What Is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety may seem synonymous, but there is a fine line between the two. The symptoms associated with stress and anxiety are very similar, however emotions caused by stress eventually pass. On the other hand, symptoms of anxiety do not go away even in the absence of a stressor. In this blog, we’re going to talk about the typical causes of stress and anxiety, as well as the differences so that you can best manage them. If you are concerned that stress or anxiety may be taking over your life, we are here to provide some answers. 

Stress vs Anxiety 

It is very common to experience stress or anxiety from time to time. Stress is triggered by any mental or physical demand to your body. Stress often occurs when there are one too many demands to handle at one time. While stress has its own triggers that leave you feeling frustrated or nervous, anxiety is almost always associated with a constant fear, worry or unease in day to day tasks. 

Anxiety can easily be triggered by a reaction to stress, making stress and anxiety overwhelming and hard to identify if you’re not properly diagnosed. Dealing with stress or anxiety is not always bad. In the short term, they can help you overcome a challenge or dangerous situation. If we did not experience some stress or anxiety from time to time, we might not be motivated to do things that we need to do such as study for an exam or find a job. If stress or anxiety begins to interfere with your daily life, it may mean that there is a more serious issue, and we encourage you to seek help. 

What is Stress?

Stress is a normal reaction to the body due to some type of change, demand or threat. Feelings of stress can appear physically, emotionally or mentally depending on the person. While we all experience stress from time to time, we all react to it in our own way. Some people may react more intensely or frequently than others, but whether these feelings are mild or intense, it is important to learn how to manage these reactions. Common stressors may include: 

  • High pressure responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Financial troubles
  • Too much on your plate at one time
  • A major or sudden change, such as a divorce, death, or loss of a job
  • A traumatic experience, such as abuse or a car accident

It is important to remember that stress can be both good and bad. Stress can motivate you to accomplish tasks and goals, while overwhelming and chronic stress can affect your mental and physical health. When stress becomes an ongoing issue, it can result in depression, physical pain, difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, isolation, changes in diet and weight, and even heart disease.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress?

Stress can appear emotionally, physically, mentally and behaviorally. Some of the signs and symptoms of stress on the body are:

Emotional: You may feel anxiety, fear, irritability, anger, resentment or loss of confidence.

Cognitive: You may experience difficulty making decisions, confusion, or repetitive thoughts.

Physical: You may experience dry mouth, sweatiness, a pounding or racing heartbeat, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, muscle tension, headache or dizziness.

Behavioral: You may experience lack of sleep, nervous habits, and drinking more coffee or alcohol than usual. 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by a mental or physical condition, the effects of drugs, or a combination of these. Even though anxiety is considered a mental health condition, experiencing occasional anxiety is normal for everyone. Anxiety can cause intense and persistent worry about everyday situations. This disorder creates ongoing, intense fears that can result in panic attacks. While reactions to stress fade away, anxiety can create panic that interferes with daily activities and may last a long time. If you are suffering from anxiety, you may begin to avoid places or situations in an attempt to protect yourself from these feelings or anxious episodes. Symptoms of anxiety may start as a child or teen, and continue into adulthood.

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety include all of the same symptoms as stress, but at a much higher velocity. Anxiety can include panic attacks, which mimic heart attack symptoms, including chest pain, sweating, feeling faint, nausea, chills and even breathing difficulties. These symptoms happen very suddenly and can often interfere with school, work and relationships.

Can Stress Turn into Anxiety?

Stress that occurs too frequently, or feels more intense than usual, may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. About 40 million Americans are living with some type of anxiety that leaves them feeling anxious and stressed on a daily basis. If you believe that your ongoing stress could be anxiety, here are some of the common anxiety disorders to be aware of: 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This is a common anxiety disorder known for uncontrollable worrying.
  • Panic Disorder: This is a condition that causes panic attacks, which are moments of extreme fear accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and a fear of impending doom.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This is a condition that causes flashbacks or anxiety as the result of a traumatic experience.
  • Social Phobia: This is a condition that causes intense feelings of anxiety in situations that involve interacting with others.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This is a condition that causes repetitive thoughts and the compulsion to complete certain ritual actions.

While there are a few different types of anxiety that may be affecting you, it is important that you never attempt to self-diagnose. If you have been experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety that have become too hard to manage, we highly encourage you to give us a call so that you can begin practicing healthy coping mechanisms and receive proper medication if your therapist feels necessary.  

Stress and Anxiety Help in St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. 

Finding the right counselor, psychologist, or mental health professional may take some time. When it comes to your mental health and wellbeing, the relationship between the patient and counselor is the key to success. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety, we encourage you to call our office. The team at McNulty Counseling and Wellness takes a holistic approach to promote balance in all areas of your life. We understand that not all brains react alike. We offer a variety of treatments from art therapy to therapy dogs to ensure that you are paired with your perfect program. Contact us here or call us at 727-344-9867 to schedule a remote anxiety consultation or an in-person session at our office in Saint Petersburg or Tampa, Florida.