At first glance, it can be difficult to find differences between anxiety and stress . Both emotions are similar in their effects, negative, and in their triggers, usually feelings of threat and lack of control in our environment that overwhelm us causing exhaustion, discomfort and irritability.
However, stress and anxizety are different pathologies , and to distinguish them is important to know what we must face and thus be able to feel better.The main difference is that, in general, stress is a momentary problem , the way our bodies cope with specific moments of great demand, while anxiety is a mental pathology that is usually maintained over time.
1. Stress usually responds to external factors
Normally, stress is a reaction to a problem, while anxiety is the reaction to stress itself .
This difference is important because it means that stress often ends once the stressful event has passed, and therefore coping with the cause is an effective way of dealing with stress, while with anxiety there is a greater sense of helplessness . It does not serve only to “face it”. Often professional help , medication or therapy is needed .
2. Anxiety continues when the problem no longer exists
Although anxiety can be triggered by the stress produced by a particular problem, often, once the problem is gone or solved, the stress disappears but the anxiety continues .
This reinforces the previous point: anxiety needs to be treated as a different disorder, and not just as a product of stress. Anxiety rarely disappears going on vacation , with a visit to a spa or receiving a massage.
In addition, it helps to understand that people who suffer from stress know what worries them, but in those who have anxiety it is not so much the problem, as the reaction to that problem , where the key lies.
3. Anxiety includes unnecessary worry
Many symptoms of stress and anxiety are similar: problems sleeping, upset stomach, irritability, problems concentrating … But there is a specific symptom that characterizes only anxiety: a constant feeling of worry and fear in situations that often They are not threatening at all .
That is, “I worry about not finding a job and not being able to pay rent” is a stressful thought, but “I worry that my boss hates me in secret and is looking for a way to say goodbye and when I finally get it I will not be able to pay the rent “It’s a thought that has more to do with anxiety.
4. Panic attacks have to do with anxiety
Just as anxiety is often confused with stress, many people consider that a panic attack is something much more general than it actually is: a very specific physical experience related to a peak of fear or anxiety in which they present themselves. symptoms such as sweating, tremors, rapid heartbeat, nausea, chest pain, choking sensation or chills.
If someone suffers a panic attack, it is very likely that they suffer from anxiety, regardless of whether or not they are subjected to a lot of stress.
Differences in treatment
For all these reasons it is easy to conclude that stress and anxiety need very different treatments , and that solving one (usually the simplest is stress) does not necessarily mean ending with the other.
In the case of stress, it is usually enough to deal with the stressor that causes it: the work situation, the exam period, a difficult relationship with our partner … That does not mean that solving it is easy, since often they are factors that we can not simply get rid of (exams have to be overcome and most of us can not do without work). Therefore, it is necessary to develop strategies to deal with them and either compensate that stress with activities that help us relax, such as going on vacation or doing yoga , or learning to convert stress into a motivating sensation (it is called eustress or positive stress ).
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a more serious and usually more persistent mental pathology: people who suffer from anxiety can not solve it simply by dealing with the factor that causes it because often it is not concrete, or it is nothing that is in your hand front facing.
The treatment of anxiety , when it becomes a limiting factor or decreases the quality of life of the patient, is based on medication and therapy . That does not mean that people who suffer from anxiety can not benefit from relaxing activities, physical exercise or reduce the consumption of stimulants such as caffeine.