body’s response to danger, but when anxiety is persistent or excessive it can be a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Anxiety can be different for different people, but some common types of anxiety include:


This is a persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. Often the worry is focused on everyday events such as work tasks and responsibilities, family health and daily routines.


The core symptom of panic disorder is recurrent panic attacks. These are an overwhelming feeling of physical and psychological distress. The symptoms of a panic attack can often be so severe that the person believes they are having a heart attack and attends hospital. Panic attacks can be anticipated, for example in response to a feared object or event or unexpected or can occur for no apparent reason. During a panic attack, people may experience some of the following symptoms at the same time:

  • Palpitations, pounding of the heart or rapid heart rate.
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath, feelings of being smothered or choked.
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Nausea or abdominal pains
  • Feeling detached
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER (previously called social phobia)

People with this condition are worried about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in a social situation. As a result, they avoid the situation they are worried about or endure it with great discomfort. Examples of these situations include public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public.


People with this health condition have excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful and, whilst the person knows the fear is excessive compared to the risks, they are unable to overcome it. As a result, they go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Some examples include fear of flying, fear of heights and fear of spiders.


There are a range of effective treatments that can be used to treat anxiety and depression including:


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most effective treatments available for anxiety and depression. It assists people to change the patterns of thinking and behaviour that are contributing to their depression and anxiety or preventing them from improving. By identifying these patterns and replacing them with patterns of thinking and behavior that promote good moods and better coping mechanisms, CBT achieves consistent results. Encouraging people with anxiety and depression to access online, face to face or computer-led CBT is a great way to support them.

Behaviour Therapy: This focuses on increasing the level of activity and pleasure in the life of the person with anxiety and depression. Unlike CBT above, it does not focus on changing beliefs and attitudes but teaches them to be more active. Support people with anxiety and depression by helping them to reconnect with activities that they once enjoyed. Maybe suggest being their ‘activity buddy” and accompany them on walks, going to a park or walking the dog.


There are a range of medications that doctors can prescribe to treat depression. These are called antidepressants. Whilst different antidepressants work in different ways, all act on the chemicals in the brain related to emotions and motivation. Antidepressants take time (at least 2 weeks) to work, with symptoms improving after 4-6 weeks. If you know someone who is starting on medication, it is important that you encourage them to continue to take the medications until it starts to take effect.


The health benefits of good work are shown to assist with all mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. If you know or manage someone with a mental health condition it is important that the work you provide is protective and supports a mentally healthy workplace.


Supporting your friend/colleague/employee to stay connected with their community with activities that they enjoy and feel safe completing, is an important part of their recovery as well as a protective factor to prevent mental illness.


Exercise and diet impact most parts of our lives and contribute to our mental health. Supporting co-workers to keep active and to eat a healthy balanced diet will assist with any mental health treatment plan.


Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:

Beyond Blue

Black Dog Institute
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, visit



If you want to talk to someone for free you can

Living with a mental health condition looks different for everyone.
Click on the profiles below to understand what experiencing mental health issues might look like in your workplace, and how to get help.