Understanding The Differences and Similarities Between Stress Vs. Anxiety
You feel stressed out all the time. And you find it challenging to let go and relax. You’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans report an increase in stress over the past five years, and 33% of individuals feel like they are living with extreme stress. But when does stress become anxiety? Are the two terms interchangeable? And, how do you treat them?
Let’s look at the key differences and similarities between stress vs. anxiety.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a normal human reaction. We experience it as tiny newborns and the stress follows us throughout our lifetime. We feel stress during periods of adjustment, uncertainty, and discomfort.
Contrary to some beliefs, stress is not totally ‘bad.’ In fact, in many situations, stress can alert us about dangerous situations or motivate us to keep pushing forward. Without stress, it’s easy to fall into patterns of laziness and complacency.
That said, extreme stress can take a huge toll on both our physical and emotional health.
Extreme stress can lead to symptoms that include:
- Feeling completely overwhelmed
- Experiencing a loss of control
- Feeling insecure, worthless, and constantly guilty
- Withdrawing or avoiding others
- Racing thoughts
- Low energy
- Headaches and migraines
- Unexplained body pains, aches, and tension
- Chest pain
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Frequent flu or cold-like symptoms
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is also a healthy and common feeling that everyone has. We feel anxious when we don’t know what to expect. Likewise, we feel anxious about uneasy or difficult situations especially when we aren’t sure how to appropriately respond.
However, chronic extreme anxiety may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a medical condition. Currently, anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans. This makes it the most common mental illness in the country.
There are several different kinds of anxiety. Let’s briefly review each of them.
Generalized anxiety refers to excessive worry about various situations, people, and events. The anxiety may be unprompted and unrealistic. However, it can still feel debilitating.
People who have generalized anxiety may feel a consistent sense of restlessness, irritability, and nervousness. They may find it hard to sleep, concentrate, and stay present (being in the moment).
Specific phobias refer to the severe fear of a specific situation or object. For example, phobias may include spiders, airplane flights, or elevators. The phobia may prevent an individual from living a fulfilling and satisfying life.
Those who experience social anxiety may feel very fearful and insecure in social settings. This anxiety mainly centers on the concern about being judged or made fun of (direct or implied) by others.
Social anxiety can make it challenging for people to form meaningful relationships. It can also impact one’s success in school or in the workplace.
Panic attacks refer to the combination of several symptoms. These include chest tightness, heart palpitations, sweating, and nervousness. Some people mistake these symptoms for a heart attack.
Chronic panic attacks can lead to panic disorder. Panic disorder refers to the fear of a panic attack occurring. These feelings can be so overwhelming that the individual starts avoiding situations where they think an attack may occur.
Post-traumatic stress following a traumatic event can result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms may include chronic flashbacks, nightmares, symptoms of hypervigilance, and avoidance.
Understanding the Key Differences Between Stress Vs. Anxiety
As mentioned, we all feel stress and anxiety throughout our lives. They are a normal part of being human. However, extreme stress and anxiety can create lots of distress. This can impact our daily functioning.
Stress refers to the body’s response to an external situation. For example, these situations may include a new project at work, disagreement with your spouse, or moving to a new house. Typically, once the situation subsides, the stress lessens or goes away. Therefore, when people keep experiencing stressful situations, stress may start to hurt their quality of life.
Anxiety is more of an internal response. It refers to the feeling of uncertainty, unease, and dread. These feelings can happen even when the situation is not typically threatening, And, anxiety can linger even after the main concern passes.
Furthermore, anxiety is not always rational. You may have untrue beliefs about yourself, others, or the world. These negative beliefs can impact future feelings and responses.
Begin Therapy for Stress or Anxiety
Knowing the difference between stress vs. anxiety can help you find the best treatment. Therapy offers a fantastic opportunity to work through both conditions and live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
If you are tired of feeling overwhelmed? Or if you want to start managing your stress or anxiety more productively? Follow these easy steps to begin therapy at Willow Counseling:
- Contact our counseling office to schedule a free 30-minute in-person consultation,
- Meet with one of our highly trained therapists, and
- Find relief from stress or anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.
Other Services offered at Willow Counseling in Nashville, TN
Our Nashville counseling clinic provides quality trauma-informed therapy to our community. Willow Counseling sees the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. In addition to therapy for stress or anxiety and CBT for anxiety, we offer a variety of other mental health services to help you on your healing journey. This includes trauma and EMDR therapy, therapy for compassion fatigue, and group therapy for anxiety. Whatever brings you into counseling, our therapists want to help. Most of all, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again. We want you to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.