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Previously, I made a statement about how stress is often mistaken for anxiety because of how somewhat related they are. In this post, I would like to elaborate more on the relationship between anxiety and stress.
What is Stress and Anxiety?
From the previous article, we touched on this question. You can get more detailed information on stress here.
But in summary, we found out that stress is the feeling you get inside as a result of all the challenges and demands (stressors) placed on you from an external source.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying.
Medical News Today
Anxiety can be a short-term “state” or a long-term “trait”. Whereas trait-like anxiety represents worrying about events in the future, anxiety disorders (on the other hand) are a group of mental disorders which are characterized by the feelings of anxiety and fear.
At its core, anxiety is simply the body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event.
Tom Attwood, PH.D
Difference Between Anxiety and Stress
“Is stress anxiety? If not, then what is the difference between anxiety and stress?”
This question was posed at some individuals who then made an attempt to answer it based on their understanding. Some of their answers are as follows:
Adrienne Michelson, Sherlock
No, they’re not the same thing. You are correct.
Anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” What will people think?
The psychiatric definition of anxiety is “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” A person who is anxious about the possibility of their house burning down might compulsively check to make sure their oven is turned off, for example. Anxiety can be generalized, meaning a general sense of fear or foreboding without a discernible cause. (Generalized anxiety disorder)
Stress, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances,” while possibly experienced in the body as discomfort, comes from the outside. External factors such as deadlines, pressures from authority figures, societal pressures, etc. are stressors.
Stress can be cumulative. Stressors in the environment can multiply and increase the overall level of stress one is experiencing.
For example, writing tests is stressful. The pressure to get the right answer, the limited time to complete it, everyone writing the same test at the same time are all stressful conditions. You might also feel anxiety as well. What will happen if I fail this exam? Etc.
Bonus: Anxiety Relief
Hence, I guess the best way to manage anxiety is confronting our fears about outcomes. What WOULD happen if you fail the test? Well, you might get a bad mark or even fail the class. Then what would happen? You might fail out of school. Then what?…
Jillian Rienecker, social anxiety victim
According to the answers presented, anxiety and stress are not the same. Rather, they are two different entities. Stress can lead to anxiety (this type can be referred to as “stress related” anxiety).
For example, when one worries about a job interview (work-related stress) or stresses out over a test/exam they are experiencing normal anxiety. This is the kind of anxiety that encourages an individual to prepare properly for situations he/she is uneasy about. Thus helping the individual to stay alert and aware.
The truth is most people often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something quite challenging (e.g. a test, examination, recital, or interview). These feelings of anxiety are justifiable.
However, anxiety becomes a problem when its symptoms interfere with an individual’s ability to function or even sleep. In such cases, that person is usually experiencing “anxiety disorders”.
On a final note, stress is your body’s reaction to the stressors placed by an external factor. But when that reaction is out of proportion with what would normally be expected in such a situation, that is anxiety.
What do you think? Is anxiety stress?
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