Both stress and anxiety are normal and inevitable. Neither has to be automatically categorized as “negative.” For example, you experience good stress when something exciting happens to you. This might include taking free throws with the game tied or asking someone out on a date. Anxiety is your body’s natural reaction to potential dangers or threats. Therefore, anxiety has certainly saved you from risky situations in your life.
That said, stress and anxiety can be daunting, and it is crucial to know the difference between the two. Understanding what you are experiencing is a giant first step toward addressing it.
What is Stress?
No one is immune from enduring stressful situations. You may be very busy, dealing with financial issues, or undergoing a major challenge (illness, divorce, etc.). Such stressors are unavoidable. How you respond to them is unique to you.
The key to remember is that stress is almost always something external. Something happens. Let’s say your boss tells you the company might be about to make some layoffs. Most people in this scenario would become stressed out. If you’re told the next day that your job is safe, you will likely stop feeling stressed.
Chronic stress can cause a wide range of other mental and physical issues. But, in and of itself, it is fundamentally just a part of life.
What is Anxiety?
Again, stressors are inevitable. Stress that causes anxiety is not inevitable. How you react to stress is where anxiety can negatively enter the picture. Let’s go back to the job/layoff example. When told this might happen, stress will lead to concern. Anxiety, on the other hand, can launch a cycle of worry.
You begin to imagine yourself without money. You obsess over the possibility of selling your belongings or even living in your car. Anxiety is internal and, often, very disproportionate to what is really happening. To identify the differences between stress and anxiety, it is most useful to familiarize yourself with anxiety and anxiety disorders.
A Few Ways That Anxiety is Far More Intense Than Stress
Stress is temporary
Anxiety creates a spiral of dread. You can fear something that hasn’t even happened. To take it further, you can fear something that doesn’t yet exist. Left unchecked, anxiety becomes free-floating. It morphs into something more general. You are anxious without a real or perceived reason. Stress always has a reason.
Stress can input your ability to effectively function for a short time
One of the hallmarks of an anxiety disorder is the inability to handle daily tasks. You get bad news, and perhaps you feel like you can’t move or even think. You may not go to work or school. Even basics like cooking and cleaning fall by the wayside.
Anxiety disorders manifest with some very specific symptoms
- Irritability, restlessness, and edginess
- Panic attacks
- Anxiety attacks
- Lack of concentration
- Indecisiveness and second-guessing one’s decisions
- Extreme discomfort with uncertainty
- Persistent worry that feels beyond your control
- Perceiving threats where they do not exist
There are also physical signs, e.g.:
- Sleep issues
- Digestive disturbances
- Unexplained muscle tension or aches
- Being easily startled
Talk With a Professional
Are you highly stressed, or is there an anxiety disorder at work? Perhaps some of the above sounded familiar to you. If so, it’s highly suggested that you speak to someone who can help. The above information can help differentiate, but if you remain unsure, I invite you to reach out. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation. Whether you could use help with stress management or with addressing an anxiety disorder, you will get the answer you need.
Begin Working With An Anxiety Therapist in Columbus Ohio
Learning to cope with anxiety is much easier said than done. Our team understands the struggles you may experience and would be honored to offer support from our Columbus, OH-based counseling practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
- Get in touch with Blue Boat Counseling to set up your first appointment.
- Get connected with a caring therapist you can trust.
- Learn new coping techniques for anxiety and stress.
Other Services Offered with Blue Boat Counseling
Our team understands you may experience more than one mental health concern at a time. This is why we are happy to offer support with a variety of mental health services in addition to anxiety therapy. Other mental health services offered include depression therapy, couples therapy, teen and family therapy, and veteran therapy. We also offer online therapy in addition to in-person services as well. Learn more by visiting our blog today.