How to know if I am suffering from anxiety or stress?

How many times have we felt overwhelmed by what is happening around us to the extent of becoming extremely uncomfortable or breathless? And every time such a thing happens, people around us tell us that we are just stressed. However, we are not so sure.

Most of us use stress and anxiety interchangeably. This is because the symptoms of stress and anxiety are quite similar making it difficult for one to differentiate between the two. While stress can be understood as our body’s reaction to an external stimulus, anxiety is a more serious condition characterized by feelings of worry, fear, tension, uneasiness, and/or apprehension. Often, stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with extreme prolonged stress leading to anxiety.

Though both these conditions can be managed with simple steps, one needs to seek professional help when anxiety gets out of control. This means that anxiety affects the person adversely and prevents them from completing daily chores, meeting friends, or trying new things. Here, we discuss the main difference between stress and anxiety and how these can be identified.

External and internal: Stress is mostly triggered by an external factor. It can be aggravated by a negative attitude and self-depreciating behavior. On the other hand, anxiety can be understood as one’s reaction to stressful conditions. When stressors overwhelm us and leave us feeling distressed, panicked, or feeling agitated, it is more likely to be anxiety.

Real and imagined: Stress is mostly a reaction to something that we see happening whereas anxiety can be felt in apprehension of something happening. For example, bereavement. When we lose someone we love, we feel stressed. However, we might feel anxious in anticipation of losing someone we love. Whether that thing will happen or not is a different matter.

Symptoms: An anxiety disorder is characterized by certain symptoms like panic attacks, restlessness, nausea, insomnia, palpitations, trembling, unwanted and uncontrolled thoughts, etc. The prevalence of such symptoms might suggest the presence of an anxiety disorder. These feelings can be so strong that they incapacitate a person.

In control and out of control: Stress is a controlled reaction to something. When the stressor is unavailable, the stress subsides. On the other hand, anxiety is usually an out of control or extreme reaction. It can create mental complications. Another way to judge whether we are experiencing a stress or anxiety reaction is to judge our reaction with the reaction of other people around us. If our reaction seems to be oversized, then it might be anxiety.

Short-lived and ongoing: A stressful reaction is a short-lived reaction, which ends with the trigger. Conversely, an anxiety disorder is characterized by ongoing feelings of worry, fear, and restlessness. The feelings may continue to dictate the way we behave even after the trigger has ended. If such feelings continue for more than six months, then it is imperative that we seek professional help.

The way forward

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common mental health disorder affecting more than 40 million Americans. In spite of being highly treatable, only 37 percent of the population suffering from anxiety actually seeks treatment. Early treatment intervention for anxiety can help the person suffering from anxiety gain control of their life.

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or any other mental health disorder, get in touch with Medical Concierge. We provide compassionate care for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Call our 24/7 helpline number 877-636-0042 to get information about anxiety treatment centers. We have collaborated with mental health treatment centers offering evidence-based treatment modalities for anxiety disorder. Alternatively, you can chat online with our trained experts for further guidance.

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