Stress and anxiety sound similar but are they? Is there a difference between the two? How can you differentiate between them? This post goes in-depth about the similarities and differences between stress and anxiety. The results may shock you!
Stress and anxiety are similar emotional responses that activate the fight or flight process. The purpose of the fight or flight response is the body´s way of ensuring you are alert, focused, and ready to deal with a possible threat. Also, this is the body´s natural reaction to danger.
They both have similar symptoms, which may confuse identifying and differentiating them. Some symptoms are:
- inability to concentrate
- muscle tension
Similar yet different
Stress is a rather common occurrence in life. Everyone goes through stressful situations sometimes. However, if your body is in a constant state of stress (chronic), that may pose a problem.
Stress is a physical/mental response to an external cause, such as danger, emergencies, sickness, financial burdens, family strife, and worry, among other things.
Not all stress is bad. Eustress can help you perform at your peak performance. Eustress can inspire you to push yourself to greater heights. We have an article about stress which you can read here.
Experiencing anxiety on occasion is a normal part of life. The dictionary describes anxiety as persistent, excessive worries that do not go away, even when there are no stressors (reasons) present.
Normally, stress goes away when a problem is resolved; anxiety, on the other hand, doesn´t seem to want to sail away into the sunset. Anxiety tends to linger.
The human brain seems to despise uncertainty; thus, one of anxiety´s well-known facts is fear.
According to data from the National Institute of Health (NIH), 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder; during their lifetimes.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults in the US, and women are twice as likely to be affected than men.
18% of the US population, roughly 40 million Americans aged 18 years and older, experience anxiety.
Avoidance may increase anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. However, only about 1/3 of people suffering from them receive necessary treatment.
A healthy diet along with healthy lifestyle changes can affect anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder): a persistent feeling of dread/anxiety that affects how you live your life. Some symptoms are:
- restlessness/wound-up/on edge
- muscle aches
- difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- difficulty falling/staying asleep
- difficulty concentrating
- easily fatigued
Panic disorder: a mental condition characterized by unexpected/repeated episodes of intense fear. Someone suffering from panic attacks may experience:
- pounding/racing heartbeat
- chest pains
- feelings of impending doom
Panic disorders can occur as frequently as several times per day or sporadically as once a year.
Social Anxiety: long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. Someone experiencing social anxiety disorder may have the following symptoms:
- pounding/racing heart
- rigid body posture
- speaking with a very soft voice
- difficulty making eye contact
- difficulty being around people
- intense fear of social performance/situations
People suffering from social anxiety disorder are afraid that people will judge or evaluate them negatively.
The fear people with phobias feel is usually out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation/object. There are different types of phobias mostly specific or simple phobias.
These are intense fear of specific objects/situations. For example:
- the fear of flying,
- fear of heights,
- specific animals (spiders, dogs, snakes)
Agoraphobia: intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- using public transportation
- being in open spaces
- being in enclosed spaces
- being in a crowd
- being outside of the home alone
People with this type of phobia tend to avoid trigger situations.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety disorder can affect adults too, not only children. They have fears about parting from people they are attached to.
Selective mutism is a rare disorder that occurs when people fail to speak in specific social situations, despite having normal language skills. Some signs are as follows:
- extreme shyness
- fear of social embarrassment
- compulsive traits
- clingy behavior
- temper tantrums
- may also suffer from other anxiety disorders
Anxiety and stress though they may appear similar, they are different. Stress and anxiety are both emotional responses.
Stress is caused by an external trigger. It can be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one. Stress usually goes away when the stressor has been taken care of.
Anxiety is defined as persistent, excessive worries that don´t go away even in the absence of stressors. Anxiety tends to linger.
There are ways to combat stress and anxiety. Healthy lifestyle choices can alleviate stress and anxiety. However, if you suspect that you have chronic stress or an anxiety disorder, you must speak to your doctor about your concerns/symptoms.
Do not put off seeking medical attention if you may need it. Do not let pride or fear stop you from getting the assistance necessary to set you on the right path and the road to recovery.
Get the help you need; as soon as you can to bounce back stronger than ever.
Read more about healthy ways to combat stress here.