Stress vs. Anxiety: What's The Difference?

The terms anxiety and stress are often used interchangeably, and it is true that they are related conditions with many of the same symptoms. Feelings of stress--even chronic stress--are not the same thing as an anxiety disorder, although they can contribute to developing one.

Stress

Stress is a response to a particular situation or thought, known as a stressor. It is a normal and automatic physiological response to perceived danger, either physical or psychological, known as the "fight-or-flight" response. Chronic stress can lead to health problems such as increased blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, and cardiovascular risks. It can also make you more vulnerable to anxiety disorders and depression. Emotions associated with stress include frustration, anger, nervousness, worry, and anxiety. Things that cause stress in one person, like changing jobs or getting married, may not be perceived as stressful by someone else.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear, and in many instances, the source of anxiety is unclear to the person experiencing it. People who are experiencing extreme stress over a life situation will often feel anxious as well, but will not necessarily develop an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear that is irrational and out of proportion to the situation. While symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be brought on by stressful events, such as a giving a speech or having trouble at a job, the feelings of anxiety are much greater than warranted and the response is rooted in fear rather than in the frustration associated with feelings of stress.


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