Differentiating Stress and Anxiety

It is common to hear “ugh I’m so anxious about that test,” “that gives me anxiety,” and “I’m going to have a panic attack.” Though it is without malicious intent, normalizing and colloquializating anxiety and panic attack disorders is misconstrued and leads to some confusion about what anxiety and stress really are.

    These two feelings go hand in hand, but there is a great distinction. Stress is normal and organic, we all feel it and, though unpleasant, it is ultimately inevitable. Anxiety is a clinical condition that does not allow the individual to forget their stress and often manifests physically, creating varying types of discomfort and can lead to various other side effects. It is perfectly normal, plenty of people suffer from it and it is able to be treated and managed through therapy, mental training, and sometimes medication.

 

    If you are stressed, a hot bath or a good movie may be the cure all, but anxiety latches onto you like a barnacle and pushes negative thoughts into your mind. Stress is about a legitimate problem, and anxiety can be as well, but often sends irrational thoughts to manifest on as well.

 

    If you think your thoughts supersede the normalcy of stress, it is best to talk to a mental health specialist, therapist, or counselor in order to decide if you should take action. If you're just suffering from regular old stress, address it appropriately. Stress is not anxiety, and addressing it as so is underscoring the difficulties of those who suffer from mental illness.