Knowing The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

Rossamund
2 min readJan 28, 2023
Stressed Woman in the Office

There is a difference between stress and anxiety. These are both emotional responses.
Stress is usually brought on by external triggers. The trigger can be short-term, such as a deadline at work or a fight with a friend, or long-term, such as being out of work, discrimination, or chronic illness.
People who are stressed experience both mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue, muscle aches, upset stomach, and difficulty sleeping.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worry that doesn’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety causes a series of symptoms that are nearly identical to stress: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension and irritability.

Stress and mild anxiety respond well to similar coping mechanisms. Physical activity, a nutritious diet and good sleep hygiene are all good starting points, but other coping mechanisms are available.

If your stress or anxiety isn’t responding to these management techniques, and you feel that stress and anxiety are affecting your day-to-day moods, consider talking to a psychiatrist who can help you understand what you’re going through, and give you additional coping tools.
A psychologist can help to determine whether you have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders differ from short-term feelings of anxiety in their degree of severity, and how long they last:
Anxiety generally persists for months, and negatively affects mood.
Some anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia, or the fear of public or open spaces, can cause you to avoid pleasurable activities or make it difficult to hold down a job.

According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health, 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

The most common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorders. To identify whether a person has generalized anxiety disorder, a psychiatrist will look for symptoms such as excessive worry that is difficult to control, occurring nearly every day for six months.
Worries can jump from topic to topic. Generalized anxiety disorder also comes with physical symptoms of anxiety.

Another type of anxiety disorder is panic disorder, which is characterized by sudden attacks of anxiety that can make you sweat, lightheaded, and gasp for breath. Anxiety can also manifest in the form of a specific phobia (such as a fear of flying) or as social anxiety, which is characterized by a widespread fear of social situations.

Anxiety disorders can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. One of the most used therapeutic approaches is cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing maladaptive thought patterns related to anxiety.
Another potential treatment is exposure therapy, which involves confronting anxiety triggers in a safe and controlled way to break the fear cycle around the trigger.

Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

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