Difference Between Stress and Anxiety: When to Get Help

“Just stop worrying.”

“You’re stressing out over nothing!”

“You don’t have anxiety; you’re just stressed.”

Sound familiar? If you’re suffering from stress or anxiety, someone has probably said one of these phrases to you. While your friends and family often mean well when they say these things, don’t push your stress and anxiety to the side. These are serious issues that take a toll on your mental and physical health.

Everyone will experience stress at some point in their life, but not everyone suffers from an anxiety disorder. Here are the differences between stress and anxiety, and how to know when you need to seek professional help.

Is anxiety a type of stress?

Stress is a response to a specific situation, while anxiety is a mental health disorder triggered by high levels of stress over a long period of time. Short-term stress can often be managed without intervention. Anxiety, however, is a more severe form of stress that needs to be handled with professional care.

How is anxiety different from stress?

Stress subsides once a triggering situation is dealt with, but anxiety persists. Anxiety is different from stress because anxiety is long-term stress that lingers even after the source of the worry has been resolved.

The cause of an anxiety disorder can be a combination of genetics, diet, environment and psychological factors and more. While stress is caused by a specific situation, sufferers of anxiety experience symptoms of stress over everyday problems, often without any rational reasoning. An anxiety disorder can also develop in response to a traumatic event, which can cause the portion of the brain that deals with external threats to become hyperactive.

Physical symptoms of stress

Stress manifests itself in a wide variety of physical symptoms, and not everyone experiences the side effects of stress in the same way. Some common symptoms of stress include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the back, neck or chest
  • Light-headedness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomachaches
  • Frequent illness, including colds or infections
  • Low energy and loss of sexual desire

What are some physical symptoms of anxiety

General anxiety disorder is an extreme, often irrational, tension over everyday problems. People suffering from anxiety will experience the typical symptoms of stress, but at a heightened level and over a longer period of time. Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Difficulty controlling worrying, even if the triggering situation of stress is resolved
  • Muscle tension and general pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Problem with concentration
  • Sleep disturbance or insomnia
  • Stomach issues including constipation, nausea or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Panic attacks

The intensity of the stress experienced by someone dealing with anxiety is often disproportionate to the ramifications of the stressful situation. If daily stress is impacting your ability to function in daily life, it might be time to seek professional help.

How to get help for anxiety

Untreated anxiety increases a person’s risk for more severe conditions, including heart attacks, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. If you are concerned that an anxiety disorder might be the cause of your stress, it is time to get evaluated by a local, licensed professional.

Types of anxiety disorder treatment

Psychotherapy and medication are the two primary treatments for anxiety, and many patients utilize a combination of both to ease the symptoms of their disorder.

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy will often be your best first option in treating anxiety. A professional member of the Holiner Psychiatric Group will help you learn how to cope with the excessive worrying that accompanies anxiety disorders, and show you how to calm your other physical symptoms.
  • Medical treatment: If psychotherapy does not alleviate anxiety symptoms to a manageable level, antidepressants and other anxiety medication provide an alternative option. However, these medications can have serious side effects and be altering to both the brain and body. It is crucial that a healthcare provider supervise any use of anti-anxiety medication.

The best treatment for your condition will depend on the type of anxiety disorder that you have. The first step to treating anxiety is to seek out a professional evaluation in your local area. Only a licensed medical professional will be able to determine the severity of your disorder and recommend the proper treatment for your unique situation.

For anxiety patients in the Dallas and Mckinney, Texas area, Dr. Joel Holiner and the dedicated psychiatrists at The Holiner Psychiatric Group can help with both medical treatment and psychotherapy. Learn more about anxiety disorder treatment services at The Holiner Group.

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