What's the difference between anxiety and being stressed?

Taylor Adams, Mental Health America

The words stress and anxiety are sometimes used interchangeably. So how can you tell the difference between common stress and an anxiety disorder? Both share many of the same physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, or rapid breathing. In both cases, your body is releasing hormones to trigger these symptoms.

Stress is a normal, proportional reaction to a stressful situation or external pressures. It’s normal to feel stressed about a final exam or job interview.

When we talk about anxiety as in anxiety disorders, anxiety is a condition characterized by feelings of apprehension or unexplained thoughts of impending doom.

Another way to tell the difference between stress and an anxiety disorder is noticing how long your feelings of stress last. When stress lingers for days or weeks and prevents you from carrying out day-to-day activities, then you may be experiencing anxiety. You could be avoiding certain places or situations in fear of what might happen. You may even feel anxious about the fact that you’re anxious. If you are having these concerns, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are common and manageable.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, it’s not a bad idea to reach out to a mental health professional to help you manage your feelings. Treatment options such as therapy or medication can help you work out coping techniques to manage stress, address concerns of an anxiety disorder, or manage the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.

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