Am I stressed or is it anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but it is important to acknowledge the vast difference between the two. Often, the similarity of the symptoms can also lead to immense confusion – a feeling of dread overtaking your entire body, inability to focus, and physical manifestations in the form of palpitations, excessive sweating, and gastrointestinal troubles. Both, stress and anxiety can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Stress, however is a feeling of being under extreme pressure, often triggered by external situations. Anxiety on the other hand, is a feeling of fear, worry and unease that may come from seemingly trivial situations but can be quite crippling.

Therefore, stress is a temporary phenomenon, a reaction to a temporary situation in your surroundings. It could stem from a turbulent relationship, pressure at work or other problems in interpersonal relationship. Anxiety, however is a serious and sustained mental health issue which can last much beyond the removal of any stress factors. Anxiety is internal, and often has little to do with external stimulus. A key distinction between the two is the feeling of hopelessness that accompanies anxiety, but is not experienced with stress. Panic attacks and needless worry are other differentiating symptoms.

Stress can often precipitate into anxiety if left unresolved for a long time. When this happens, the symptoms persist long after the situation that caused stress in the first place is resolved.

Exposure to extreme stressors, such as war, assault, etc. can lead to common forms of anxiety known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Both are very serious and damaging disorders that must be treated medically. Prolonged stress can also lead to a host of health problems such as diabetes, heart disorder, raised blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction and even cancers.

Given the negative consequences that stress can lead to if not addressed in time and in a proper manner, it is essential to acknowledge and tackle it. Self-reflection can help identify the root cause of stress, thereby allowing you to devise a plan to dismantle it in an effective manner. At the same time, remind yourself that every situation cannot be under your control. It is okay to ask others for help, and seeing a psychologist may benefit immensely.

Lifestyle changes can also help in allowing you to deal with stress with a clear mind. Exercise, speaking to your friends and socialising more, pursuing a hobby or activities of your interest can help take your mind of things and allow you to look at them objectively later. For you to be able to function properly, you must take care of your well-being. A balanced diet, enough sleep, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake are a good place to begin.

If dealt with at early stages, it is possible to prevent stress from taking over your life and triggering something far more harmful.

If you think you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, click here to speak to a Psychiatrist.



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